Retro Home Computers – The Apple Macintosh Quadra

Apple Macintosh Quadra – 1991

Macintosh II line

Apple introduced the Macintosh Quadra 700 and 900 in 1991. These were the first Macs to employ the faster Motorola 68040 processor. They were joined by improved versions of the previous year’s hits, the Macintosh Classic II and Macintosh LC II. The latter was upgraded to use a 16 MHz 68030 CPU.

Apple Color Macintosh

Above: Apple Macintosh Quadra 700

At the same time, the first three models in Apple’s enduring PowerBook range were introduced—the PowerBook 100, a miniaturized Macintosh Portable; the 16 MHz 68030 PowerBook 140; and the 25 MHz 68030 PowerBook 170. They were the first portable computers with the keyboard behind a palm rest, and with a built-in pointing device (a trackball) in front of the keyboard.

Apple Color Macintosh

Above: Apple Powerbook 150

In 1992, Apple started to sell a low-end Mac, the Performa, through non-traditional dealers. At Apple dealers, a mid-range version of the Quadra series called the Macintosh Centris was offered, only to be quickly renamed Quadra when buyers became confused by the range of Classics, LCs, IIs, Quadras, Performas, and Centrises.

Apple also unveiled the miniaturized PowerBook Duo range. It was intended to be docked to a base station for desktop-like functionality in the workplace. The PowerBook Duo was dropped from the Apple product line in early 1997.

PowerPC Architecture

The next evolutionary step in Macintosh CPUs was a switch to the RISC PowerPC architecture developed by the AIM alliance of Apple Computer, IBM, and Motorola. Since its introduction, the Power Macintosh line proved to be highly successful, with over a million units sold by late 1994, three months ahead of Apple’s one-year goal. In the same year, Apple released the second-generation PowerBook models, the PowerBook 500 series, which introduced the novel trackpad.

Despite these technical and commercial successes, Microsoft and Intel began to rapidly erode Apple’s market share with the Windows 95 operating system and Pentium processors respectively. These significantly enhanced the multimedia capability and performance of Windows over Intel (Wintel), and brought Windows still closer to the Mac GUI.

In response, Apple started the Macintosh clone program to regain its foothold in the desktop computer market. This succeeded in increasing the Macintosh’s market share somewhat, but at the cost of undermining Apple’s bottom line. The company saw regular losses over the period when clones were manufactured. As a result, when Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 he pulled the plug on the whole operation, reasoning that Apple was losing a lot of money in the clone market.

In 1998, a year after Steve Jobs had returned to the company, Apple introduced an all-in-one Macintosh that was similar to the original Macintosh 128K: the iMac, a new design that did away with most Apple standard connections, such as SCSI and ADB, in favor of two USB ports. It featured an innovative new design; its translucent plastic case, originally Bondi blue, and later many other colors, is considered an industrial design hallmark of the late 1990s.

The iMac proved to be phenomenally successful, with 800,000 units sold in 1998, making the company an annual profit of US$309 million — Apple’s first profitable year since Michael Spindler took over as CEO in 1995. At MacWorld 2000, San Francisco, Steve Jobs bragged that they had sold over 1.35 million iMacs the previous quarter; one every six seconds. The Power Macintosh was redesigned with a similar ‘blue and white’ aesthetic.

OS X Server

In 1999, Apple introduced OS X Server 1.0, codenamed Rhapsody, with a new GUI and powerful Unix underpinnings. Its NeXT-like GUI left many Mac users disappointed, and wondering what the next generation of the Mac OS GUI would look like. Mac OS X was based on OPENSTEP, the operating system developed by Steve Jobs’ post-Apple company, NeXT. Mac OS X was not released to the public until September 2000, as the Mac OS X Public Beta, with an Aqua interface, much different from Mac OS X Server 1.x. It cost US$29.99 and allowed adventurous Mac users to sample Apple’s new operating system and provide feedback to the company on what they
wanted to see in the actual release.


In mid-1999, Apple introduced the iBook, a new consumer-level, portable Macintosh that was designed to be similar in appearance to the iMac that had been introduced a year earlier. Six weeks after the iBook’s unveiling, more than 140,000 orders had been placed, and by October the computer was as much a sales hit as the iMac. Apple continued to add new products to their lineup, such as the eMac and PowerBook G4, as well make two major upgrades of the iMac. On January 11, 2005, Apple announced the release of the Mac mini priced at US$499, the least expensive Mac to date.

In recent years, Apple has seen a significant boost in sales of Macs. Many claim that this is due, in part, to the success of the iPod, a halo effect whereby satisfied iPod owners purchase more Apple equipment. The iPod digital audio players have recaptured a brand awareness of the Macintosh line that had not been seen since its original release in 1984.


Colorful Apple iMacs

Above: Colorful Apple iMacs

From 2001 to 2005, Macintosh sales increased continuously on an annual basis. On October 11, 2005, Apple released its fourth quarter results, reporting shipment of 1,236,000 Macintoshes, a 48% increase from the same quarter the previous year. Starting with the introduction of the iMac Core Duo and the MacBook Pro on January 10, 2006, Apple has gradually switched from PowerPC microprocessors to microprocessors manufactured by Intel. Apple completed that transition on August 7, 2006 at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, with the introduction of the Mac Pro.

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