July 18-24: Last 68k Mac, OS 8, Be
Published October 28th, 2004

This week in Apple history (July 18-24), Apple introduced the last Mac based on the 68k processor family that had powered the Mac product line for 10 years. The Quadra 630 was powered by a 33 MHz processor, and shipped with Mac OS 7.1. Do you miss those days?

Three years later, in 1997, Apple did a little name change game, changing Mac OS 7.7 to Mac OS 8 at the last minute in order to get out of its commitment to Mac OS licensees (cloners) who had a license for Mac OS 7.x only. Tempo, as it was code named, was a big improvement to the Mac operating system, and featured some of the technologies rescued from the failed Copland project by then-VP Ellen Hancock. She was soon fired by Steve Jobs during his (re)takeover of Apple in 1997. You can read much more about all of these issues in Owen's Apple Confidential 2.0.

Speaking of former Apple execs, Jean-Louis Gassée -- the man responsible for at least some of Apple's flair in the late 80s and early 90s, as well as it many of its problems -- took his company Be, Inc. public this week in 1999. The company ran into problems, however, when the tech-boom busted, and when Apple stopped working with Be to make the BeOS compatible with Mac hardware.

It was this week in 2001 when Apple previewed Mac OS X 10.1, which brought many significant improvements to the OS. It was also the last major upgrade for Mac OS X that was free, and Apple went out of its way to deliver free upgrade CDs to Mac retailers around the US. Of course, this was only after being heavily criticized for making the "free" update available only by paying US$20 for CDs to be shipped to you, but the point is that the company reacted to its customer base's concern in a very positive way.

In 2003, another former Apple exec, co-founder Steve Wozniak unveiled his newest endeavor, Wheels of Zeus (WoZ). Pet owners and parents everywhere should be delighted.

You can find more information on many of the entries below in Owen Linzmayer's excellent Apple Confidential 2.0. The other entries can be found in TMO's archives, and we link to articles whenever we can.

July 18-24

1991: A year after divesting itself of its high-end graphics computer hardware division, Pixar ships Showplace for Mac (US$995), a shading program that works in conjunction with the firm's RenderMan. Apple-founder-in-exile, Steve Jobs, had originally hoped to spin-off Showplace to focus Pixar's efforts on computer animation for television commercials, but had failed to secure outside funding. According to the then privately-held company, Pixar achieved "marginal" profitability on both its software and animation divisions later that year.

1994: Apple introduces the Quadra 630 (US$1,200), the last Mac based upon Motorola's 68040 processor, and the first Mac to use an IDE hard drive (instead of a SCSI drive), the type of component common in the Wintel clone market. The Quadra 630 (code-named Crusader, Show Biz, and Show & Tell for its multimedia capabilities) shipped with System 7.1 and featured a 33MHz 68040 CPU with 4MB of RAM standard.

1997: Apple announces Mac OS 8.0 (a.k.a. Tempo), the semi-successor to the defunct Copland project. The US$99 new operating system features a PowerPC-native Finder and introduces the Appearance control panel, contextual menus, Desktop Pictures, Personal Web Sharing, pop-up windows, Simple Finder, spring-loaded folders, and buttons. Mac OS 8 runs only on Macs equipped with a 68040 or PowerPC processor with at least 8MB of RAM.

1999: Two and one half years after Apple spurned it in favor of Steve Jobs' NeXT, Jean-Louis Gassée's Be Inc. goes public at $6 a share. By the end of the year, the stock reached an all-time high of $39, giving the small firm a market cap of $1.4 billion. But when the dot com bubble burst, so did Be's prospects. A little over two years later, Palm purchased Be's remaining assets for just $11 million in stock.

While Jean-Louis Gassée was enjoying the rewards of his firm's IPO, Steve Jobs was in New York City at the Macworld Expo unveiling Apple's new consumer portable computer, the iBook (US$1,600). Designed by Jonathan Ive, the "iMac to Go" was initially available in Blueberry and Tangerine colors and featured a six-hour battery, 300MHz PowerPC G3, 12.1-inch TFT display, 32MB of RAM (expandable to 160MB), 3.2GB IDE hard drive, 24X CD-ROM drive, V.90 modem, 10/100Base-T Ethernet, full-sized keyboard, ATI Rage Mobility graphics card, and USB. But the real significance of the iBook (code-named P1) was the optional AirPort wireless networking hub that allowed up to ten Macs to share an Internet connection. Little did anyone realize it at the time, but Apple had once again led the industry by popularizing the Wi-Fi standard that would soon take the world by storm.

2001: Apple previews Mac OS X 10.1, the first major update of its next-generation operating system. The free update delivers improved performance, faster application launch times, and an overall more responsive feel. The Aqua interface is also enhanced, the Dock is moveable, and there are new menu items for frequently used system controls like battery, AirPort, monitors and sound. Most notably, Mac OS X 10.1 finally supports DVD playback and CD burning. This version is dubbed the first ready-for-prime-time release by the Mac media and spurs many Mac users to finally make the move to the new operating system.

2003: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak announces the management team and product plans for Wheels of Zeus, his new start-up which goes by the nickname of wOz. The firm plans to create and license a simple wireless network using 900MHz radio signals and global positioning system (GPS) satellite data to track inexpensive tags. The wOzNet, as it is called, consists of a base station that can track the location of hundreds of small, wireless tags that are attached to people, pets, or property. With a one-mile radius, the system can alert the user by phone or e-mail when a child leaves school, a cat leaves the house, or a carton leaves a warehouse, for example.