My Apple Macintosh Timeline

I seem to be a little out of sync in the Apple Macintosh timeline at the moment. It seems as though I always need to upgrade just before a major new release. My recent upgrade to a new iMac occurred not long before Apple were about to release Macs based on a completely new architecture. I knew the M1 (Apple Silicon) Macs were on the horizon, but I needed a new computer just before they were released.

In some ways that was a good thing as it meant I was using the latest and greatest machine in the Intel series of Macs. It works with all of my software and hardware and will continue to do so for a while. The brand new M1 based Macs were at the time something of an unknown.

In other ways it makes me feel as though I’m getting left behind. Now that the M1 based Macs are out and everyone is raving about them I’m already on slightly out-dated hardware. That said, the pro-level M1 Macs have yet to be released. They aren’t likely to come out until at least October. In the meantime I have had my iMac for a while. So, by the time a suitable M1 replacement is available I will have had at least a years worth of use from this machine. It should give me many more years of service too.

My previous iMac served me well for 7 years. The new architecture does probably mean that I won’t wait 7 years before upgrading this time, but at least when I do any issues with the M1 Macs will have been identified and sorted out.

It did get me thinking about all of the Apple Macintosh computers that I have owned through the years.

My Apple Macintosh Timeline

My first ever Apple Macintosh was actually a family computer that my Dad bought and I used.

Macintosh LC

Apple Macintosh LC
Apple Macintosh LC

This was back in 1990 and it was a Macintosh LC. This had a 16Mhz Motorola 68020 processor, 2MB of RAM and a 40Mb Hard Drive. It also had a floppy disk drive (remember those?). It came with Macintosh Operating System version 6.

Macintosh LCII

Next was the LCII which was released in 1992. This was an upgrade to the 68030 processor, double the RAM at 4MB and double the Hard Drive space at 80MB. The form factor was the same ‘pizza-box’ as the LC, but it could display more colours thanks to double the VRAM and now ran System 7.1. I would have done my college work on this machine and used to spend hours building Hypercard stacks and editing program resources using ResEdit.

Macintosh LC 475

In 1994 I upgraded to the LC475. This was another incremental upgrade from the LCII. It now had a 68040 processor running at 25Mhz. I could only afford the base model though so the RAM and Hard Drive were the same. This would have been the computer I bought to take to University and it saw my through my Undergraduate days. I had it connected to a Zip Drive via SCSI ports and had a collection of Zip Disks where all my backup files were stored.

Performa 6400

Performa 6400
Performa 6400

Apple moved away from the Motorola 680×0 processor architecture in favour of the RISC based PowerPC chips. This was quite a transition and included a 68k emulator to run older software. The transition was fairly smooth but not without a few issues. I therefore waited a while before upgrading to this new architecture but did jump to a Performa 6400 once I started my PhD. in 1997. This was a massive jump in performance. The Performa 6400 had a 180Mhz PowerPC processor, 16MB of RAM and a huge 1.6GB Hard Drive.

It was everything I needed for my PhD and also had a CD-ROM drive and 1MB of VRAM. It came with the latest and greatest Operating System as well, System 8. OS updates were big news back then. I waited until System 8 was out before upgrading to the new machine so that I had all the new things! A new computer, a new processor architecture and a new operating system.

This machine was quite a workhorse and lasted me for many years, including an upgrade to System 9. The Performa 6400 was also the first computer I had with a built in modem. I was able to connect to the Internet for the first time and was soon building and running my own websites.



Before leaving University in 2002 I upgraded once again while I could get a good deal on a model designed for the educational market. The little known eMac. This was an all-in-one computer that resembled the colourful iMacs. It was huge, and with its large 17″ CRT display it weighed a tonne. It was however well built and very durable. In terms of performance it had a 800Mhz PowerPC G4 processor. It had 128MB of RAM and a 40GB Hard Drive. Quite an improvement on the Pefmorma 6400 and it saw me through the transition from System 9 to OS X

The eMac served me well. It may now be 18 years old, but it is still under my desk and I even fired it up a few months ago in order to retrieve some old files. It still worked and wasn’t even that sluggish really.

PowerBook G4

PowerBook G4
PowerBook G4

My next machine was a foray into the world of laptops with the Apple PowerBook G4 in 2004. By now I was running my own business as a freelance web-developer. I was therefore meeting with clients and a laptop seemed like the perfect solution. Things had moved on quite a bit in the world of technology. The processor speed was now being measured in Ghz, not Mhz. RAM too was into the realms of ‘Giga’s’ with 1GB. The world of connections had seen quite a change during this period as well. It had USB ports and speedy Firewire 800 too. It also featured a SuperDrive so was capable of writing DVD’s.

All of this was packaked into a lovely looking Titanium case which got admiring glances from my clients. Unfortunately it didn’t last that long and soon need a new logic board. This was going to cost almost as much as a new computer so I decided to upgrade again instead.

PowerMac G5

PowerMac G5 Tower
PowerMac G5 Tower

The failure of my PowerBook G4 meant that I was in the market for a new model just over a year after buying the laptop. The fragility of the PowerBook meant that I didn’t fancy buying another laptop so instead I went for the industrial looking PowerMac G5. Now known as the cheese-grate Mac this was a beast of a machine in an Aluminium tower case with loads of upgrade opportunities. The internals were as good looking as the outside of the case. It really was a workhorse and a piece of art too. It’s still sat under my desk along with my eMac and no doubt will still work as well.

The 2.0Ghz Dual G5 processor was a beauty as well. With 8GB of RAM, a decent video card and 160GB Hard Drive it was more than I’d ever need. Well, it was more than I needed back then but things do of course change. The specs are closer to those you see on machines these days which just goes to show how ahead of its time this Mac was. It is however 15-16 years old not really a usable machine any more.

2009 iMac

The G5 tower lasted for quite a while and was still feeling quite powerful by my next upgrade in 2009. To be honest there was nothing wrong with the performance of the G5 tower at this point. However, Apple had gone through a major architecture change with their processors and were now using Intel based processors. So, although my G5 tower was still performing well, the Operating System and software had moved on so as to work with the new Intel chips and I was finding that I was unable to upgrade to the latest versions as they would no longer work on the PowerPC chips.

My next Mac therefore was a 2009 21.5″ iMac. This had a Core 2 Duo processor at 3.06Ghz and 8GB of RAM. This was my first iMac and has become the form factor that suits me best these days. The iMacs have plenty of power for professional use but in a consumer style package.

The new iMac

2013 iMac

4 years later it was time for a new iMac. This time it was a 2013 27″ iMac. This was another Intel based iMac, but this time with a 3.2Ghz quad-core i5 processor. I upgraded the RAM to 24GB and it came with a 1TB Fusion Drive. The screen was obviously larger at 27″ as well. It was also housed in a slimmer case.

2020 iMac – last of an Era

My third iMac is my most recent one. A 2020 27″ iMac with a 10th generation 10 core i9 processor. It’s the last of an era as the newer iMacs will no longer contain Intel chips but will have the M1 ‘Apple Silicon’ processors in them. It was the top of the line model of these iMacs and should serve me well while the transition to Apple Silicon takes place. I may be tempted to upgrade to a pro-level M1 iMac once they have been released though!

Each of these steps has been an incremental one, some have been bigger jumps than others but each has been carefully selected to give me the best value for money. They have also been timed somewhat to take advantages of major changes in processor architecture and technology. Initially the jumps in performance were quite large as speeds and capacities doubled or quadrupled with each new machine. The speed of innovation never slowed but specs couldn’t keep doubling forever so recent upgrades have seen smaller percentage improvements. Keeping software and hardware in pace with each other drove some of the upgrades too.

If we look back at the first Macintosh LC from 30 years ago and try to compare the specs with my latest iMac then the differences are huge.

Macintosh LC (1990)27″ iMac i9 (2020)
ProcessorMotorola 68020 16MhzIntel 10th Gen i9. 10 Cores 3.6Ghz
Hard Drive40MB HDD1GB SSD
Graphics256 Kb VRAM8GB Dedicated Graphics Card
Resolution Support640×4805120×2880
ConnectivityNoneGigabit Ethernet
802.11ac WiFi
Bluetooth 5.0

Amazingly, the RRP at release was pretty much the same for both of them.

My journey through the world of Apple Macintosh computers has seen me transition from Motorola processors, through the PowerPC era, into the Intel based machines and soon the Apple Silicon M1 chips. Who knows what the future holds!

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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