Desktops & Towers

My collection of desktop and tower Macs spans from early-1990s 68k Macs through some of the later PowerPC models. I have fewer desktop and laptop Macs mainly because they cost more to ship and take up more space in my museum.  I’ve only owned a couple of desktop and tower machines for my own use; the rest were all-in-ones or portables. Regardless, I still like the design of Apple’s desktop and tower machines.

Macintosh LC

Released: October 1990

Design: Macintosh LC Low Profile

Original Price: $2,400

Museum Price: $19

Added: May 2012

At $2,400, the Macintosh LC was lowest-cost color Macintosh ever released at the time. Instructed by CEO Jonh Sculley to create a lower cost color model to compete with PCs, Apple engineers created the LC which was released in October 1990. It included on-board video and packed the same 16 MHz 68020 CPU that shipped with the Mac II in 1987. To keep costs down, the LC included a slim profile case with enough room for a floppy drive, hard drive, and a single PDS expansion slot. The PDS slot used a similar connector to the NuBus expansion slots used on the Mac II but allowed a fast and direct connection to the CPU. The case was actually quite attractive – slim and unobtrusive yet easy to open and upgrade.

The LC came with a 16 MHz 68020 CPU, 2 MB of RAM (expandable to 10), 256k of VRAM good for 256 colors at 512 x 384 pixel resolution (the same as the Mac 128, 512, Plus, SE, and SE/30), a 40 or 80 MB SCSI hard drive, and the standard array of Macintosh ports. Audio-in was included for the first time on a Mac (along with the IIsi). The unit shipped with System 6.0.5 and can run up to System 7.5.5, however System 7.0 and above slow the system down significantly.

My LC was acquired from eBay in May 2012 for $19. It is in fantastic shape with a case that has no markings and remarkably little yellowing from the sun. As a result it retains most of the “platinum” color it had when it was new. It boots and runs well. It came with System 7 installed which took just about forever to boot into. A quick downgrade to System 6.0.8 upped its pep factor significantly. May favorite thing about the LC is its slim case. We had some in middle school and I just loved them because they were so small. Surprisingly the LC is actually extremely easy to open and upgrade. Simply pull up on two tabs at the back to remove the cover and you are greeted with a very organized interior. Everything is easy to access, which is quite a feat for a machine so small.

Quadra 660AV

Released: October 1993

Design: Low-Profile with CD

Original Price: $2,400

Museum Price: $36

Added: January 2012

The Quadra 660AV was one of only two “AV” series Macs that Apple ever released. The “AV” in its name referred to its ability to input video from a camcorder, output video to a TV, and record high quality sound. It was one of the first Macs that could speak in multiple voices (versus the single voice that had been available since the dawn of the Mac) and even recognize spoken commands. The 660AV shipped in a low-profile desktop case that manages to fit a floppy disk, CD-ROM drive, and internal hard drive into a case that is only 3.5″ high. It even has room for one NuBus expansion card. Its case design is the logical successor to the Macintosh LC’s low-profile case which could not accommodate a CD-ROM drive.

The Quadra 660AV sold for between $1,970 and $2,400 and includes a 25 MHz 68040 CPU, 8 MB RAM, a 230 or 500 MB hard drive, a floppy drive, and a cartridge-loading CD-ROM drive.

I found a Quadra 660AV on eBay and added it to my collection for $36. It was the first 68040 machine that I owned and I think it’s pretty cool. I really like Apple’s use of low-profile cases in its desktop machines (like the LC) because it minimizes the computer down to only what is necessary. My 660AV has 36 MB RAM and a 540 MB hard drive. I hooked it up to a 15″ LCD screen using a Mac-to-VGA video adapter and recorded a video using it’s video-input port. While it looks like trash compared to today’s video, it would have been pretty nice in 1993. Check out the profile to view the video.

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Macintosh Quadra 660AV Profile – All about the 660 AV, including detailed photos from the museum

Power Macintosh 6100/66

Released: January 1995

Design: Quadra 600 Series Desktop

The 6100 is one of the first Power Macs that Apple released in 1994. It uses the same low-profile case as my Quadra 660AV and represented the low end of the Power Mac spectrum with a 60 or 66 MHz PowerPC 601 CPU, 8 MB memory, a 160 MB hard drive, floppy drive, and optional 2x CD-ROM drive. It is very similar to my Quadra, except that it is a PowerPC machine and has a tray-loading instead of cartridge-loading CD-ROM drive. I originally purchased it because I had picked up an Apple DOS card which has a 66 MHz Intel 486 CPU and includes copies of DOS and Windows 3.1. The card only works in the 6100, so I had to pick up one to go with it. Ironically I ended up finding a 6100 DOS edition which should have already had the card installed but did not. Some day when I have time I’ll install the card along with Windows and DOS to have an old-school FrankenMac.

Power Macintosh 7100/80

Released: January 1995

Design: IIvx Desktop

Original Price: $2,900

Museum Price: $50

Added: May 2012

The Power Macintosh 7100 was the mid-range offering of Apple’s first three PowerPC Macintosh models released in 1994. As a standard-sized desktop enclosure, the 7100 offered better performance and more expansion than the slim 6100 while not costing as much as the high end 8100 tower. The 7100 uses a modified version of the case used with the Macintosh IIvx, released in 1992, the most obvious difference being a restyled floppy disk drive. Like the 6100 and 8100, the 7100 runs on a PowerPC 601 CPU. Initially released in March 1994 running at 66 MHz, the 7100 was upgraded to 80 MHz in January 1995.

The 7100 includes a PowerPC 601 CPU running at either 66 or 80 MHz, a 256k cache card (optional on the 66 MHz model), a 250, 500, or 700 MB hard drive, a 2x tray loading CD-ROM drive, 8 or 16 MB of RAM, and dual video out ports – a standard Macintosh DB-15 port as well as an short-lived HDI-45 port. The HDI-45 port was only included on the 6100, 7100, and 8100 Macs and only works with the 14″ Apple AudioVision display. It is the spiritual ancestor of Apple’s ADC connector as it carries video in, video out, ADB, audio in, and audio out all through one cable. The 7100 was priced at $2,900 for the base model, $3,300 for the mid range, and $3,500 for the top end when released in 1994.

I picked up my 7100 as part of a pair with two monitors, a keyboard, a mouse, and a bunch of software. Both of the displays were standard Apple 14″ monitors (not the AudioVision type). One of the 7100’s was a 66 MHz model that was dead an used for parts. I stripped it of its memory, ROM, hard drive, floppy drive, and CD-ROM drive and gave the case away. I even scraped the CPU off of the motherboard. My remaining 7100 runs System 7.5 and runs it pretty well. At some point I’ll get around to upgrading it to newer software.

Power Macintosh G3 (Blue and White)

Released: January 1999

Design: Fold-Down Door

Original Price: $1,599 – $2,999

Museum Price: FREE

Added: October 2011

The Power Macintosh G3 (Blue and White) brought the design inspiration of the iMac to Apple’s professional line. Replacing a perfectly functional boxy beige tower, the Blue and White comes in a teal case with translucent white handles on each corner and a large teal Apple logo with the letters “G3″ silkscreened below on each side. The most innovative feature of the Blue and White G3 is the flip down door on the side. With the tug of a lever the entire side of the machine flips down revealing a clean interior ready to accept memory, expansion cards, and additional drives. It is incredibly easy to upgrade and Apple continued to use its basic design through 2003. The Blue and White G3 shipped with the same condensed USB keyboard and hockey puck mouse as the iMac and could be purchased with a 17″ or 21” CRT monitor that matched its color scheme.

The Blue and White G3 shipped with either a 300, 350, or 400 MHz Power PC G3 CPU, 64 or 128 MB RAM, a 6, 9, or 12 GB hard drive, and CD or DVD-ROM drive with an optional Zip drive All models include room for 3 or 4 internal hard drives, a CD or DVD drive, and one additional drive (such as a Zip drive). It includes four PCI slots for expansion, although one is always occupied by the video card.

The Blue and White G3 is another favorite of mine because like the iMac, it has a beautiful bold case. I owned a Blue and White during my first year of college. I received it from a friend in trade for something else that I had and it was amazing to me. It was almost five years old at the time but it was the first Mac that I had that could run Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X. It was the Mac I used when I decided to rip all of my CDs into AAC files and it was the Mac I owned when I first used the iTunes store in 2004. Eventually I gave it back to my friend and years later he gave it back to me again. I’ve since replaced the motherboard with more stable one with a faster CPU.

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Power Macintosh G3 Blue and White Profile – All about the Power Mac G3 in my museum

Power Mac G4

Released: August 1999

Design: Fold-Down Door

Original Price: $1,599 – $3,499

Museum Price: FREE

Added: October 2011

The Power Mac G4 brought Motorola’s PowerPC 7400 CPU to the Mac, bringing with it the “Velocity Engine” that accelerated common media and image operations. The G4 shipped in the same case as the Blue and White G3, with the same four handles and same fold down door, but came in a more conservative gray color called “Graphite”. It ushered in the era of AGP for Apple, added AirPort networking, and reintroduced dual CPUs. While its design changed slightly over time, the Power Mac G4 retained the same basic shape and case style until it was replaced by the Power Mac G4 in 2003.

The first three revisions of the Power Mac G4 look identical and shipped with anywhere from a 350 MHz to 733 MHz Power PC G4 in either single of dual-CPU configurations. RAM ranged between 64 and 256 MB, hard drives between 10 and 60 GB, and optical drives included CD, DVD, DVD-RAM, CD-RW, and DVD-RW/CD-RW “Super” drives.

I own two Power Mac G4s – a 1999 “AGP” model and a 2000 “Gigabit Ethernet” model. The AGP model has a 500 MHz G4, 1.5 GB RAM, and a 30 GB hard drive, while the Gigabit model has a 400 MHz G4, 128 MB RAM, and a 20 GB hard drive. Both have DVD drives and the AGP model has airport. The G4 is a cool computer to have, but I prefer the bright color of the G3 over it. Its case is the same otherwise which makes it extremely easy to get into and upgrade.

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Power Mac G4 Profile – All about the Power Mac G4s in my museum

Power Mac G4 Cube

Released: July 2000

Design: Cube

Original Price: $1,799 – $2,299, later $1,299 – $2,199

Museum Price: $100

Added: June 2012

The Power Mac G4 Cube is a marvel of design and miniaturization. It squeezes the full power of a Power Mac G4 tower into a cube that is 8 inches long on each side suspended in a clear plastic case. Its industrial design is strikingly simple. There is an Apple logo on the front, a large vent, slot-loading CD-ROM drive, and touch-sensetive power button on the top, and a full array of ports on the bottom, under the case.  It’s even easy to upgrade: simply tug a handle on the bottom of the machine and the entire thing pops out of the case. The G4 cube has an AGP slot for a video card (upgradeable), uses a standard 3.5″ desktop hard drive (upgradeable), uses standard desktop memory (not miniaturized laptop memory). It even sports an upgradeable CPU! In addition to being know for its design, the G4 Cube is also known for its terrible failure in the market. Users wanted a low-cost iMac without a screen, not a mini version of a G4 tower with far less expansion for $200 more. It didn’t sell well even after Apple cut prices on it. Although it was never technically cancelled, production was “suspended indefinitely” in July 2001.

The G4 Cube shipped with either a 450 or 500 MHz PowerPC G4, each with 1 MB cache, a 20, 30, 40, or 60 GB hard drive, a vertically-mounted slot-loading DVD or CD-RW drive, 64, 128, or 256 MB RAM, and an ATI Rage Pro, ATI Radeon, or NVIDIA GeForce2 MX GPU card with both VGA and ADC inputs.

The G4 Cube is one of those Macs that collectors want to have. It is remarkable both for its design and its dismal sales – one of the few failures to occur under Steve Job’s reign at Apple. I have been searching for one for a long time and finally found one at a fantastic price bundled with a keyboard, mouse, and 15″ Apple Cinema Display. Usually they go for an upwards of $200 on eBay but I got mine for half that and it is worth every penny. The design is simply fantastic – clean, elegant, even decorative. I am actually surprised at how easy it is to get into. You just have to push in a lever on the bottom which then springs out into a handle that you use to lift the inside out of the case. The entire computer is built onto a cage with access to the memory and video card. The case is even easy to disassemble and clean, which I had to do in order to remove sesame seeds that were in it. The G4 Cube is a fantastic Mac that I am happy to have in my collection.

Mac mini (white)

Released: January 2005

Design: Mac mini

Original Price: $499

Museum Price: $300

Added: May 2006

Fans and critics alike had been clamoring for a truly low-cost Macintosh since the release of the original in 1984. The Macintosh LC, Performa, and later the iMac series drove the cost of a Mac further and further down. The iMac sold for as little as $799 in 2000 but it was nowhere near the psychological $500 barrier. All of that changed in 2005 when Apple released the Mac mini for $499. Essentially an eMac without the screen, the Mac mini packed a 1.25 GHz PowerPC G4 CPU, hard drive, slot-loading DVD drive, and discrete graphics into a 2″ high 6.5″ square weighing under 3 lbs. It is the spiritual successor to the Power Mac G4 Cube but with less expandability at a far lower price.

The Mac mini shipped in two configurations. The $499 model included a 1.25 GHz PowerPC G4, 256 MB RAM, a 40 GB hard drive, and DVD/CD-RW combo drive. For $100 more customers could upgrade to a 1.42 G4, an 80 GB hard drive, and a DVD-burning SuperDrive. Both models included an ATI Radeon Radeon 9200 with 32 MB VRAM, USB 2.0, FireWire, DVI video out, audio out, and optional Airport Extreme (802.11 b/g) and Bluetooth 1.1. The mini supports up to 1 GB RAM.

I have a 1.25 GHz Mac mini that is very special to me. I purchased it in mid-2006 from the UNH Computer Store as a demo model for $300. It came in its original box with all of its original accessories, manuals, and software. At the time it was about a year and a half old and it was very cool due to its small size. My wife used it as a replacement for her PC before she got a MacBook and it also doubled as my web server. For the next few years it sat in the corner of my desk dutifully serving up my website and supporting my software development efforts. It stopped functioning a couple of years ago and I haven’t been able to boot it since. The mini is a very cool Mac because it is so small and well-designed while still being affordable.

Power Mac G5 (Late 2005)

Released: October 2005

Design: Power Mac G5

Original Price: $1,999

Museum Price: $100

Added: December 2012

The Power Mac G5 had been Apple’s flagship pro machine since its introduction in the summer of 2003. It used a bold aluminum case design and packed IBM’s powerful PowerPC 970 CPU. The “Late 2005” model was the first (and last) to use dual-core G5 CPUs. Two of the models contained a single dual-core CPU and one contained two dual-core CPUs, making it the first quad-core Mac. It included the most dramatic hardware changes ever made to the G5 line – the PCI-X slots were replaced with more-standard PCI Express slots, up to 16 GB of memory was supported and it was now of the error correcting type, Airport and Bluetooth no longer required an external antenna, two Ethernet ports were standard, a modem could only be added via USB, and there were four USB ports instead of three. These models were released after Apple announced its switch to Intel processors and shipped only two months before the first Intel Macs hit the market. The “Late 2005” G5 was the last new PowerPC machine that Apple ever released.

The G5 shipped in three configurations – a dual core 2.0 GHz G5 with 512 MB RAM and a 160 GB hard drive for $1,999, a dual core 2.3 GHz G5 with 512 MB RAM and a 250 GB hard drive for $2,499, and a dual-CPU dual core 2.7 GHz G5 “Quad” with 512 MB RAM and a 250 GB hard drive for $3,299.

I didn’t have a huge interest in the G5 when it originally came to market simply because it was not something that I could afford. I was far more interested in a PowerBook or an iMac. I preferred the design of the G4’s flip-out door over the removable panel on the G5, but when you see one in person the machine is still similarly accessible. I picked up my G5 from Craigslist and it is in good condition. It is cool that it’s a dual-core model but I still would like to own a dual-CPU version of a Mac at some point.

Mac mini (Late 2006)

Released:September 2006

Design: Mac mini (white)

Original Price: $799

Museum Price: FREE

Added: September 2012

After a year on the market with virtually no updates save for a quiet CPU speed bump, the Mac mini received an Intel brain transplant in February 2006. Along with the iMac and MacBook Pro, the mini was one of the first Macs to use the Intel CPUs that Apple had committed to in 2005. The mini marked the half way point of Apple’s one year product transition to Intel. At the time Apple still used PowerPC CPUs in its professional Power Mac G5 series, consumer iBook line, and enterprise XServe. Most of Apple’s 2006 Intel models received few updates on the outside and the mini was no different. It is virtually identical to the PowerPC mini from the prior year save for a small black IR window next to the slot loading CD drive (for the Apple remote) and additional USB ports and an audio in port on the back. The mini was refreshed in September with faster CPUs.

The Intel mini marked a price increase for the series that has yet to be removed. The low end model, with a 1.66 GHz Core Duo CPU, a 60 GB hard drive, 512 MB RAM, and a DVD/CD-RW combo drive for $599. That was the same price as the high end PowerPC mini. An additional $200 added a 1.83 GHz Core Duo, an 80 GB hard drive, and a DVD-RW SuperDrive. Both models included built-in Bluetooth and wireless, which were additional options on the original mini. The Intel mini is one of the few times that Apple actually increased the base prices of one of its models without lowering it again. The cost of the low end model went up again in 2010 to $699 but then dropped back to $599 a year later.

Though the price increase was a disappointment, the Intel mini is still an attractive computer. I received mine from a friend in September 2012 because it died. He gave it to me free of charge and I tried to revive it to no avail. It powers on but does not make a boot chime or begin the boot process. I swapped the memory but it didn’t help. My Intel mini is a gonner, but that’s OK because it’s small and it still looks nice.

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