5 Macs that changed everything

We've seen a lot of Macs come and go, but a few have made a lasting impact. Here are the best and boldest Macs Apple has made.

Macintosh 128K

Mac that made a difference

Editor’s note: The following article is reprinted from Macworld U.K. Visit Macworld U.K. for the latest Mac news from across the Atlantic.

This month sees Apple mark the 30th anniversary of the first Apple Mac, the computer that changed everything and spawned an industry. It also marks the 30-year anniversary of Macworld, the magazine founded to follow Apple’s then new and exciting computer. We’ve seen a lot of Macs come and go in the past 30 years, and here we pick out the five most important Macs in that long history.

Macintosh 128K (1984)

As clunky and expensive as it was, the original Mac was the first mass-market personal computer to feature a graphical user interface (GUI) and mouse. Today, we expect any electronic device from TVs to ATMs to come with a graphical user interface. And thanks to the GUI, PCs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets were able to evolve into devices for the everyday consumer. The Mac was the one product that started it all.

Bondi Blue iMac

iMac (1998)

The Mac’s 30 years haven’t all been smooth sailing. Without the iMac it’s unlikely that Apple as we know it would still be in business. Before Apple’s success with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, Steve Jobs saved Apple with a couple of key products: OS X and the first iMac.

The iMac swiftly became both a runaway succes and a design classic. In a world of beige Windows boxes that were complicated and unreliable, the cute iMac looked and worked like something everyday folks wanted. It was phenomenally successful, with 800,000 units sold in just 139 days.

The iMac made Apple a profitable company again, and it cemented Steve Jobs as the undisputed leader of Apple, which in turn allowed him to push on with product development. Love your iPad? It couldn’t have happened without the iMac.

2006 MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro (2006)

It now seems strange that until 2006, Apple computers didn’t run on Intel architecture. This had performance implications, but more importantly, it meant that software makers found it difficult to port their wares to the Mac. Switching to Intel allowed Apple to break through perforamnce barriers and expand its software catalog.

Why the MacBook Pro? The 2006 MacBook Pro was one of the original Intel Macs. It’s a hugely popular and successful product line. But there’s more to it than that. With the MacBook Pro, Apple perfected the move from desktop computers to the portable power of laptops before Windows PC makers did. Apple gave the public what it wanted before the public knew it wanted it. Every high-end power laptop that followed owes a debt the MacBook Pro.

2008 MacBook Air

MacBook Air (2008)

Go to a computer store and you’ll see rows of expensive ultrabooks—the MacBook Air set the precedent for those machines. PC makers are still trying to find ways to compete with the MacBook Air, but still, six years on, the MacBook Air is the best thin-and-light laptop there is, offering true portable power in an iconic and beautiful shell. Few computers are so ground-breaking as to invent a category, but the MacBook Air did exactly that.

Mac Pro Late 2013
Photo: Michael Homnick

Mac Pro (2013)

The new Mac Pro shows that innovation is still at the heart of everything Apple does. It’s as powerful a workstation as you could need, but unlike other bulky, ugly power computers, the new Mac Pro is a small and stylish device. It puts true power into a shell that wouldn’t look out of place in any home. And in doing so it offers up a glimpse of the future of the desktop PC.

The Mac Pro is not a device for every user, but a niche tool for those who need the power. And because this is Apple, being a tool for just a few doesn’t mean that the user needs to compromise on design.