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Definition: Macintosh

A family of desktop and laptop computers from Apple, introduced in 1984. First to popularize the graphical user interface (GUI), the combination of Mac hardware and software has provided an ease of use that users have very much enjoyed over the years.

It has essentially been a Mac vs. Windows world for personal computers. However, Google's Chrome computer has gained ground in the education market (see Chromebook). See Windows vs. Mac.

Because Macintoshes were commonly called "Macs," Apple later changed the brand officially to "Mac." For an overview of the line, see Macintosh models. To learn about the Mac's origins, see Macintosh history.

Hardware Evolution
The first Macs were powered by Motorola's 32-bit 68K family of CPUs. In 1994, Apple introduced the Power Macs, which used the higher-performance PowerPC chip designed by Apple, Motorola and IBM. Power Macs ran native PowerPC applications and emulated traditional Mac 68K applications. Over the years, PowerPC chips provided substantial increases in performance.

In 2006, Apple began to adopt the Intel x86 CPUs used in Windows PCs. iMac desktops and MacBook Pro laptops were the first to be switched (see Intel Mac). As a result, Macs can run Windows natively or simultaneously (see Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion). Before the Intel change, Windows and DOS applications could run in a Mac using an emulator (see Virtual PC for Mac). See Macintosh clone, Mac OS X, G3, G4, G5, HFS and Apple.

The First Macintosh (1984)
With one floppy disk, 128KB of RAM and built-in 9" screen, the "high-rise" Macintosh was a departure from the very successful Apple II. After switching to traditional desktop cases in the 1990s, Apple later revived its flair for unique design (see iMac). (Image courtesy of Apple Inc.)

Always the Innovator
Apple has created many original designs. This PowerBook in 2001 was the first laptop with a wide screen and titanium body.