The Apple family tree: Apple platforms through the years

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Overall, the IIgs remained a popular platform for at least half a decade (especially in education) despite limited support from Apple. Focus on the Macintosh platform put the brakes on the IIgs in 1992.

TechStep (1991 to 1993)

CPU class: Motorola 68HC11
OS: TechStep OS
Development status: Closed
Platform size: 1

This little-known diagnostic tool, which allowed technicians to troubleshoot Mac systems, unintentionally represented Apple’s first handheld mobile computer platform. While most consider this small device an accessory, the TechStep itself contains an embedded computer running specialized software from Apple-provided ROM software packs. No third-party development occurred for this limited diagnostic platform.

Newton/eMate (1993 to 1998)


CPU class: ARM
OS: Newton OS
Development status: Open
Platform size: 7

Newcomers to the Apple ecosystem may be surprised to learn that the iPhone and the iPad were not Apple’s first forays into touchscreen-based mobile computing. That honor belongs to the Newton, a PDA (personal digital assistant) that combined pen-based input with a monochrome LCD display on a handheld, pocket-size device.

The Newton spawned a vibrant third-party software community, albeit one that was small in size because of relatively limited sales of Newton hardware. Frequently lampooned in the media for its sometimes inaccurate (but still pretty good for the time) handwriting recognition, the Newton never reached a broad customer base. Still, its high profile in the media catalyzed the larger PDA market of the 1990s.

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Near the end of its life, the Newton family gained a unique new member, the eMate 300. Unlike the Newton before it, the eMate shipped in a notebook-style clamshell form factor.

Upon his return to Apple in 1997, Steve Jobs quickly axed the Newton in order to provide focus for the company. Portions of the Newton’s software technology live on in OS X, and experience with the Newton (on what and what not to do) helped shape the form of Apple’s next major mobile computing initiative over a decade later.

Pippin (1995 to 1997)

Evan Amos
Pippin Atmark

CPU class: PowerPC
OS: Pippin OS
Development status: Moderated
Platform size: 1

In the mid-1990s, Apple hopped on a brief, Web-fueled craze that sought to provide simple, cheap hardware that would allow users to get on the Internet, usually through their TV sets. And while they were at it, why not throw in CD-based multimedia entertainment, too?

The company jumped into this mythical market with the Apple Pippin, a Mac-based hardware reference platform (running a modified version of Mac OS 7.5.x) that spelled out the basics of a stand-alone, console-style computer with a gamepad that hooked to a television set. Apple never sold its own Pippin hardware, instead leaving that to licensee Bandai in Japan and North America.

Following the precedent set by video game consoles, Apple restricted third-party development for the Pippin platform to licensees only. The high price of Pippin hardware and a general lack of a definitive target audience drove Pippin to failure in the marketplace, and very few software titles for the system reached the public.

Apple Network Server (1996 to 1997)

Shrine Of Apple
Apple Network Server

CPU class: PowerPC
Development status: Open
Platform size: 2

With the Apple Network Server series, Apple attempted to cater to the medium-range server market that would later be covered by the XServe. The machines themselves used underlying Macintosh technology, including PowerPC CPUs, but since they exclusively ran a modified version of IBM’s AIX operating system (IBM’s proprietary implementation of UNIX), Apple never referred to the machines as Macs.

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