Widely regarded as ‘the’ computer for graphic design and other creative processes, the Apple Mac computer is almost instantly recognizable. But how did we reach the sleek, streamline, high tech version that we have today? We’ll be taking a deep dive into the history of the Apple Mac computers biggest milestones.

Timeline of Apple Mac Computers

Apple II – 1977

apple II
apple II / Museums Victoria

Apple has been consistently raising the bar within the computer and telecommunications industry, and has been doing so since 1977. The first Apple all-in-one computer, the Apple II featured the famous rainbow logo. At the time it was released, it set itself apart from its competitors by featuring a colour graphic display.

Lisa/Macintosh XL – 1983

Apple Lisa 2
Apple Lisa 2 / Museums Victoria

Although it featured the first intuitive GUI, this model didn’t do too well when released to the market. The flop was attributable to the ghastly $10 000 price and lack of software titles.

Macintosh Plus (1986)

Macintosh Plus
Macintosh Plus / Museums Victoria

Released in January of 1986, the Macintosh Plus fashioned a RAM 4 times higher than previous models. This was the last model to feature the original beige colour before the switch to the grey platinum exterior that characterised Macs to come.

Macintosh SE (1987)

Macintosh SE
Macintosh SE

This model brought with it an additional hard disk and second floppy disk, a first for Macs. In terms of computer design, this model remained the same but had an added flexibility. Setting itself apart from its predecessors, this model was the first to possess space for an internal hard disk as well as a fan.

Macintosh Classic (1990)

Macintosh LC
Macintosh LC

Featuring in all market sectors, Mac computers became increasingly familiar to the public. The Macintosh Classic was a rendition of Terry and Jerry Oyama’s 128K design and was given the nickname ‘pizza box’ because of the thin computer case.

Power Macintosh (1994)

Power Macintosh 8100-80
Power Macintosh 8100-80

This model featured a new PowerPC PISC processor, as well as advanced sound and video processing solutions. It was this addition that turned the Mac into ‘the’ computer amongst multimedia and creative professionals.

iMac G3 (1998)

iMac G3
iMac G3

It was in during the year 1998 that Macs took a real turn in regards to product design, getting rid of the tower design and taking on various different colour options. With Steve Jobs returning to Apple, the iMac mono-block computer was developed. The model was cased in coloured and white plastic and fashioned a 15 inch monitor. Also paired with the model was a matching coloured mouse and keyboard.

iMac G4 (2002)

iMac G4
iMac G4

This model was the first of its time to slim down unnecessary components. It was also the first Mac with an LED display that made the model appear almost lamp-like. Steve Jobs noted that CRT computer monitors were officially dead. It received the nickname ‘iLamp’ because of its extended rod, swivelling monitor and circular base.

iMac G5 (2005)

iMac G5
iMac G5

The iMac G5 was the beginning of the iMac as we know it today. Unlike its predecessor, the iMac G5 opted for a design in which the electronics were placed behind the screen. This model was still encased in white plastic but grew in size to a surprising 20 inches. In fact, this model paved the way for future iMac designs.

iMac (2007)

iMac 2007
iMac 2007

Undergoing further transformation, the iMac released in 2007 dropped its plastic case for that of aluminium. This decision worked to add a somewhat sleek and professional touch to the computer itself. In addition to that, the ultra slim aluminium keyboard also began to be sold alongside the model.

Macbook and Macbook Pro (2006)

Macbook 2006
Macbook 2006

Although there were a number of laptop-style computers prior to these models, the Macbook and Macbook Pro released in 2006 was perhaps one of the most notable. These models featured a magnetic latch, glossy display and an Intel-made processor. First editions were released in the colour black, which swiftly changed to the era of aluminium as we know it today.

Macbook Air (2008)

Macbook Air
Macbook Air

With the recent development of aluminium unibody-cases, laptops were becoming increasingly thinner. Released in January of 2008, the Macbook Air boasted a tiny 19mm size yet proved relatively low on productivity. As a result of the downsize, Apple encountered a number of functionality issues, however, quickly solved them within the first few years after its release. This model is most notable for its commercial in which the laptop was shipped in an envelope.

Macbook Pro Retina (2012)

MacBook Pro Retina Apple
MacBook Pro Retina

Around this time, new and innovative Mac designs were not very common. The Macbook Pro with retina display released in 2012 was perhaps the closest thing to perfect that the industry had seen. The new and improved display fashioned an ultra-high resolution screen with near invisible pixels.

Macbook (2015)

Macbook Pro
Macbook Pro

Breaking yet another record, Macbook entered the industry in 2015. The laptop weighed a total of 900 grams and fashioned a 12 inch retina display. The extremely small, streamline size of this model set itself apart from its competitors right off the bat.

Macbook Pro (2016)

Macbook Pro 2016
Macbook Pro 2016

Another great advancement in the Macbook line was the addition of greater speed and a touchscreen to replace a few keyboard function keys. This added functionality to the Macbook Pro could be used as a means to output notifications and enter information. Overtime, the size of the keyboard has increased, as well as its sensitivity.

Mac Mini (2018)

Mac Mini
Mac Mini

This model is the newest addition to the Mac family, functioning as a computer ‘box’. The Mac mini does not include a screen of any kind, and can be linked to any monitor of your choice. Notable changes include the cosmic grey colour and extremely compact size.

Over the years, Apple and its Mac products have been a dominant force within creative and design industries as tools for both students and professionals. Prominent changes that have taken place include significant price reductions and increased productivity and functionality.

The models featured in this article are constantly being updated, so keep a lookout for the latest versions of the Mac products via the Apple website. We hope this article provided you with some insight into how Mac products have evolved over the years, with more changes sure to come!

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