January 14, 2011, 10:53 AM — Twenty-five years ago, Apple introduced the Macintosh Plus, a groundbreaking member of the Mac family tree. Industry analysts praised the Plus, which retailed for $2,599 (or what would be a whopping $5,188 today), as the computer Apple should have released in 1984.
The Mac Plus introduced a number of significant enhancements to the Mac line and solidified the Macintosh as a viable platform. Before the Plus, people spoke of the Macintosh in terms of its potential—as it could be. After the Plus, people spoke of the Mac as it was.
More RAM, please
The original Macintosh that was released in 1984, the Macintosh 128K, was by all accounts a revolutionary machine. But it carried with it a few significant drawbacks. The most troubling came in the form of a mere 128KB of built-in RAM. Ambitious developers anxious to craft graphics-intensive applications quickly bumped up against that limit, severely restricting the complexity of early Mac software. The worst part is that Apple couldn’t help them: the company provided no authorized way of upgrading the Mac’s RAM.
Apple first gave the Mac series a memory upgrade with the Macintosh 512K (which included 512KB of RAM, natch) in late 1984. However, users could still not upgrade the RAM themselves. In contrast, the Mac Plus shipped with 1MB (or 1024KB) of memory, which provided ample breathing room for the hot new desktop publishing apps of the day. Even better, the Plus supported up to 4MB of RAM in the form of user-installable memory modules.
The Mac Plus’s expanded RAM opened the floodgates to a new generation of advanced Mac software that finally lived up to the platform’s fullest potential.
A pun that involves SCSI
As part of Apple’s vision, the first Mac was a fully self-contained “appliance” that, through its non-user-serviceable nature, theoretically made life easier for the user. In practice, computer users of the early 1980s were accustomed to opening their PCs and adding all sorts of goodies to push systems to their limits. The Mac’s closed nature (combined with its limited RAM) frustrated those types to no end.