Last week, Michael Koidahl, owner of Westwind Computing in Seattle, solved the problem of determining when Adam and I should have our big summer party. Noting that Westwind had a prototype model of Apple’s 20th Anniversary Macintosh for the weekend, he suggested that we invite tons of people over for a barbecue and a chance to play with the Mac.
The barbecue was a success, even though I splattered salsa on my purple tie-dyed Apple t-shirt. TidBITS Managing Editor Jeff Carlson extended himself culinarily and made an Apple pie with the Mac OS logo cut into the surface.
The 20th Anniversary Macintosh’s heritage combines the initial style and friendliness of the 128K Mac with the engineering pizazz of the first PowerBooks. The case that contains the logic board is a scant three inches thick and sports a gorgeous,12.1-inch, color, active-matrix, backlit screen displaying 800 by 600 pixels. The new Mac has a floppy drive in its side; the front panel beneath the screen is taken up by a vertically mounted CD-ROM drive and a set of touch controls.
The 20th Anniversary Mac mixes common Macintosh features (a 250 MHz PowerPC 603e chip, 32 MB RAM, 256K Level 2 cache) with high-end consumer electronics options and an elegant, futuristic design. The system includes a custom Acoustimass Bose sound system that divides sound output between speakers contained in the case and a separate bass unit, which looks like a miniature space-age silo and also contains the entire computer’s power supply. Although it didn’t seem to be on the prototype unit that we had, software should come with the Mac to help you set the "listening angle" and balance sound levels.
There are also built-in FM radio and television tuners, and an S-video port and composite video adapter cable can attach to the likes of laser discs (we had Blade Runner running much of the afternoon), VCRs, and DSS satellite dishes.
Other features include a remote control, a 2 GB hard disk, an external 33.6 Kbps GeoPort modem, a communications slot for an Ethernet card, an AV slot, a 7-inch PCI slot, and a custom keyboard with leather palm wrests and a removable trackpad. Purchasing one of these beauties also includes delivery and setup, a three-year hardware warranty, and three years of free phone support.
I’d already seen the 20th Anniversary Macintosh at a meeting of dBUG, Seattle’s Macintosh Users Group, but it made more of an impression set up on my dining room table, where it fit in with the decor extremely nicely. The Bose system sounded fabulous, and the screen was obviously nicer (and had a wider viewing angle) than the one in the PowerBook 5300c that lives in our kitchen.
After most people had left, we decided to hook it to the Internet via a Ricochet modem (see TidBITS-366), which worked fine, even though we’re well outside Metricom’s local Seattle coverage. It turned out that the Ricochet modems can talk to transceivers over greater distances than previously thought. They’re generally deployed in clusters from a half a mile to two miles apart, but we calculated the distance to our transceivers at between 15 and 20 miles. The important variable is that our house is set into the side of a mountain, so we had line-of-sight to transceivers in Renton and Seattle.
Of course, I want one of the 20th Anniversary Macs – who wouldn’t? (I couldn’t convince the Westwind people to leave without the prototype unit, despite a few pointed suggestions about how it was getting late.) I wish Apple would break out the pricing and the features so more people could afford one (the unit lists for $7,500; even at that price, Westwind has orders for seven already). I scraped and saved to afford my first academic-priced SE back in 1988, and – frankly – this Mac seems a bit too elitist, more like a computer that would come to high tea than a cookout. Still, it was fun having it come for a visit, and the salsa did wash out of my t-shirt.