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Macintosh LC


Macintosh LC

Macintosh LC II "pizza box" computer, circa 1992

The Macintosh LC (meaning low-cost color) is Apple Computer's product family of low-end consumer Macintosh personal computers in the early 1990s. The original Macintosh LC was released in October 1990 and was the first affordable color-capable Macintosh. Due to its affordability and Apple II compatibility the LC was adopted primarily in the education and home markets. Together with the Mac IIsi, it introduced built-in audio input on the Mac. The "LC" name was subsequently used for a line of low-end Macintosh computers for several years and spanned the 68k to PowerPC transition.


  • History 1
  • Features 2
    • Apple IIe Card 2.1
  • Reception 3
  • Models 4
    • "Pizza boxes" 4.1
    • All-in-one 4.2
    • Related Macs 4.3
  • Timelines 5
  • Timeline of Macintosh LC models 6
  • Timeline of Apple II family models 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The LC family (LC, II, III, 475, Quadra 605) front face

After Apple co-founder Steve Jobs left Apple in 1985, product development was handed to Jean-Louis Gassée, formerly manager of Apple France. Gassée consistently pushed the Apple product line in two directions, towards more "openness" in terms of expandability and interoperability, and towards higher price. Gassée long argued that Apple should not market their computers towards the low end of the market, where profits were thin, but instead concentrate on the high end and higher profit margins. He illustrated the concept using a graph showing the price/performance ratio of computers with low-power, low-cost machines in the lower left and high-power high-cost machines in the upper right. The "high-right" goal became a mantra among the upper management, who said "fifty-five or die", referring to Gassée's goal of a 55 percent profit margin.[1]

This policy led to a series of ever more expensive computers. This was in spite of strenuous objections within the company, and when a group at Claris started a low-end Mac project called "Drama", Gassée actively killed it. By 1990, with sales slumping, arguments broke out over whether or not the high-right goal should be maintained. In the end, Gassée was forced from the company and Michael Spindler was given his position, with the job of producing a low-cost series of machines. The result was the Macintosh Classic, Macintosh IIsi, and the LC.

The LC family (LC, II, III, 475, Quadra 605) back face

The original LC was an attempt at an affordable, modular, color-capable Macintosh. As such, when compared with earlier Macs Apple cut some corners on performance and features in order to keep the price down. Apart from expandability, the LC's system specifications nearly duplicated those of the 3 year old Macintosh II. Nevertheless, the machine hit a sweet spot and, with the pent-up demand for a low-cost Macintosh, it was a strong seller. In 1992, the original Macintosh LC was succeeded by the LC II, which replaced the LC's Motorola 68020 processor with a 68030 and has other changes to make it more suitable for System 7. It retained the original LC's 16-bit system bus however, making its performance roughly the same as the earlier model. The main benefit of the 030 processor in the LC II was the ability to use System 7's virtual memory feature. In spite of this, the new model sold even better than the LC. In early 1993, Apple introduced the LCIII, which used a 25 MHz version of the 68030 and had a higher memory limit of 36MB, instead of the 10MB of the LC and LC II.

The LC II spawned a whole series of LC models, most of which later were sold both with the LC name to the education world and to consumers via traditional Apple dealers, and as Performa to the consumer market via electronics stores, and department stores such as Sears. (For example, the LC 475 was also known as the Performa 475.) The last official "LC" was the Power Macintosh 5300/100 LC, which was released in August 1995 and discontinued in April 1996. The LC 580 was notable for being the last desktop 680x0-based Macintosh.


The LC used a very small "pizza box" case with a PDS (processor direct slot) but no NuBus slots. It had a 16 MHz 68020 microprocessor which lacked a floating-point coprocessor (although one could be added via the PDS). The LC had a 16-bit data bus, which was a major bottleneck as the 68020 was a 32-bit CPU. The LC's memory management chipset placed a limit of 10MB RAM no matter how much was installed.

Open box, Quadra 605 to left (similar to LC 475), LC to right (68020 CPU is square chip right side of board. Apple IIe card above LC.)

The LC shipped with 256KB of VRAM, only supporting a display resolution of 512x384 pixels at 8-bit color. The VRAM was upgradeable to 512KB though, supporting a display resolution of 512x384 pixels at 16-bit color or 640x480 pixels at 8-bit color. Most LCs were purchased with an Apple 12" RGB monitor which had a fixed resolution of 512x384 pixels and a form factor exactly matching the width of the LC chassis, giving the two together a near all-in-one appearance. An Apple 13" 640x480 Trinitron display was also available, but at a list price of $999, it cost almost as much as the LC itself.[2] Until the introduction of the LC, the lowest resolution supported on color Macs had been 640x480. Many programs assumed this as a minimum, and some were unusable at the lower resolution. For several years software developers had to add support for this smaller screen resolution in order to guarantee that their software would run on LCs.

Overall, general performance of the machine was disappointing due to the crippling data bus bottleneck, making it run far slower than it should have (e.g. the 16 MHz 68020 based Macintosh II from 1987, with an identical processor, ran almost twice as fast as the Macintosh LC). One difference between the Mac II and the Mac LC is the latter had no socket for a 68851 MMU, therefore it could not take advantage of System 7's virtual memory features.

The standard configuration included a floppy drive and a 40 MB or 80 MB hard drive, but a version was available for the education market which had an Apple II card in the PDS slot, two floppy drives, and no hard drive. The LC was the final Macintosh model to allow for dual floppy drives internally. The LC, as with other Macs of the day, featured built-in networking on the serial port using Localtalk. Ethernet was also available as an option via the single PDS slot. If the single expansion slot was a limitation, multifunction cards were available combining Ethernet functionality with an MMU or FPU socket.

The successor model LC II's 68030 has a built-in MMU. The bus remained 16 bits and the memory limit remained 10 MB. A full 32-bit bus had to wait for the LC III successor a year later, which also added support for 832x624 display resolution (at 8-bit color depth with the standard 512Kb VRAM, 16-bit color was available at this resolution with a 256Kb VRAM upgrade),[3] a 25 MHz processor, optional 68882 FPU chip, and switched to the faster 72-pin RAM SIMM, instead of the older 30-pin RAM SIMMs used in the LC and LC II.[4] Apple also introduced an LC III+ with a different floppy drive, redesigned case lid, and a 33 MHz 68030.[5] By introducing powerful features narrowing the gap between Apple's low end and professional lines, the LC III remained in use into the 21st century, seeing duty on the internet as an email server.[6]

Apple IIe Card

Despite the LC's lack of NuBus slots, it did come with a Processor Direct Slot (PDS). This was primarily intended for the Apple IIe Card, which was offered in a bundle with education models of the LCs. The card allowed the LC to emulate an Apple IIe. The combination of a low-cost color Macintosh with Apple IIe compatibility was intended to encourage the education market to transition from aging Apple II models to the Macintosh platform instead of to the new low-cost IBM PC compatibles. Despite the LC's minimal video specs with a 12" monitor, any LC that supports the card can be switched into 560x384 resolution for better compatibility with the IIe's 280x192 High-Resolution graphics (essentially doubled).

Other cards, such as CPU accelerators, ethernet and video cards were also made available for the LC's PDS slot.


Computer Gaming World in 1990 criticized the LC as too expensive, stating that consumers would prefer a $2000 IBM PS/1 with VGA graphics to a $3000 LC with color monitor.[7]


"Pizza boxes"

Model Processor Bundled Mac OS Maximum Mac OS Hard disk RAM Expansion Video RAM Equivalent Released/Discontinued
LC 16 MHz 68020 6.0.6/6.0.7 7.5.5 30–80 MB 2 MB (max 10 MB) LC PDS 256 KB (max 512 KB) N/A October 1990/ March 1992
LC II 16 MHz 68030 7.0.1 7.6.1 4 MB (max 10 MB) Performa 400–430 March 1992/ March 1993
LC III 25 MHz 68030 7.1 80–160 MB 4 MB (max 36 MB) LC III PDS 512 KB (max 768 KB) Performa 450 February 1993/ February 1994
LC III+ 33 MHz 68030 Performa 460–467 October 1993/ February 1994
LC 475 25 MHz 68LC040 8.1 80–250 MB 4 MB (max 36 MB) 0.5-1 MB Performa 475, Quadra 605 October 1993/ July 1996


Model Processor Bundled Mac OS Maximum Mac OS Hard disk RAM Expansion Video RAM Equivalent Released/Discontinued
LC 520 25 MHz 68030 7.1 7.6.1 80–160 MB 4 MB (max 36 MB) LC PDS 512–768 KB Performa 520 June 1993/ February 1994
LC 550 33 MHz 68030 Performa 550–560 February 1994/ March 1995
LC 575 33 MHz 68LC040 8.1 160–320 MB 4 MB (max 68 MB) LC PDS/Comm slot 0.5-1 MB Performa 575–578 February 1994/ April 1995
LC 580 33 MHz 68LC040 7.1.2P 500 MB 4 MB (max 52 MB) LC PDS/Comm slot/Video 1 MB Performa 580CD-588CD April 1995/ April 1996

Related Macs

Model Processor Bundled Mac OS Maximum Mac OS Hard disk RAM Expansion Video RAM Equivalent Released/Discontinued
Color Classic 16 MHz 68030 7.1 7.6.1 40–160 MB 4 MB (max 10 MB) LC PDS 256–512 KB Performa 250 February 1993/ May 1994
Color Classic II 33 MHz 68030 80–160 MB 4 MB (max 36 MB) 512 KB Performa 275 October 1993/ February 1994
TV 32 MHz 68030 160 MB 4 MB (max 8 MB) LC PDS* N/A October 1993/ February 1994
LC 630** 33 MHz 68LC040 7.1.2 Pro 8.1 250–500 MB 4 MB (max 36 MB) LC PDS/Comm/Video 1 MB Quadra 630, Performa 630-640CD July 1994/ October 1995
*filled with custom TV tuner card. **LC 630 is derived from the Quadra 630.


Timeline of Macintosh LC models

Timeline of Apple II family models


  1. ^ Carlton, Jim (1997). Apple: The inside story of intrigue, egomania, and business blunders. New York: Random House. pp. 79–80.  .
  2. ^ "Bite Of Apple - NY Times News Service November 25, 1990". Apple also introduced a new color monitor recently, the 12-inch RGB Display. At $599, the new color monitor is $400 less expensive than Apple`s slightly larger 13-inch color display. 
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ [4]
  7. ^ "Fusion, Transfusion or Confusion / Future Directions In Computer Entertainment". Computer Gaming World. December 1990. p. 26. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 

External links

  • Mac LC at
  • Apple Mac LC, Macintosh LCII at
  • Macintosh LC technical specification at
  • Macintosh LC II technical specification at
  • Macintosh LC III technical specification at
  • Macintosh LC III+ technical specification at
Preceded by
(Apple IIe)
(Macintosh II)
Macintosh LC
October 21, 1991
Succeeded by
Macintosh Quadra 630
Macintosh LC 500 series
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