By Jason Snell
August 3, 2020 8:50 AM PT
Last updated December 28, 2020
20 Macs for 2020
Note: This story has not been updated since 2020.
I’ve been a professional observer of the Mac for three-quarters of its life. Sticking around that long—27 years—has given me a deeper perspective on its history. I remember the Mac before OS X, before the iMac, before PowerPC, even before System 7. We go way back.
With this year marking the turn of decades (in some particularly disastrous ways, as it turns out), I decided to construct a list of the 20 most notable Macs in history. Over the next 20 weeks, I’ll post essays, podcasts, and videos about each of them, counting down to number one.
Now, note my choice of words there: notable. I’m not saying these are my favorite Macs—a bunch of them I only knew in passing and never used myself. I’m not saying these are the best Macs ever—a difficult thing to measure, since (with a few obvious exceptions) the best Macs made are the most recent ones, otherwise we’d all still be using G3 iMacs.
My ranking system is, to be blunt, arbitrary. I tried to make a list of notable Macs that I felt reflected Mac history over the last 36 years. I wanted to choose Macs that were popular, revolutionary, weird, or had an interesting story to tell. If I have learned anything from Joe Posnanski’s brilliant Baseball 100 project, one of the most popular things about this series will be arguments about my terrible rankings and my unforgivable omissions.
To this, I can only say: My rankings may be terrible, and my omissions unforgivable, but they’re mine. Play along, make your own list, post it to the Internet, and see if everyone agrees.
Or as Posnanski put it, “The point of this for me is not the ranking but the stories.”
To take this walk down memory lane, I’ve read through many back issues of Macworld, MacUser, and MacWEEK, picked up a few books, and talked to some of my distinguished Mac journalism colleagues. I appreciate their contributions to the project.
Beyond the arguments about list-making, I hope the results of this project will expose some Mac history that deserves to be brought back into the light while entertaining along the way.
In addition to my essays, there is also an accompanying podcast at Relay FM, and a video series (made in collaboration with Stephen Hackett) on the 512 Pixels YouTube channel.
The 20 Macs for 2020 Series
- iMac G3
- PowerBook 140/170
- Macintosh 128K
- MacBook Air (2nd generation)
- Titanium PowerBook G4
- Macintosh SE/30
- Power Mac G4 Cube
- iMac G4
- Power Computing clones
- Macintosh Portable
- Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh
- Mac IIcx and IIci
- Mac mini
- DayStar Genesis MP
- Blue-and-White Power Mac G3
- PowerBook 500 & 5300
- PowerBook Duo
- Power Mac G5
Video series at the 512 Pixels YouTube channel, in collaboration with Stephen Hackett.
Podcast series at Relay FM.
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