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Apple's 11 Most Intriguing Computer Designs

From the first Apple to the MacBook Air, Macs have been regarded as technologically innovative, beautiful in product design and, over time, become just plain cool.

  • iMac: Apple's Light at the End of the Tunnel





    One year after Steve Jobs' 1997 return to the company, Apple introduced the iMac in Bondi Blue. It sold like hot cakes, earning Apple $414 million of its previously lost $878 million in just one year. Though its storage wasn't anything to brag about and Jobs "sold out" by including [[xref:http://www.cio.com/article/193350/Internet_Explorer_Promises_Better_Standards_Compliance...and_a_Whole_Lot_More|Microsoft's Internet Explorer|Internet Explorer 8 Promises Better Standards Compliance...and a Whole Lot More]] on every Mac, this computer essentially turned the company around.

    Image credit: Infoworld
  • Mac Portable: 15 Pounds Light





    Complete with ergonomic keyboard, trackball and [[xref:http://forums.appleinsider.com/showthread.php?threadid=94021|lead-acid battery|A closer look at Apple's advanced notebook battery tech]], the Macintosh Portable had easy usability, was portable (obviously) and had 10 hours of battery life. By today's standards, this 1989 10-inch-screen beauty seems a bit heavy, as was its price tag of $6,500. Compare it to [[xref:http://www.cio.com/article/463617/The_New_MacBook_Apple_s_Stealth_Enterprise_Laptop|Apple's more recent MacBook line|The New MacBook: Apple's Stealth Enterprise Laptop]], at 4.5 pounds, 6 hours of battery life and a list price of $1,299.

    Image credit: Steven Stengel, oldcomputers.net
  • Mac Mini: The Mini Me





    Carting around an entire computer wasn't necessary after Apple released the [[xref:http://www.cio.com/article/20932/Mac_Sales_Go_Beyond_Expectations|Mac Mini|Mac Sales Go Beyond Expectations]] in 2005. Without a mouse, keyboard or monitor -- you have to add your own -- this 2-inch-tall by 6.5-inch square computer was about as tiny as you could get. Its power supply was a third that of a standard Mac, but at an entry price of $499 it was also the least expensive.

    Image credit: Apple
  • Macintosh Color Classic: The End of the Compact Era





    Many collectors call the Macintosh Color Classic, dating from 1993, their favorite Mac, largely because it signified the merging of two eras. It was the last of the small-footprint compact line, the first with a color screen, and introduced the smiling icon that appears during every Mac start-up. This boxy treasure also featured the first under-the-screen controls for volume and contrast. It still had its imperfections though, such as the combination of a 16 bit data bus and 32 bit processor.

    Image credit: Jeremy Mehrle, jeremymehrle.com
  • The Apple II: A Computer for the Consumer





    The Apple II, released in April 1977, spurred mainstream acceptance of the microcomputer industry. It was the first computer marketed to consumers, not to tech savvy nerds or corporations. While it only supported typing of upper-case letters, the Apple II sported color graphics, [[xref:http://advice.cio.com/esther_schindler/is_computer_language_popularity_important|BASIC|Is Computer Language Popularity Important?]], [[xref:http://www.cio.com/article/363963/Top_Tech_Visionaries?page=4v|VisiCalc (the first spreadsheet)|Top 50 Tech Visionaries]] and the much-loved educational game [[xref:http://www.oregontrail.org/oregon-trail-software.htm|Oregon Trail|OREGON TRAIL Software]]. Image credit: IDG News Service
  • Apple's Most Intriguing Designs





    For many computer users, [[xref:http://www.cio.com/article/473269/Apple_s_Biggest_Moments_in_|Apple|Apple's 5 Biggest Moments in 2008]] has defined the personal computer industry, driven technology innovation, and changed the perception of personal computing. The company reinvented itself several times over, as it developed and enhanced [[xref:http://www.cio.com/article/466165/The_New_Apple_Mac_Buying_Guide|the Macintosh|The New Apple Mac Buying Guide]], affecting the world of computing every time it did. Apple fans have defined their own culture and follow the metamorphosis of the company, its products and its software with passion. Apple made waves with its historic [[xref:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYecfV3ubP8|1984 commercial|1984 Apple's Macintosh Commercial]], its [[xref:http://advice.cio.com/shane_oneill/apple_vs_microsoft_vista_whos_winning_the_ad_battle|rivalry with Microsoft|Apple vs. Microsoft Vista: Who's Winning the Ad Battle?]] and its [[xref:http://www.cio.com/article/473827/Apple_Shows_Off_New_Flagship_Boston_Store|retail megastores|Apple Shows Off New Flagship Boston Store]]. Even [[xref:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109830/|Forrest Gump|Forrest Gump]] got in on the action when he "bought" stock in 1994. But although iPods and [[xref:http://www.cio.com/article/471863/New_iPhone_Apps_Target_Business_Users|iPhones|New iPhone Apps Target Business Users]] are perpetually cool to obsess over nowadays, it was really Apple's computers -- particularly the Apple -- that started it all.

    Join us for a trip down memory lane, and learn how the Mac evolution led to the Apple revolution.
  • The 20th Anniversary Mac: Top Coat and Tails





    Any computer model delivered by an Apple rep wearing a tuxedo must be special. And the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, affectionately called [[xref:http://tam.axon.net/|"TAM,"|The 20th Anniversary Macintosh Web Site]] was so cool that it appeared in the [[xref:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118688/trivia|Batman and Robin|Batman and Robin]] movie. Although, technically speaking, it was similar to prior models, the TAM had a Bose sound system and a remote control. Too bad the buzz about it wasn't all good; some buzz came from its speakers.

    Image credit: Jeremy Mehrle, jeremymehrle.com
  • The Original Apple: The Mother of All Mac Motherboards





    This single circuit board computer, introduced on April Fool's Day in 1976, wasn't a prank. While a mere 200 Apple units were sold in its year on the market, [[xref:http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/18658|the very first of its kind given to a junior high math class in Windsor, CA|Hack: The Apple I]] gave Apple a competitive edge in the [[xref:http://www.macuser.com/hardware/macs_penetrating_the_collegest.php|educational realm|Macs penetrating the college-student market]].

    Image credit: René Speranza, silicium.org
  • Mac II: Expandability Optional





    The Mac II was [[xref:http://applemuseum.bott.org/sections/computers/mac2.html|kept secret from Steve Jobs|Macintosh II]] during development because similar products were stopped dead in their tracks at this stage—but it was publicly loved after release. The Mac II, released in March 1987, was a revolution. The first open, expandable Mac, options included two 800K [[xref:http://www.cio.com/article/145853/Technologies_We_re_Glad_Are_Dead|floppy drives|Technologies We're Glad Are Dead]], a hard drive, and 8-bit/256-color video at 640x480 (really, that was a Wow! at the time). The Mac II let users turn on the computer using the [[xref:http://www.cio.com/special/slideshows/cool_keyboards/index|keyboard's|7 Cool, Weird and Useful Computer Keyboards]] power key; that, too, was a first.

    Image credit: René Speranza, silicium.org
  • MacBook Air: Lightweight, Yes. Weakling? Certainly Not





    When [[xref:http://www.cio.com/article/172252/Apple_Unveils_Ultrathin_MacBook_Air_at_Macworld|the three pound MacBook Air|Apple Unveils Ultrathin MacBook Air at Macworld]] was released in January 2008, it was touted as the "world's thinnest notebook." This "light as a feather, stiff as a board" computer is great for packing, but not so much for packing in information. Despite sliding into a manila folder, the [[xref:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBCfW9-hjKI|MacBook Air|MacBook Air]] has limited connectivity, is slower than "regular" MacBooks and the battery isn't user replaceable.

    Image credit: Apple
  • Mac 128K: The Original Macintosh





    Apple introduced the Macintosh in a [[xref:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYecfV3ubP8|famed 1984 Super Bowl commercial|1984 Apple's Macintosh Commercial]], giving the public an alternative to IBM compatibles and Microsoft operating systems. Also dubbed "Mac 128K" (named for its RAM), much of the Lisa GUI code was used in this pioneer Mac model. [[xref:http://www.wired.com/gadgets/mac/news/2004/01/61796?currentPage=all|Large volume sales within the first 100 days of its release|The 20 Macs That Mattered Most]] gave Apple a strong -- and more affordable -- foothold in personal computing than what Lisa offered.

    Image credit: Steven Stengel, oldcomputers.net
  • Lisa: The Personal Computer Comes with a (High) Price





    The Apple Lisa—formally "Local Integrated Software Architecture" but believed to be [[xref:http://oldcomputers.net/lisa.html|named after Steve Jobs' daughter|Apple Lisa]]—is now remembered as [[xref:http://www.macuser.com/humor/apple_finally_does_the_right_t_1.php|one of Apple's most disappointing products|Apple finally does the right thing, refunds Lisa buyers]]. Maybe it was the [[xref:http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2008/05/29/a-behind-the-scenes-look-at-the-development-of-apples-lisa/|drama between the development team|A behind-the-scenes look at the development of Apple’s Lisa]] over revolutionary UI changes, or perhaps it was incompatibility of the Lisa OS with existing Apple II software, but the Lisa didn't survive long after its 1981 release. However, the Lisa introduced early-adopter users to a GUI (Graphical User Interface) and an [[xref:http://www.cio.com/special/slideshows/cool_computer_mouse/index|integrated mouse|Cool Computer Mouse Alert: 12 Useful, Unusual and Blinged-Out Mice You'll Love]]. Too bad Lisa's price tag was US$10,000.

    Image credit: Steven Stengel, oldcomputers.net
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