Editor’s Note: The Mac is certainly a landmark product, one of the many to make its way out of Cupertino in the last quarter-century. But not everything Apple touches turns to gold. We asked TidBits editor Adam C. Engst to list a half-dozen Apple efforts that probably seemed like good ideas at the time.
1. Macintosh IIvi and IIvx
Originally introduced in 1992 as a replacement for the popular Macintosh IIci, the IIvi and IIvx featured a new case design and an internal CD-ROM drive. Unfortunately, the IIvi was powered by a measly 16MHz 68030 CPU, while the IIvx connected a 32MHz 68030 to a 16 MHz bus; both were slower than the three-years-older, 25MHz IIci. The IIvi lasted only four months; while the IIvx held out for a year, the significantly faster 68040-based Centris 650 went on sale just four months after the IIvi and IIvx were released.
2. Macintosh TV
Apple’s first foray into the world of television wasn’t Apple TV; it was the 1993 Macintosh TV, a black all-in-one Mac with a 14-inch CRT monitor. Based on the Macintosh LC 520 case, it wasn’t a horrible computer, but despite its name could not display TV from its cable-ready TV tuner card in a window. Apple made only 10,000 before canceling the weak-selling product.
After the Macintosh TV, Apple didn’t give up on a device that connected to your living room TV. The next attempt was the Pippin, a stripped-down Mac designed by Apple and introduced by Bandai in the United States in 1996 as a video game console for multimedia CD-ROM games. It was underpowered, overpriced, and title-poor compared with the Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and Nintendo 64—Bandai sold just 42,000 units before discontinuing it.
4. Power Macintosh 4400
Released in 1997, the Power Macintosh 4400 was Apple’s feeble attempt at a cheap Mac knockoff. It had a sharp-edged metal case and more industry-standard components than other Macs, and it was horrible. It crashed all the time, had a particularly loud fan and a lousy internal speaker, and (oddly) had its floppy drive on the left side—convenient for maybe 10 percent of the population.
5. Twentieth Anniversary Mac
Released in 1997, the Twentieth Anniversary Mac (TAM) featured an elegant, upright design that Apple would nod to years later with the flat iMac. But in a triumph of form over both function and common sense, Apple priced the underpowered TAM at $7,499—a whopping $5,500 more than the comparable Power Macintosh 5500. Within a year, Apple had knocked the price down to $1,995, placating people who had paid more by giving them gifts of high-end PowerBooks.
6. Apple USB Mouse
Perhaps no Apple product has been as reviled as the infamous “hockey puck” mouse, which shipped with the original iMac in 1998 and lasted for two years. Its small size made it awkward to grasp, and its round shape made it tricky to orient. The only people who liked it were the folks who made third-party mice and USB-to-ADB adapters that enabled the use of older mice.