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(Mac) The name of a product line and operating system platform manufactured by Apple Computer, Inc., originally based on the Motorola 68000 microprocessor family and a proprietary operating system. The Mac was Apple's successor to the Lisa.

The project was proposed by Jef Raskin some time before Steve Jobs's famous visit to Xerox PARC. Jobs tried to scuttle the Macintosh project and only joined it later because he wasn't trusted to manage the Lisa project.

The Macintosh user interface was notable for popularising the graphical user interface, with its easy to learn and easy to use desktop metaphor.

The Macintosh Operating System is now officially called Mac OS.

The first Macintosh, introduced in January 1984, had a Motorola 68000 CPU, 128K of RAM, a small monochrome screen, and one built-in floppy disk drive with an external slot for one more, two serial ports and a four-voice sound generator. This was all housed in one small plastic case, including the screen. When more memory was available later in the year, a 512K Macintosh was nicknamed the "Fat Mac."

The standard Macintosh screen resolution is 72 dpi (making one point = one pixel), exactly half the 144 dpi resolution of the ancient Apple Imagewriter dot matrix printer.

The Mac Plus (January 1986) added expandability by providing an external SCSI port for connecting hard disks, magnetic tape, and other high-speed devices.

The Mac SE (March 1987) had up to four megabytes of RAM, an optional built-in 20 megabyte hard disk and one internal expansion slot for connecting a third-party device.

The Mac II (March 1987) used the faster Motorola 68020 CPU with a 32-bit bus.

In 1994 PowerPC based Macs, Power Macs, were launched, and in 1999, the iMac, updated on 2002-01-07. The Power Mac G4 (Quicksilver 2002) was the first Power Mac to clock at 1GHz and "Superdrives" (combined DVD-ROM, DVD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-RW) appeared in the iMac in 2002. In mid 2003 the first G5 Power Mac was released, the first Mac to be based on a 64-bit architecture. IBM and not Motorola manufactured the CPU for this new generation of Power Macs. The clock speed was initially 1.6GHz but a dual 2GHz system was available in September.

Mac OS X is the successor to Mac OS 9, although its technological parent is the NEXTSTEP OS from Next, Inc., founded by Steve Jobs after he left Apple the first time. OS X is based largely on the BSD UNIX system. The core of the OS X operating system is released as free source code under the project name Darwin.

If "Macintosh" were an acronym, some say it would stand for "Many Applications Crash, If Not, The Operating System Hangs". While this was true for pre Mac OS 9 systems, it is less true for Mac OS 9, and totally incorrect for Mac OS X, which has protected memory, so even if one application crashes, the system and other applications are unaffected.

See also Macintosh file system, Macintosh user interface.

Apple Home.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (


A family of desktop and laptop computers from Apple, introduced in 1984. First to popularize the graphical user interface (GUI), the combination of Mac hardware and software has provided an ease of use that users have very much enjoyed over the years.

It has essentially been a Mac vs. Windows world for personal computers. However, Google's Chrome computer has gained ground in the education market (see Chromebook). See Windows vs. Mac.

Because Macintoshes were commonly called "Macs," Apple later changed the brand officially to "Mac." For an overview of the line, see Macintosh models. To learn about the Mac's origins, see Macintosh history.

Hardware Evolution
The first Macs were powered by Motorola's 32-bit 68K family of CPUs. In 1994, Apple introduced the Power Macs, which used the higher-performance PowerPC chip designed by Apple, Motorola and IBM. Power Macs ran native PowerPC applications and emulated traditional Mac 68K applications. Over the years, PowerPC chips provided substantial increases in performance.

In 2006, Apple began to adopt the Intel x86 CPUs used in Windows PCs. iMac desktops and MacBook Pro laptops were the first to be switched (see Intel Mac). As a result, Macs can run Windows natively or simultaneously (see Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion). Before the Intel change, Windows and DOS applications could run in a Mac using an emulator (see Virtual PC for Mac). See Macintosh clone, Mac OS X, G3, G4, G5, HFS and Apple.

The First Macintosh (1984)
With one floppy disk, 128KB of RAM and built-in 9" screen, the "high-rise" Macintosh was a departure from the very successful Apple II. After switching to traditional desktop cases in the 1990s, Apple later revived its flair for unique design (see iMac). (Image courtesy of Apple Inc.)

Always the Innovator
Apple has created many original designs. This PowerBook in 2001 was the first laptop with a wide screen and titanium body.
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