Newton: the right idea at the wrong time?

Filed under: Hardware,People,Software

NewtonApple considered it to be its biggest opportunity since the introduction of the Macintosh and a chance to reinvent itself. But after ten years of development, spending more than 100 USD Million and five years on the market selling just 300000 units, it was clear that the Newton was not a new device “for the rest of us” and definitely not Infinite Loop’s future.

The project, started in 1987 as a pen computing platform and focused on a smaller size and scope after 1991 pitch by Product Marketing Manager Michael Tchao to Apple’s CEO John Sculley, was launched in 1993 and was killed in 1998 by the new interim CEO, Steve Jobs, who discontinued the last products to use Newton technology, the MessagePad 2100 and the eMate 300. [For the record, five months before Jobs had stated in an email that the eMate had a “bright future”, and it looked like both the State of Texas and Australia were planning of adopting the device to replace students textbooks and aging PC computers, respectively.]

The Newton had failed on the market and Apple was betting all of its resources and money in the evolution of the Macintosh and a new NeXT-based operating system. Tchao had already left Apple, in 1994, as had the Newton’s main developers, Steve Capps and Walter Smith, who in 1996 seeked refuge at Microsoft. (more…)

Tuesday 03 September 2013, 7:08 am
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Tempest & Cyclone: the first Audio Video Macs

Filed under: Hardware

In July 1993 Apple introduced two very special Macintosh models, the Centris 660AV and the Quadra 840AV. Although seemingly belonging to different product lines and featuring radically different cases and expandibility options, they shared most of their technology, and even more importantly, their raison d’etre.

The two Macs sported an unseen integration of audio, video and voice, setting a new market standard. The “AV” monicker after the model numbers meant that professional audio and video input and output capabilities were already included by Apple and there was no need for third-party expansions.

Both the Centris 660AV (code-named Tempest) and the 840AV (code-named Cyclone) were the first Macintoshes to support 16-bit 48 KHz stereo audio, and could record and play back sound at CD-quality. They also had S-Video and Composite video ins and outs so one could use them to digitize video from a camcorder or other source and route their video signals to a TV set or video recorder. They were also the first Macs that supported Apple’s speech recognition (PlainTalk) out of the box.

Centris 660AV and Quadra 840AV ad detail

All of these amazing capabilities were possible thanks to new and more powerful hardware which had custom circuitry to handle the AV features. (more…)

Monday 29 July 2013, 7:25 am
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Apple’s Long Goodbye to CRT technology

Filed under: Hardware

In May 2001 Apple announced its intention to become the first computer vendor “to move to an all LCD flat panel display pro lineup“.
AppleThe company discontinued its last CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) display, the Apple Studio Display 17″ ADC, which had been introduced less than an year before, in July of 2000, and replaced it with the Studio Display 17″ LCD. This new LCD, priced aggressively at just 999 USD, completed its offer which now featured at the top a 22″ Apple Cinema Display, sold ay 2,499 USD. On the low end of the lineup was the Apple Studio Display 15″ LCD, now upgraded to the same “plexiglass” design as the others and offered at 599 USD.

From the tone of the press release one would be led to believe that Apple had completed its transition to LCD and abandoned the old and less efficient display techology. Actually, this goal was still far and it took quite a few years until all Macintosh products were actually CRT-free.

(more…)

Tuesday 19 March 2013, 11:56 am
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The Performas

Filed under: Design,Hardware

On the 14th of September, 1992 Apple Computer introduced a new family of Macintosh computers targeting the consumer marketplace. Initially available only in the U.S., the new series of computers were “designed to reach first-time buyers and new users in the home, offering specific solutions for families with school-age children”. Every Macintosh Performa included “enhanced system software, pre-loaded applications [such as ClarisWorks], one year of service and support”, and were to be “distributed in nearly 2,000 consumer retail outlets nationwide”. It was a bold but ultimately unsuccesful move to expand market share by offering an affordable entry into the Macintosh world, rebranding older and low power systems with a new name. The Performas were based on preexisting Macintoshes, although not all of them were exact copies and some even had their own code names.

Macintosh Performa 200 - Photo by Maja VervoortThe initial 1992 Performa family consisted of three models: the Macintosh Performa 200, Macintosh Performa 400 and the Macintosh Performa 600/600 CD. All of them were shipped installed with an optimized version of System 7 called System 7.1P, “designed to make using the Macintosh even easier for first-time computer buyers”.

The Performa 200, code named “Lady Kenmore”, was basically a Macintosh Classic II, released one year after the original and bundled with a 2400/9600 baud fax/modem and extra software. It was discontinued in April 1993, one month after Apple introduced its successor, the Performa 250, which was based on the Macintosh Color Classic.

The Performa 400 was a lowly Macintosh LC II, originally released six months before, in March. Bundled with several different hard drives and software, and rereleased in four variants as the Performa 400, 405, 410, and 430, it unfortunately had the same shortcomings of the LC II, i.e. the LC’s 16-bit data path, which crippled the speed of the relatively fast 16 MHz 68030 processor.

The Performas 600 and 600CD had the look and were based on the motherboard of the Macintosh IIvi but were released a bit later in the consumer market, and sported the IIvx’s 68030 32 MHz processor. The Performa 600 CD were among the first Macintoshes with an internal CD-ROM drive which could read data, play audio discs and also supported Kodak’s Photo CD technology.

The last batch of Performas was introduced in 1996 and discontinued during 1997 and early 1998. Among the last ones was also the first and only original model ever released, the Performa 6400, which had a new tower case design. It was Apple’s first consumer-aimed mid-range computer and had optional A/V capabilities: its innards were also used for the Performa 6360.

The Performa 200 picture is © Maja Vervoort, which has kindly authorized the reproduction alongside this text.

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Sunday 16 September 2012, 12:18 pm
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Here comes the eMac

In April 2002, Apple renewed its attention to the educational market with a new, exclusive Macintosh model. eMacBuilding upon the success of the iMac, engineers and designers in Infinite Loop created the eMac, a new desktop all-in-one Macintosh with a 17-inch flat CRT monitor and a PowerPC G4 processor housed in a compact and curved white case.

The move followed Apple’s decision to radically change the look of the iMac, which in January 2002 not only abandoned the G3 CPU but acquired a flat panel screen perched on a white matte half-dome, with the effect of looking like a lamp (or a sunflower, according to Apple’s designer, Jonathan Ive). The previous iMac line was discontinued except for some lower spec models which were kept available until March 2003. (more…)

Tuesday 03 April 2012, 9:15 pm
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The Mac OS Anthology

Introduced on the stage by Steve Jobs during the May 1999 WWDC Keynote, the “Mac OS Anthology” was a collection of many Mac OS operating systems to aid (registered) third party developers in testing their software for compatibility.

The first Mac OS Anthology boxsetIt was presented originally in the form of a boxset of 4 DVDs which included all of the releases of the Macintosh operating systems since System 7 ’til the current one which at the time was Mac OS 8.5.

The DVDs were chosen for their archival capacity and featured all of the international localizations of the systems, up to 25 languages.

According to Applefritter the back of the first four DVDs reads:

Worldwide System Software for Developers
1999 Edition
From System 7 to Mac OS 8.5 and beyond
This DVD-ROM set is the first DVD offering from the Apple Developer Connection. The DVD format was selected because it delivers so much useful data on one convenient and easy-to-use medium. This collection is designed to assist you in extending your product’s reach into international markets and environments.

A disc from the Mac OS AnthologyFrom an archived copy of the Apple website we also know the sale price: 199 USD, and just 149 for those ADC members who ordered a copy before May 14. In 2000 the price was discounted to just 99 dollars.

Volumes 5 and 6 were devoted to Mac OS 8.6, just introduced at the aforementioned 1999 WWDC so the contents of the DVDs, which by the way are not bootable, at the end of the year became as follows:

Disc 1: 7.0, 7.0.1, 7.1, 7.1.1, 7.1.2, 7.5, 7.5.3, 7.5.5 Update, 7.6.1, OS 8.0
— Disc 2: OS 8 (continued), OS 8.1
— Disc 3: OS 8.1 (continued)
— Disc 4: OS 8.1 (continued), OS 8.5, OS 8.5.1
— Disc 5: OS 8.6
— Disc 6: OS 8.6 (continued)

The two Mac OS Anthology boxsetsLater, in February of 2000 Apple offered to ADC developers two more volumes for Mac OS 9 (in 15 languages) collecting the other four in a new, second boxset labeled “2000 edition”.

After that, in 2001, the Mac OS Anthology again grew to include two more DVDs. These were to be the last additions, featuring Mac OS 9.0.4, 9.1 and the first Mac OS X and brought the grand total to 10 discs.

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Images taken from the Apple website and from www.junewon.com

Saturday 02 April 2011, 7:54 am
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A Mac in Graffiti Bridge

There’s a Macintosh in Prince’s 1990 Graffiti Bridge movie.
It can be seen twice: at the beginning, during the first scene, and again at the end, during the end titles.

A Mac in Graffiti Bridge 01 zoomIn both instances it is being used by Prince to write and/or edit music. Prince, or rather “The Kid”, the character he plays, keeps the computer in his living quarters located just under the stage of the “Glam Slam”, the club of he is the (fictional) owner in Graffiti Bridge.

Although the Mac is always shown in mid-darkness and the camera closes up only on the screen (more on that later) but it’s clearly a compact Macintosh and considering when Graffiti Bridge was released, in November 1990, the list of possible models is pretty much easy to narrow.

We can immediately cross out the Mac Classic because it was introduced in October of 1990, just one before the movie showed up in theaters. Another model we can exclude is the original Mac, released in 1984, which was too old and frankly too underpowered for a serious musical use. The same is probably true for the “Fat Mac”, from 1985 which just had more RAM memory.

This leaves us just very few choices. Three actually: a Plus, a SE or a SE/30.
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Tuesday 01 March 2011, 2:12 pm
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A touch of (shuffle) green

iPod shuffle 1gen - cartolina pubblicitariaThe first three generations of the iPod shuffle are a good example of how Apple keeps evolving and reinventing its products and yet strives to maintain a sense of continuity to communicate that the core concept and identity is unchanged.

In the case of the iPod shuffle there is one element which has been painstakingly kept throughout all of the models: the use of the color green. It has been successfully associated by Apple with the act of shuffling, the random order (and reproduction) of the audio content by the player, and thus with the shuffle itself.

iPod Shuffle 1gen back - shuffle onThe original, first generation of the iPod shuffle, launched in January 2005, used this color extensively in its packaging and promotional material.
Green was the background of the TV commercial and print ads, green was the dominant color of the smallish box in which the iPod was sold and green was the color under the button which switched the iPod on and put it on continuous or in a shuffle play mode.

iPod Shuffle 2gen topThe second iPod shuffle generation, launched in September 2006, kept the green theme in many of the aspects such as packaging (although in a more subtle manner) and the switch controls. Apple even made a step further and chose green as one of the (many) colors in which the microscopic player, now in the form of a clip, was painted and made available to the public.

The third generation of the iPod shuffle, launched in March 2009, represented a bold choice by Apple.
iPod shuffle 3gen topThe player was made ridiculously small and given a clean and minimal, almost aseptic design, stripped even of the front controls, which were moved -in a controversial choice- to the earphones’ cable. But once again the color green was kept as a defining mark of the “shuffle” brand, used sparingly but effectively in two ways. One such use was -again- under the on/off switch, as in previous models, this time the only spot of color on an otherwise chromatically neutral device.

iPod shuffle doubleclickiPod shuffle longclick

The other use is not on the device and can be seen on the Apple website, during the Guided Tour Video, which shows how to use the new controls on the earphones. To emphasize and make absolutely clear how how each single, multiple or prolonged click activates a function Apple chose to use animations. During each of those key moments there are circles, big green circles.

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Wednesday 02 February 2011, 6:07 pm
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