Timeline: Milestones in the Mac's history

Take a trip down memory lane as we revisit the highs, lows and in-betweens of the Apple Macintosh from 1978 to today.


Steve Jobs first proposes Apple to develop a next-generation computer.


A research project for a new low-cost computer is begun under Jef Raskin, Apple's director of publications and new product review -- it's called the Macintosh project. (Raskin will leave Apple in 1982, before the Mac's eventual release.)

Steve Jobs and Apple employees visit Xerox PARC, where they are shown several next-generation technologies, including the Xerox Alto, a personal computer featuring a graphical user interface, mouse and object-oriented programming.


The Apple Lisa specifications are drafted with features similar to those seen at PARC.


The IBM PC is introduced. Apple "welcomes" IBM to the personal computing market.


The Apple Lisa is introduced for $9,995; it drops to $6,995 by the end of the year.

Apple's Lisa and Mac divisions are combined.

In mid-December, Apple's marketing company airs the now-famous 1984 TV commercial during sign-off in an Idaho market to qualify for the year's advertising awards. It is aired only one other time, during the 1984 Super Bowl.


The Mac is introduced for $2,495.

The Apple Lisa 2 is introduced for $3,495.

The Test drive a Mac program is launched, enabling users to take a Mac home from resellers for a 24-hour trial period. Although unique and innovative, the program fails because too few Macs are initially available, and many are not returned to stores in perfect condition.


After a power struggle with Apple CEO John Sculley, during which Steve Jobs is stripped of operational responsibilities, Jobs resigns from Apple and founds NeXT Inc.

The Lisa is discontinued. Some models are converted and sold as the Mac XL.

Microsoft licenses some of the Mac's technology in order to develop Office for Mac. Later that year, the company releases Windows 1.01.


Apple ships the Mac II, the first Mac to eschew an all-in-one design and to support color displays. Along with the Mac II, Apple releases the Mac SE with the classic all-in-one design. Both machines debut the inclusion of expansion slots in Macs.

The installed base of Mac users reaches 1 million.


Windows 2.03 is released. Apple sues Microsoft over similarities between Windows and the Mac OS. Microsoft countersues, citing the companies' 1985 license agreement, and a protracted legal battle ensues, during which Microsoft continues developing Windows. Microsoft will eventually prevail in both federal and appeals courts, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection of Apple's final appeal in early 1995.


Xerox sues Apple over Mac and Lisa user interface elements originally conceived at PARC. The suit is dismissed a year later.

Remaining Lisa models are buried in a landfill in Logan, Utah.

The Macintosh Portable is introduced. Weighing nearly 16 pounds and originally shipping without a backlit screen, the Portable hardly lives up to its name and doesn't sell well.


Having learned from the Mac Portable's shortcomings, Apple launches the PowerBook 100, its first true notebook Mac.


The PowerBook Duo line of subnotebooks is introduced, along with Duo Dock docking stations that replicate many common ports left out of the Duos to save space and weight.


A joint Apple/Novell project known as Star Trek, whose purpose is to port the Mac OS to Intel hardware, succeeds with an initial proof of concept release. The project is abandoned the following year.


Apple ships the first Power Macintosh models, which begin the transition from Motorola's 680x0 processors to the newer PowerPC chips.


The first of a handful of "DOS-compatible" Macs, the Quadra 610, is introduced. It includes a second motherboard and components to make it capable of running DOS and early Windows versions.

Apple announces plans to license the Mac OS to selected Mac clone manufacturers. (Apple retains control over much of the hardware design used by licensees.)

Copland, the code name for Apple's first attempt at a next-generation operating system to replace the aging Mac OS, is announced.

As part of Mac OS System 7.5, Apple includes Mac Easy Open and PC Exchange, tools for exchanging floppy disks and files with PCs running DOS or Windows.


Power Computing ships the first Mac clones: its Power, PowerWave and PowerCurve lines.


The PowerBook 1400 becomes the first Mac notebook to ship with an internal optical drive, thanks to a swappable expansion bay.

Apple freezes development of Copland and begins searching for companies with next-generation operating systems in development to purchase. Be Inc., founded by former Apple exec Jean-Louis Gass??e, and its BeOS operating system appears to be the most likely option.


Power Mac G3 models are introduced, becoming the first Macs to be based on the PowerPC G3 processor, which was designed for Apple's use in Mac systems.

The Twentieth Anniversary Mac is introduced to celebrate Apple's 20th anniversary. An all-in-one design, it pioneers the use of LCD flat-panel screens for desktop Macs. It is introduced at $7,500 with concierge setup service; the price eventually drops significantly.

Apple acquires NeXT in order to use NeXT's OpenStep operating system as a basis for a future next-generation operating system. The deal also brings Steve Jobs back to Apple, first as an adviser and then as interim CEO. He will eventually take the title of CEO on a permanent basis.

Rhapsody, the code name for a next-generation replacement for Mac OS built on NeXT OpenStep, is released to developers.

Apple releases Mac OS 8, a moniker originally intended for Copland. Since clone license agreements are tied to releases of Mac OS 7.x, this signals the beginning of the end of the Mac clone era.


The iMac is introduced and becomes a cornerstone of Apple's lineup. It's the first Mac to offer USB ports as well as the first to remove SCSI and Apple's proprietary serial port.

Umax discontinues the last of the '90s Mac clones: its SuperMac line.


The Power Mac G3 Blue & White is introduced. Its mini-tower design includes an easy-to-open latch that makes it the simplest Mac to upgrade or repair to date. The design (or variations of it) will be seen in all future Mac mini-towers.

The first iBook is introduced with a rugged and colorful design appropriate to education markets.

The first version of Mac OS X Server is released, sporting many underlying technologies that will become part of Mac OS X as well as several new server technologies, including QuickTime Streaming Server and NetBoot.


The Power Mac G4 Cube is introduced. With an unusual cube design, lack of expansion options and initial $1,799 price tag, it doesn't sell well.

Apple releases the public beta of Mac OS X, the only time that Apple makes such a pre-release product publicly available. The move allows Apple to respond to public criticisms (such as the beta's removal of the Apple menu) in the final release of Mac OS X.


Apple opens its first retail stores as a way to reach consumers directly.

The PowerBook G4 introduces the metal case that has been used in higher-end Apple notebooks ever since (though the choice of metal will change from titanium to aluminum in 2003).

Second-generation iBooks with a more traditional white plastic case are introduced, a design that is largely maintained to this day for Apple's lower-end notebooks.

Mac OS X is released. It is followed by Mac OS X 10.1 later that year. Windows XP is also released the same year.

The iPod is introduced, first as a Mac-only media player.

The first flat-panel iMac is introduced with a swivel-arm design that reminds many of a desk lamp.


Mac OS X 10.2 is released, becoming the most widely adopted version of Mac OS X to date.


Apple introduces the Xserve, its first rack-mounted server.

Mac OS X 10.3 Panther is introduced, offering support for native access to Windows file and print sharing.

Apple introduces the iSight digital camera. Originally an external device, the iSight is eventually built in above Apple's notebook and iMac displays.

The eMac is introduced. Originally intended for education, the all-in-one Mac is later sold to the public and becomes the last CRT-based Mac.

The 17-in. PowerBook G4 is introduced as the world's first 17-in. notebook.


Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger is released to packed events at Apple retail stores.

The Mac Mini is introduced as a low-end compact desktop machine. Similar in concept to the G4 Cube, it is even smaller and much less expensive (and thus more popular).


The first Macs to run Intel processors are introduced at Macworld Expo in January. The first available Intel Macs are the iMac and the MacBook Pro, though Apple completes the transition of all Mac product lines to Intel by the end of the year.

Also debuting this year are Apple's Boot Camp beta and virtualization tools from Parallels and VMware, which allow Mac users to run Windows on Apple hardware.


The iPhone and AppleTV, both of which run an embedded version of Mac OS X, ship. While the iPhone becomes an immediate hit, the AppleTV remains a "hobby" for the company and struggles to develop a large following.

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard ships, selling more than 2 million copies in the first weekend. As with Tiger, Apple stores play host to special events for the launch.


The MacBook Air becomes the lightest and thinnest Mac notebook ever produced.

Apple releases a new line of MacBook models featuring cases crafted from a single block of aluminum. The new MacBooks also feature buttonless multitouch trackpads.

Ryan Faas is a frequent Computerworld contributor specializing in Mac and multiplatform network issues. Find more about him at RyanFaas.com.

This story, "Timeline: Milestones in the Mac's history" was originally published by Computerworld.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

SD-WAN buyers guide: Key questions to ask vendors (and yourself)