(Cybertech) – Apple is a brand that’s conquered the world, in many ways – it’s almost entirely ubiquitous, and its devices are recognisable from distance, so popular have they become.
Of course, that’s not the whole story, though. No brand appears out of nowhere to make billions in tech, and Apple was making computers long before its iPhone changed the way we use phones.
We’ve gathered together some images of those computers for your browsing pleasure. Some of them are iconic and memorable, but others might not be as well-known.
Macintosh 128K (1984)
Apple’s Lisa computer might have preceded the original Macintosh, but that iconic bit of naming means that we’re more interested in remembering its next device, in all its chunky glory.
Macintosh II (1987)
We think the jump from the first family of Macintosh computers to the second is interesting for that separation of the monitor from the main unit of the computer – something that Apple would eventually reverse, of course.
Macintosh Portable (1989)
Don’t get us wrong, we wouldn’t be thrilled if we had to actually lug this beast around in our bag nowadays, but the Portable’s significance is obvious. It was the first battery-powered Macintosh, and is clearly heralding the start of the laptop era. Plus, we’re big fans of that cursor-controlling ball.
Macintosh Classic (1990)
It wasn’t necessarily the very first version of the Macintosh that Apple made, but this computer is still recognisable as being in that family of devices, and its boxy design and chunky mouse are recognisable straight away. This is where it all started, in consumer terms.
Powerbook 100 (1991)
The leap forward from the Macintosh Portable to the first Powerbook is astonishing, in terms of actual portability and the modernity of the design. Though the cursor ball and some buttons are clearly outdated, this is still instantly recognisable as a laptop in the modern sense.
Powerbook Duo 210 (1992)
Even just a year later, you can see Apple’s design ideas taking further steps forward, rounding off most of the edges on the machine and making more user-friendly and less brutal.
PowerBook 500 (1994)
Here came another big step, with the addition of stereo speakers, and, most noticeably, Apple’s first trackpad. Given that it would eventually become pretty much the undisputed master of quality trackpads, this is a big moment in its design development.
PowerBook 1400 (1996)
As you can tell, for a lot of the nineties Apple’s most memorable design work was happening on its Powerbook line (although that would soon change). This model is significant to our eyes because it’s one of the first where Apple has managed to get the bezels down to less massively chunky sizes, making for a much more modern look.
Power Macintosh G3 (1997)
There it is – the moment you’ve been waiting for, when Apple decided to break the mould and make machines that truly looked like no-one else’s. That blue and white plastic (only one version of the G3, which had more boring ones too) was the start of something big.
iBook G3 (1999)
Now we’re into the swing of things – Apple’s late-nineties pivot toward a lineup of products that made more sense to consumers and looked fun to use and own. The iBook is wild, with its constant curves and bright plastic design, but it was hugely successful, too.
Power Mac G4 Cube (2000)
You can see the hand of Apple’s longtime design guru Jonny Ive in this bold design, cuboid as its name suggests and with something intensely futuristic about its combination of metal and plastic. We can’t really imagine what people would make of it if this were unveiled now.
Powerbook G4 (2001)
We’re reaching the end of our design journey, here, and you can tell by the fact that the Powerbook G4 from all the way back in 2001 really shares some clear design traits with even the most recent of Macbook Pro laptops – that’s how timeless the design that Apple settled on has become. With its metallic looks and clean lines, it’s the start of Apple’s laptop dominance.
iMac G4 (2002)
On the desktop front, though, Apple still had a curveball up its sleeve. The next model of its iMac was a radical departure from its previous versions, with a bubble-shaped base and free-swiveling screen – it’s unlike any other computer we can think of and was actually really nice to use. That said, its design didn’t exactly inspire many imitators.
The best Chromebook 2021: Our pick of the top Chrome OS laptops for school, college and more
iMac G5 (2004)
This is where our retrospective ends, then, with the next version of the iMac. Much like the Powerbook earlier, you might be able to see why it’s the final entry: because it’s the model that Apple stuck with in design terms, and while today’s Macs have metallic bodies, minus the white glass of this version, they’re still clearly cut from the same cloth. Nowhere is that more evident that in the stand, which could be the same as a new Mac’s right now.
Writing by Max Freeman-Mills.