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1980s Computers Explanation of terms

The Apple Macintosh

Apple Macintosh


Apple Computers (US)


(From a variety of apple.)

Date Launched

January 1984



Microprocessor type

Motorola 68000 @ 8 MHz

ROM size

64 kilobytes

Standard RAM

128 kilobytes

Maximum RAM

128 kilobytes

Keyboard type

Typewriter style

Supplied language

None ?

Text resolution

Many combinations available

Graphics resolution

512 x 384 pixels

Colours available

Monochrome (blue)


Monophonic through internal speaker

Cassette load speed

Built-in 3.5 inch floppy disc drive

Dimensions (mm)
Weight (grams)

220 x 245 x 300 (approx, without keyboard)
Not known

Special features

9 inch monitor, electronics and floppy disc drive in a single unit.
The first reasonably affordable computer with a graphical user interface.

Good points

Graphical display of text allowed different font styles and sizes to be displayed.
Used the new 3.5 inch floppy discs.
Supplied with a mouse.

Bad points

Too expensive for the home market and quite expensive for a business machine with no hard disc.
The lack of a hard disc drive and use of only a single floppy disc drive meant the original Macintosh was difficult to use for serious applications. Luckily for Apple they soon made a version with a hard disc available.

How successful?

Took some time for applications to appear that made use of the GUI but then sold very well.
Derivatives of the original Macintosh are still on sale and are the most popular non-Microsoft PCs.


Apple had launched the Lisa a year earlier. This was in many ways similar to the Macintosh, with a graphical interface as standard, but at over £6000 and limited to the seven built-in applications it was never going to be a success.
The Macintosh was far cheaper and designed as a general purpose business computer.
One early software title was Lotus's 'Jazz', an integrated word processor, spreadsheet, database and graphics application.
However the applications which secured the Macintosh's future were Pagemaker (for desktop publishing) and Postscript (which gave precise control of printing).
Together with the graphical display of the Macintosh these allowed documents such as magazine pages to be created and viewed on screen exactly as they were to appear in print, and then sent to a commercial printer. This was just not possible with the mostly text-only displays of the standard IBM PC compatibles of the time.
The ease of designing page layouts led to the explosion in specialist magazines in the 1980's, the majority of which were and still are designed on Apple computers. (Even many titles aimed at Intel/Microsoft PCs and which often denigrate Apple machines are actually produced on a Macintosh.)
Although the original Macintosh was a slow starter it was possibly the most influential desktop computer produced and it is probably true to say that without the Macintosh there would never have been Microsoft Windows.

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