Front view of an Apple Macintosh LC II computer with Macintosh 12" RGB display, keyboard and mouse

The Macintosh LC is a family of personal computers designed, manufactured and sold by Apple Computer, Inc. from 1990 to 1997.

Introduced alongside the Macintosh IIsi and Macintosh Classic as part of a new wave of lower-priced Macintosh computers, the LC offered the same overall performance as the Macintosh II for half the price.[1] Part of Apple's goal was to produce a machine that could be sold to school boards for the same price as an Apple IIGS, [2] a machine that was very successful in the education market. Not long after the Apple IIe Card was introduced for the LC, Apple officially announced the retirement of the IIGS, as the company wanted to focus its sales and marketing efforts on the LC.[3]

The original Macintosh LC was introduced on October 1990, with updates in the form of the LC II and LC III in 1992 and early 1993. These early models all shared the same pizza box form factor, and were joined by the Macintosh LC 500 series of all-in-one desktop machines in mid-1993. A total of twelve different LC models were produced by the company, the last of which, the Power Macintosh 5300 LC, was on sale until early 1997.


The LC family (LC, II, III, 475, Quadra 605) front face

After Apple co-founder Steve Jobs left Apple in 1985, product development was handed to Jean-Louis Gassée, formerly 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 market their computers towards the low end of the 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.[4]

This policy led to a series of ever more expensive computers. This was in spite of strenuous objections within the company, and when a group at Claris started a low-end Mac project called "Drama", Gassée actively killed it. Elsewhere at the company, two engineers, H.L. Cheung and Paul Baker, had been working in secret on a pet project, a color Macintosh prototype they called "Spin". The idea was to produce a low-cost system in the vein of the Apple II, a product that Cheung had previously worked on at Apple as the head of design. The machine would, in effect, be a significantly smaller Macintosh II with built-in video, no NuBus expansion, and a matching RGB monitor similar to the one introduced with the Apple IIGS the year prior. The project changed direction during development, with executives dictating that the machine should have video capabilities and processing power similar to the Macintosh IIci, which was also under development at the time. In early 1989, the prototype was shown Apple executives, who liked the project but felt it was not different enough from existing models to justify further effort, and the project was shut down.[5]

Around the same time, Apple CEO John Sculley was facing public scrutiny for declining sales that was blamed in large part on the company's lack of an inexpensive Macintosh computer. Amidst promises to the press and investors that a new low-cost Macintosh was on the way, he revived the Spin project with the goal of creating the lowest-priced Macintosh that was possible. Gassée pleaded with the team to keep color as a feature of the project, and from then on the product was known internally by a new code name, "Elsie", a homonym for the "LC" (i.e. low-cost color) name the computer would later be sold as. Elsie prototypes at this point resembled an Apple IIc where the keyboard was integrated into the unit, and it had a single 800 KB floppy drive with no hard drive. The team ended up with a problem — the machine was cheap, but it wasn't a good computer, especially because the 68000 CPU was not powerful enough to display color graphics with acceptable performance.[5]

By April 1989, it was decided to split the project into three computers—the Macintosh IIsi, which would have the more powerful 68030 CPU; the Macintosh Classic, which would use a black & white display, and the LC, which would use the 68020 CPU from the Macintosh II.[5]

The LC family (LC, II, III, 475, Quadra 605) back face

To keep the price down, Apple cut some corners on performance and features, and redesigned components to be less expensive. For example, the external floppy connector that was included on the IIsi and Classic was excluded from the LC, as it would save a couple of dollars for the connector. The integrated keyboard had also been dropped by this point; it was replaced with a newly designed keyboard called the Apple Keyboard II.[5]


The Macintosh LC was introduced to the market alongside the Macintosh Classic (a repackaging of the older Macintosh Plus) and the Macintosh IIsi (a new entry-level machine for the Macintosh II series). Due to pent-up demand for a low-cost color Macintosh, the LC was a strong seller, and in 1992, the original Macintosh LC was succeeded by the LC II. The updated machine replaced the LC's Motorola 68020 processor with a 68030 and increased the soldered memory to 4 MB to make it more suitable for System 7. However, it retained the original LC's 16-bit system bus and 10 MB RAM limit (if 4 MB SIMMs was used, the extra 2 MB of RAM would be inaccessible), making its performance roughly the same as the earlier model. The main benefit of the 030 processor in the LC II was the ability to use System 7's virtual memory feature. In spite of this, the new model sold even better than the LC.[citation needed]

In early 1993, Apple introduced the LC III, which used a 25 MHz version of the 68030 and had a higher memory limit of 36 MB, instead of the 10 MB of the LC and LC II. The LC III spawned a whole series of LC models, most of which later were sold both with the LC name to the education world and to consumers via traditional Apple dealers, and as Performa to the consumer market via electronics stores, and department stores such as Sears. (For example, the LC 475 was also known as the Performa 475.) The last official "LC" was the Power Macintosh 5300/100 LC, which was released in August 1995 and discontinued in April 1996. The LC 580 was notable for being the last desktop 680x0-based Macintosh.

Expansion to all-in-one market

Side view of an LC II
Rear view of an LC II

In mid-1993, Apple introduced the Macintosh LC 520, which combined the traditional all-in-one form factor popularized by the compact Macintosh family, with the technology platform of the LC III. It became Apple's mainstream education-market Macintosh, featuring a built-in 14" CRT display, CD-ROM drive, and stereo speakers. The case is similar to the recently-introduced Macintosh Color Classic, but considerably larger and heavier due to its larger screen and a bulging midsection to house the larger electronics.

Four LC 500-series models were released over the next two years, the 520, 550, 575, and 580, with the 520 and 550 both using different speeds of the Motorola 68030, and the 575 and 580 sharing the 33 MHz Motorola 68LC040 processor but differing on the rest of the hardware. All of these computers were also sold to the consumer market through department stores under the Macintosh Performa brand, with similar model numbers. The LC models, in particular, became very popular in schools for their small footprint, lack of cable clutter, and durability. Apple also released the Macintosh TV, a variant of the LC/Performa 520 that, while not branded as an LC, uses a black-coloured version of the LC 520's case, a logic board similar to the LC 550 and a TV tuner card. The compact Color Classic series shares many components, and is able to swap logic boards, with the early 500 series machines.

The Power Macintosh 5200 LC was introduced in April 1995 with a PowerPC 603 CPU at 75 MHz as a PowerPC-based replacement of the LC 500 series. In August, the Power Macintosh 5300 LC was released which kept the same motherboard design but included a more powerful PowerPC 603e CPU, as well as a "Director's Edition" with similar design and features to the Macintosh TV. Unlike previous education models, which prepended the model number with "LC", the 5200 / 5300 models use the Power Macintosh designation of Apple's main workstation line of the time, with "LC" appended to the end.

The 5300 LC is the final model branded as an "LC" and was on sale until early 1997. Its replacement was the Power Macintosh 5500, which continued the practice of building education-specific models but without distinctive branding (except for the UK-only Power Macintosh ONE/225). The company did not produce another education model with its own brand name until the eMac in 2002.



Model Processor Bundled Mac OS Maximum Mac OS Hard disk RAM Expansion Video RAM Equivalent Released/Discontinued
LC 16 MHz 68020 6.0.6/6.0.7 7.5.5 30–80 MB 2 MB
(max 10 MB)
(max 512 KB)
N/A October 1990 / March 1992
LC II 16 MHz
7.0.1 7.6.1 4 MB
(max 10 MB)
Performa 400430 March 1992 / March 1993
7.1 80–160 MB 4 MB
(max 36 MB)
(max 768 KB)
Performa 450 February 1993 / February 1994
LC III+ 33 MHz
Performa 460467 October 1993 / February 1994
LC 475 25 MHz
8.1 80–250 MB 4 MB
(max 36 MB)
0.5-1 MB Performa 475, Quadra 605 October 1993 / July 1996
LC 630 33 MHz
7.1.2 Pro 8.1 250–500 MB 4 MB
(max 36 MB)
LC PDS/Comm/Video 1 MB Quadra 630, Performa 630640CD July 1994 / October 1995


Model Processor Bundled Mac OS Maximum Mac OS Hard disk RAM Expansion Video RAM Equivalent Released/Discontinued
LC 520 25 MHz
7.1 7.6.1 80–160 MB 4 MB
(max 36 MB)
LC PDS 512–768 KB Performa 520 June 1993 / February 1994
Macintosh TV 32 MHz
160 MB 4 MB
(max 8 MB)
LC PDS (filled with TV card) 512 KB October 1993 / February 1994
LC 550 33 MHz
80–160 MB 4 MB
(max 36 MB)
LC PDS 512–768 KB Performa 550560 February 1994 / March 1995
LC 575 33 MHz
8.1 160–320 MB 4 MB
(max 68 MB)
LC PDS/Comm slot 0.5-1 MB Performa 575578 February 1994 / April 1995
LC 580 33 MHz
7.1.2P 500 MB 4 MB
(max 52 MB)
LC PDS/Comm slot/Video 1 MB Performa 580CD588CD April 1995 / March 1996


Timeline of Macintosh Centris, LC, Performa, and Quadra models, colored by CPU type
Macintosh Performa 6214Macintosh Performa 6210Macintosh Performa 6205Macintosh Performa 6230Macintosh Performa 6220Macintosh Quadra 840AVMacintosh Quadra 650Macintosh Quadra 610Macintosh Quadra 605Macintosh Quadra 660AVMacintosh Quadra 800Macintosh Centris 650Macintosh Centris 610Macintosh Quadra 950Macintosh Quadra 630Macintosh Quadra 900Macintosh Quadra 700Macintosh Performa 6420Macintosh Performa 6410Macintosh Performa 5440Macintosh Performa 5430Macintosh Performa 5280Macintosh Performa 6360Macintosh Performa 5260Macintosh Performa 6400Macintosh Performa 6400Macintosh Performa 5400Macintosh Performa 5400Macintosh Performa 6260Macintosh Performa 5400Macintosh Performa 5420Macintosh Performa 5410Macintosh Performa 5270Macintosh Performa 5260Macintosh Performa 6320Macintosh Performa 6310Macintosh Performa 6300Macintosh Performa 6290Macintosh Performa 5320Macintosh Performa 5300Macintosh Performa 6218Macintosh Performa 6216Macintosh Performa 6200Macintosh Performa 6116Macintosh Performa 5220Macintosh Performa 5215Macintosh Performa 5210Macintosh Performa 5200Macintosh Performa 640CDMacintosh Performa 580CDMacintosh Performa 588CDMacintosh Performa 638Macintosh Performa 637Macintosh Performa 636Macintosh Performa 635Macintosh Performa 631Macintosh Performa 630Macintosh Performa 578Macintosh Performa 577Macintosh Performa 575Macintosh Performa 476Macintosh Performa 475Macintosh Performa 560Macintosh Performa 550Macintosh Performa 275Macintosh Performa 6118Macintosh Performa 6117Macintosh Performa 6115Macintosh Performa 6112Macintosh Performa 6110Macintosh Performa 467Macintosh Performa 466Macintosh Performa 460Macintosh Performa 410Macintosh Performa 520Macintosh Performa 450Macintosh Performa 430Macintosh Performa 405Macintosh Performa 250Macintosh Performa 600Macintosh Performa 400Macintosh Performa 200Power Macintosh 5300 LCMacintosh LC 575Macintosh TVMacintosh LC IIIMacintosh LC 550Macintosh LC 580Macintosh LC 520Macintosh LC 630Macintosh LC 475Power Macintosh 5200 LCMacintosh LC IIIMacintosh LC IIMacintosh LC

See also


  1. ^ Poole, Lon (December 1990). "The Macintosh Family Evolves". MacWorld Magazine. pp. 168–175.
  2. ^ Spencer, Cheryl (December 1990). "Mac LC - What's been missing from the Macintosh line? The reasonably priced Macintosh LC with 16-bit color and Apple II emulation abilities". MacWorld Magazine. pp. 180–187.
  3. ^ Weyhrich, Steven. "The Apple IIGS - The Beginning of the End". Archived from the original on October 6, 2017. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b c d Levy, Steven (December 1990). "The Soul of a New Macintosh - The Twisted Tale of the Mac LC, the Computer That Refused To Die". MacWorld Magazine. pp. 55–62, 78–80.