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The top 10 standout Macs of the past 25 years

The top 10 standout Macs of the past 25 years

Not all of them were home runs, but they all made a big splash

The PowerBook 100 series (1991)

On Oct. 21, 1991, Apple unveiled its new portable lineup, which included the PowerBook 100, 140 and 170. These "good, better and best" models, the culmination of a joint venture between Apple and Sony Corp., featured a 10-in. color screen and yielded a design that became the blueprint for all subsequent laptop designs from all computer manufacturers.

Apple's earlier attempt at a portable Macintosh -- aptly named the Macintosh Portable -- weighed in at a not-so-portable 16 lb. But the Macintosh Portable did introduce the trackball to mobile computing, in this case located to the right of the keyboard.

The PowerBook line placed the keyboard back toward the LCD screen, allowing room for users to rest their palms. It also conveniently allowed Apple to locate the trackball at the center of the palm rest. That made it easy for either left- or right-handed users to operate the machine.

The PowerBook series also introduced Target Disk Mode, which allowed the laptop to be used as a hard drive when connected to another Macintosh using the built-in SCSI port. It also came in a fashionable dark gray, breaking from the standard beige of the PC industry.

The PowerBook 100 series brought in $1 billion in revenue for Apple in its first year, and its impact is still felt to this day. If you're using a laptop with a trackball or track pad between your palms, you can thank the PowerBook 100 design. (If you've got a track pad, you can thank the PowerBook 500. In 1991, that particular model was still three years away.)

The Power Mac G3 (1997)

The Power Macintosh G3 represented a new beginning for Apple because it the first computer unveiled after the return of CEO Steve Jobs, who had immediately canceled Apple's cloning licenses with third-party computer manufacturers. He also slashed Apple's product line from dozens of models to just a few core products.

The Power Mac G3 was the beginning of Apple's steps toward the use of industry-standard components to cut costs, and Motorola Inc.'s G3 chip represented a performance improvement over earlier chip sets while using far less power.

The first Power Mac G3 came in beige, with chip speeds starting at 233 MHz. And the G3 chip set became the foundation for Apple's entire computer lineup until the introduction of the even faster G4 processor two years later. In fact, variants of the G3 would be used by Apple until 2003.


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