Macintosh Classic
Macintosh Classic
Also known as"XO"[1]
ManufacturerApple Computer
Product familyCompact Macintosh
Release dateOctober 15, 1990; 33 years ago (1990-10-15)[2]
Introductory priceUS$999 (equivalent to $2,240 in 2022)
with 40 MB hard disk and 2 MB RAM: US$1,499 (equivalent to $3,360 in 2022)
DiscontinuedSeptember 14, 1992 (1992-09-14)[2]
Operating system
CPUMotorola 68000 8 MHz[2]
Memory1 MB, expandable to 4 MB (requires a RAM card); 120 ns, 30-pin DRAM chips required[1]
Display9 in (23 cm) monochrome, 512 × 342
  • Height: 13.2 in (34 cm)
  • Width: 9.7 in (25 cm)
  • Depth: 11.2 in (28 cm)
Mass16 lb (7.3 kg)
SuccessorMacintosh Classic II
RelatedMacintosh IIsi
Macintosh IIci
Macintosh IIfx
Macintosh LC
Macintosh Portable

The Macintosh Classic is a personal computer designed, manufactured and sold by Apple Computer from October 1990 to September 1992. It was the first Macintosh to sell for less than US$1,000.[3]

Production of the Classic was prompted by the success of the original Macintosh 128K, then the Macintosh Plus, and finally the Macintosh SE. The system specifications of the Classic are very similar to those of its predecessors, with the same 9-inch (23 cm) monochrome CRT display, 512 × 342 pixel resolution, and 4 megabyte (MB) memory limit of the older Macintosh computers.[2] Apple's decision to not update the Classic with newer technology such as a newer CPU, higher RAM capacity or color display resulted in criticism from reviewers, with Macworld describing it as having "nothing to gloat about beyond its low price"[4] and "unexceptional".[5] However, it ensured compatibility with the Mac's by-then healthy software base, as well as enabled it to sell for the lower price, as planned. The Classic also featured several improvements over the aging Macintosh Plus, which it replaced as Apple's low-end Mac computer. It is up to 25 percent faster than the Plus[1] and included an Apple SuperDrive 3.5-inch (9 cm) floppy disk drive as standard. Unlike the Macintosh SE/30 and other compact Macs before it, the Classic did not have an internal Processor Direct Slot, making it the first non-expandable desktop Macintosh since the Macintosh Plus. Instead, it had a memory expansion slot.

The Classic is an adaptation of Jerry Manock's and Terry Oyama's 1984 Macintosh 128K industrial design, as had been the earlier Macintosh SE. Apple released two versions. The price and the availability of education software led to the Classic's popularity in education. It was sold alongside the more powerful Macintosh Classic II in 1991 until its discontinuation the next year.



After Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs left Apple in 1985, product development was handed to Jean-Louis Gassée, formerly the manager of Apple France. Gassée consistently pushed the Apple product line in two directions, towards more "openness" in terms of expandability and interoperability, and towards higher price. Gassée long argued that Apple should not aim for the low end of the computer market, where profits were thin, but instead concentrate on the high end and higher profit margins. He illustrated the concept using a graph showing the price-performance ratio of computers with low-power, low-cost machines in the lower left and high-power high-cost machines in the upper right. The "high-right" goal became a mantra among the upper management, who said "fifty-five or die", referring to Gassée's goal of a 55 percent profit margin.[6]

The high-right policy led to a series of machines with ever-increasing prices. The original Macintosh plans called for a system around $1,000, but by the time it had morphed from Jef Raskin's original vision of an easy-to-use machine for composing text documents to Jobs's concept incorporating ideas gleaned during a trip to Xerox PARC, the Mac's list price had ballooned to $2,495.[7]

With the "low-left" of the market it had abandoned years earlier booming with Turbo XTs, and being ignored on the high end for UNIX workstations from the likes of Sun Microsystems and SGI, Apple's fortunes of the 1980s quickly reversed. The Christmas season of 1989 drove this point home, with the first decrease in sales in years, and an accompanying 20 percent drop in Apple's stock price for the quarter.[8]

In January 1990, Gassée resigned and his authority over product development was divided among several successors.[8] Many Apple engineers had long been pressing for lower-cost options in order to build market share and increase demand across the entire price spectrum. With Gassée out, a rush started to quickly introduce a series of low-cost machines. Three market points were identified, a very low-cost machine aimed at costing $1,000, a low-cost machine with color graphics, and a more upscale color machine for small business use. In time, these would develop as the Classic, Macintosh LC, and Macintosh IIsi.[8]


MacWEEK magazine reported on July 10, 1990, that Apple had paid $1 million to Modular Computer Systems Inc., a subsidiary of Daimler-Benz AG, for the right to use the "Classic" name as part of a five-year contract.[9] Apple did not renew the contract when it ended.[10] MacWEEK speculated the Macintosh Classic would use the same MHz Motorola 68000 microprocessor and 9-inch (23 cm) display as its predecessors and that the Classic would be priced from $1,500 to 2,150.[9]

On October 15, 1990, John Sculley (then Apple CEO) introduced the Classic at a press conference, announcing that pricing would start at $1,000[11] and saying, "To reach new customers, we didn't just lower the prices of our existing products. We redesigned these computers from the ground up with the features customers have told us they value most."[12] Apple's new pricing strategy caused concern among investors, who thought it would reduce profit margins.[13] Brodie Keast, an Apple product marketing manager, said, "We are prepared to do whatever it takes to reach more people with Macintosh [...] The plan is to get as aggressive on price as we need to be."[13] After the release of the Classic, Apple's share price closed at $27.75 per share, down $0.50 from October 12, 1990, and far below its previous 12-month high of $50.37.[13]

The Classic was released in Europe and Japan concurrently with the United States release. In Japan, the Classic retailed for ¥198,000 ($1,523),[14] more than in the US but matching the price of the Toshiba Dynabook laptop computer.[14]

After spending $40 million marketing the Classic to first-time buyers,[15] Apple had difficulty meeting the high demand.[16] Apple doubled its manufacturing space in 1990 by expanding its Singapore and Cork, Ireland factories, where the Classic was assembled.[16] Air freight, rather than sea shipping, was used to speed delivery.[16] The shortage caused concern among dealers, who blamed Apple's poor business planning.[15]

Macintosh Classics and LCs had been given to Scholastic Software 12 weeks before they were officially announced,[17] and Scholastic planned to release 16 new Macintosh products in 1991.[17] Peter Kelman, Scholastic's publisher, predicted that the Macintosh would become "the school machine of the nineties."[17] The Classic was sold to schools for $800.[11] This, and the availability of educational software, led to the Classic's popularity in the education sector.[18]


The low-end model was sold with 1 MB of memory, a 1.44 MB floppy drive, no hard disk, and included a keyboard for $999.[4] The $1,500 model used 2 MB of memory and a 40 MB hard disk. The Classic features several improvements over the Macintosh Plus, which it replaced as Apple's low-end Mac computer: it is up to 25 percent faster than the Plus,[1] about as fast as the SE,[5] and includes an Apple SuperDrive 3.5" floppy disk drive as standard.[19] The SuperDrive can read and write to Macintosh, MS-DOS, OS/2, and ProDOS disks.[19] The Classic also has an expansion slot that is only for memory (up to 10 MB).

The Classic uses the System 6.0.7 operating system with support for all versions up to System 7.5.5. A hidden Hierarchical File System (HFS) disk volume contained in the read-only memory (ROM) includes System 6.0.3.[20] The Mac Classic can be booted into System 6.0.3 by holding down the ⌘ Command+⌥ Option+X+O keys during boot.[20]

Some dealers included a software bundle called Smartbundle with the Classic.[21] Also sold separately for $349, this includes T/Maker's WriteNow word processor, Ashton-Tate's Full Impact spreadsheet program, RecordHolderPlus database, and Silicon Beach Software's SuperPaint 2.0 paint and draw program.[21]


The Apple Keyboard II is the Macintosh Classic's standard keyboard.

The Macintosh Classic is the final adaptation of Jerry Manock's and Terry Oyama's Macintosh 128K industrial design, bringing back some elements of the original while retaining little of the Snow White design language used in the Macintosh SE's design.[22] The only remnant of the SE is the stripe across the front panel (bezel) for the floppy drive; the distinctive front bezel lines of the SE were not used on the Classic, and the vertical lines around its base are replaced by four horizontal vent lines, more reminiscent of the original design.[22] Also, the curve of the front bezel was increased to the same 50-inch (1.3 m) radial curve as on the front of both the Macintosh LC and Macintosh IIsi.[22] The screen brightness dial on this bezel was also removed in favor of a software control. This broad, curved front bezel became a signature of Apple product design for much of the 1990s.[22]

The logic board, the central circuit board of the computer, is based on the Macintosh SE design.[23] Its size, however, was reduced using surface-mount technology[23] to 9 × 5 inches (23 × 13 cm), half the size of the SE board. This redesign, and the absence of expansion slots, kept manufacturing costs low.[23] This lack of expansion abilities, along with the small screen size and Macintosh's popularity in desktop publishing, led to such oddities as video displays that connected through the SCSI port by users seeking to connect a larger full- or dual-page display to their Mac. The Classic design was used once more in 1991 for the Classic II, which succeeded the Classic.[22]


Some reviewers of the Macintosh Classic focused on the processor performance and lack of expansion slots. Liza Schafer of Home Office Computing praised the Classic's ease of use and price, but criticized the 9-inch (230 mm) display because a full US letter page (8.5 by 11 inches (220 mm × 280 mm)) would not fit at full size, and warned those who required high-end graphics and desktop publishing capabilities against buying the Classic.[24] Schafer concluded: "The Classic's value is more impressive than its performance, but its performance will get you working on that novel, database, or spreadsheet."[24] PC Week criticized the lack of a faster processor, stating, "The 7.8 MHz speed is adequate for text applications and limited graphics work, but it is not suitable for power users. As such, the Classic is appropriate as a home computer or for limited computing on the road."[25] Similarly, PC User's review concluded, "The slow processor and lack of expansion slots on the Macintosh Classic offset the low prices".[26] MacWEEK described it as a "fine, inexpensive replacement for the Macintosh Plus that best embodies the original Macintosh vision six and a half years later".[27] Computer Gaming World was more skeptical, doubting that consumers would purchase a black-and-white computer with no hard drive that was only slightly faster than the Mac Plus.[28]

In the February 1991 edition of Electronic Learning, Robert McCarthy wrote: "Teachers, educational administrators, and software developers are enthusiastic about the new, lower-cost Apple Macintosh computers". Steve Taffe, manager of instructional strategy at MECC, a developer and publisher of educational software, explained his excitement about the Classic: "[it] is terrific – both because it's a Mac and because of that low price. Everyone can now afford a Macintosh." Scholastic, an educational software developer, was also confident of Apple's ability to compete with MS-DOS machines, stating: "They are just as cost-effective and as powerful as MS-DOS computers, but the Apples will have a superior comfort level." Sue Talley, Apple's manager of strategic planning in education, said of the Classic: "we see it going into applications where you need a fair number of powerful stations, but where color is not a big issue." Talley mentioned that it was most suited for writing labs and other basic productivity uses. Many schools decided not to buy the Macintosh Classic because of the lack of a color monitor, an option that the higher-priced Macintosh LC had.[29] The popular Apple IIe Card also increased the LC's appeal to schools. Although the Classic was more popular at first, by May 1992 the LC (560,000 sold) was outselling the Classic (1.2 million sold).[30]


Component Specification[2]
Display 9-inch (23 cm) monochrome CRT display, 512 × 342 pixel resolution
Storage 40 MB SCSI hard disk drive optional, Built-in SuperDrive 3.5 in floppy disk drive
Processor 8 MHz Motorola 68000
Bus Speed 8 MHz
Random-access memory 1 MB, expandable to 2 or 4 MB using 120 ns 30-pin SIMMs and optional custom RAM-slot expansion card
Read-only memory 512 KB
Networking AppleTalk
Battery 3.6 V lithium
Physical dimensions
  • 13.2 in × 9.7 in × 11.2 in (340 mm × 250 mm × 280 mm) (height by width by depth)
  • 16 lb (7.26 kg)
Port connections
Expansion slots none
Audio 8-bit mono 22 kHz
Gestalt ID 17 (computer identification code)
Codename XO[31]


Timeline of Compact Macintosh models
Power MacintoshMacintosh LC 520PowerBookMacintosh LCMacintosh PortableMacintosh II seriesApple IIeMacintosh Color ClassicMacintosh Classic IIMacintosh SEMacintosh SE/30Macintosh ClassicMacintosh PlusMacintosh SEMacintosh PlusMacintosh XLMacintosh SEMacintosh 512KeMacintosh 128KApple LisaMacintosh 512KMacintosh 128K

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Pogue, David; Schorr, Joseph (1999). MacWorld Mac Secrets, 5th Edition. IDG Books. pp. 462–463. ISBN 0-7645-4040-8.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Macintosh Classic: Technical Specifications". July 26, 2017. Archived from the original on June 12, 2013. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  3. ^ Ould, Andrew (August 6, 1990). "Mac Classic to debut at under $1,000". PC Week. p. 17.
  4. ^ a b Poole, Lon (December 1990). "The Macintosh Family Evolves". MacWorld Magazine. pp. 188–175.
  5. ^ a b Poole, Lon (December 1990). "Review – Mac Classic". MacWorld Magazine: 176–179.
  6. ^ Carlton, Jim (1997). Apple: The inside story of intrigue, egomania, and business blunders. New York: Random House. pp. 79–80. ISBN 0-8129-2851-2.
  7. ^ Levy, Steven (1994). Insanely Great: The life and times of Macintosh, the computer that changed everything. New York: Viking. p. 111. ISBN 0-670-85244-9.
  8. ^ a b c Carlton (1997). Apple: The inside story of intrigue, egomania, and business blunders. pp. 117–129.
  9. ^ a b Farber, Daniel (June 21, 1080). "Apple shells out $1 million for 'Classic' name". MacWEEK. p. 1.
  10. ^ Linzmayer, Owen W (1999). Apple Confidential (1st ed.). No Starch Press. p. 208. ISBN 1-886411-31-X.
  11. ^ a b Hertzberg, Lanny (November–December 1990). "New Macs from Apple". Electronic Learning. p. 6.
  12. ^ "Apple Computer: lower cost Mac PCs target new customers. 50 percent less for entry-level system". EDGE: Work-Group Computing Report. October 22, 1990. p. 3.
  13. ^ a b c "Apple Unveils Low-Cost Macs". Albany Times Union. Albany, NY. October 16, 1990.
  14. ^ a b Yazawa, Naoyuki (October 18, 1990). "Japan: Apple prices new Macs, cuts old prices". Newsbytes (Newswire).
  15. ^ a b Zachary, G. Pascal (November 21, 1990). "Demand turns new Macintosh into rare Apple". Wall Street Journal (Western Edition).
  16. ^ a b c Borrell, Jerry (March 1991). "How does Apple deal with success? In fiscal 1991 Apple Computer will ship over 1 million Macintoshes". Macworld. p. 23.
  17. ^ a b c "Macs for the masses". Compute!. 13 (4): 26. April 1991.
  18. ^ Krey, Michael (March 25, 1991). "Classic is on backorder". The Business Journal. p. 18.
  19. ^ a b "Macintosh Classic: Description (Discontinued)". Apple Inc. June 2, 1994. Archived from the original on April 16, 2010. Retrieved April 27, 2008.
  20. ^ a b Aker, Sharon (1998). The Macintosh Bible 8th Edition. Peachpit Press. p. 58. ISBN 0-201-87483-0.
  21. ^ a b Schafer, Liza (April 1991). "Apple Macintosh Classic 2/40 – Hardware Review". Home Office Computing. BNET. p. 2.
  22. ^ a b c d e Kunkel, Paul (1997). Appledesign: The Work of the Apple Industrial Design Group. Watson-Guptill. p. 75. ISBN 1-888001-25-9.
  23. ^ a b c "Macintosh Classic Computer Developer Note" (PDF). Developer Technical Publications. Apple Computer. 1990. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 24, 2008. Retrieved May 6, 2008.
  24. ^ a b Schafer, Liza (April 1991). "Apple Macintosh Classic 2/40 – Hardware Review". Home Office Computing. p. 1.
  25. ^ Bethoney, Herb (October 15, 1990). "Mac Classic could be faster, but it fits the bill. (Hardware Review)". PC Week. p. 16.
  26. ^ Chadwin, John (October 24, 1990). "Mac to the future (Apple's Macintosh LC, Classic, and IIsi microcomputers) (Hardware Review)". PC User. p. 44.
  27. ^ Ford, Ric (October 30, 1990). "Mac Classic (Hands on the new Macs) (Hardware Review)". MacWEEK. p. 2.
  28. ^ "Fusion, Transfusion or Confusion / Future Directions In Computer Entertainment". Computer Gaming World. December 1990. p. 26. Archived from the original on January 10, 2020. Retrieved November 16, 2013.
  29. ^ Robert, McCarthy (February 1991). "The new Macs go to school". Electronic Learning. p. 19.
  30. ^ Heid, Jim (May 1992). "More for Less: An Updated LC and LaserWriter Duo". Macworld. p. 136.
  31. ^ Linzmayer, Owen W (2003). Apple Confidential (1st ed.). No Starch Press. p. 27. ISBN 1-886411-31-X.