See super-rare prototypes of iconic Macs and other Apple marvels

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From Henry Plain’s collection, this clear-sided Macintosh SE was used for engineering tests to check airflow and heat dissipation. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
This clear-sided Macintosh SE from Henry Plain's collection was used for engineering tests to check airflow and heat dissipation. Photos: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Some Apple collectors gather one of every Mac, iPod or iPhone, while others specialize in portables or all-in-ones. Then there are the outliers, the super-collectors who search out the incredibly rare items most people never get a chance to see.

“I’m always on the hunt,” says Henry Plain, a California man who specializes in tracking down impossible-to-find Mac prototypes.

Plain owns some of the rarest, most unusual Apple machines ever produced. These are the speed bumps, works in progress or developer’s editions that the secretive Cupertino company never intended for outside eyes. His vast knowledge of Apple’s production gave him a role in facilitating the sale of the Storage Wars-esque Macintosh collection of Marion Stokes that came to light last month. I like to think of him as Prototype Man.

What’s in Plain’s amazing Apple menagerie? Transparent versions of the Macintosh SE and PowerBook 140. A Mac mini with a built-in iPod dock. Prototypes of the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh (TAM), the Power Mac G4 Cube and iDevices too numerous to mention. Even to other collectors — and I have a Mac Museum in my house — his inventory is crazy-impressive.

Vintage Computer Festivals Rock On, VCF East 2014 Larger Than Ever

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Vintage Computers at VCF
A Univac mainframe, early hard disk drives, Zork, and an Altair 8800 at VCF East 2014.

What do you get when you combine several hundred serious geeks, two large rooms, five decades’ worth of vintage computers, and a weekend in New Jersey? The Vintage Computer Festival East, of course!

The ninth running of the VCF East was held April 4-7 at the InfoAge Science Center in Wall Township, New Jersey. Hosted by MARCH, the MidAtlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists group, the 2014 show saw the largest number of exhibitors and attendees for a VCF East yet, with exhibit halls expanded from one to two rooms and three days of lectures and seminars available for attendees. The show featured a wide range of computing history, from a seminal, room-size UNIVAC computer, through the DEC, Prime and HP minicomputer era, to the workstations and home computers of the 1970s and ’80s.

Macs in the Box: The Incredible Mac Collection of Marion Stokes. Now For Sale.

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Marion Stokes Macintosh Collection in a Rhode Island storage locker

Are you a Mac collector? An Apple investor? Do you like to buy old computers still new in their original packaging? If so, do we have a storage locker for you!

Marion Stokes was a librarian, activist and local access television producer from Philadelphia. Recently she made news for her incredible archive of 35 years of TV news broadcasts, recorded continuously on home videotapes from 1977 until her death in 2012. But Stokes was also a longtime Apple investor and Macintosh fan. Over the same timeframe she acquired nearly two hundred new-in-box Macintosh computers and related Apple gear, and kept much of this equipment sealed for posterity.

It’s another incredible history, about technology and one unique Silicon Valley tech entity. And it can be yours, if the price is right. The whole kit and caboodle is available on eBay, listed for the Buy It Now price of $100,000!

Meet the Unitron Mac 512 – the World’s First Macintosh Clone

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Unitron 512 Front
The Unitron Mac 512 was the world's first Macintosh clone (photo: Chester's blog)

The first Macintosh clone in the world was not one of the Apple sanctioned systems released in 1995, such as those from companies like PowerComputing, Radius, Umax or Daystar Digital. Nor was it the Outbound laptop in 1989, a hybrid system produced using Mac ROMs taken from working Mac Plus systems.

No, the first Macintosh clone was the Unitron Mac 512, a unauthorized copy of the 512k “Fat Mac” produced by a Brazilian company in 1986. And it was a pretty darn impressive copy. The fallout from that effort nearly help start a trade war between Brazil and the United States; to prevent theft of Intellectual Property, Apple and other companies lobbied Congress to hike import taxes on Brazilian goods like oranges and shoes as a response.

And as we know, nobody messes with Tropicana …

It’s not a widely known story. Pieces of this long-forgotten chapter in Mac history can be found scattered on websites around the world. Here is the fascinating tale of the first Macintosh clone in the world.

Macintosh “Picasso” Artwork Was Actually Inspired By Matisse, Artist Says

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Matisse Picasso Artwork
Artwork by Matisse (left) inspired the Mac Picasso graphics.

The famous Macintosh “Picasso” trademark logo was developed for the introduction of the original 128k Mac back in 1984. A minimalist line drawing reminiscent of the style of Pablo Picasso, this whimsical graphic implied the whole of a computer in a few simple strokes. It was an icon of what was inside the box, and became as famous as the computer it represented.

The logo was designed by Tom Hughes and John Casado, art directors on the Macintosh development team. Originally the logo was to be a different concept by artist Jean-Michel Folon, but before launch it was replaced by the colorful line drawing. It’s been famous ever since, and the style has endured across decades.

Casado recently attended the 30th Anniversary of the Mac celebration, and emailed Cult of Mac to shed some light on the history of this famous graphic. It turns out Picasso was not the primary inspiration for this after all – rather, it was Henri Matisse!