July 5, 2006: Apple discontinues its low-end eMac product line. The action signals the end of the cathode ray tube era for Macs.
After more than a quarter-century using CRT monitors, Apple shifts to the superior LCD technology still used for Macs today.
The rise and fall of CRT monitors
Apple started selling CRT monitors in 1980 with the 12-inch Monitor ///. This shipped as part of the ill-fated Apple III business computer.
Under Robert Brunner, Apple’s design lead from 1989 until 1996, the company explored LCD displays. However, it took until the mid-2000s for Apple to finally pull the plug on CRT monitors for good. The company ushered in the new era with the LCD iMac G4. Customers nicknamed it the “iLamp” due to its unusual design.
Although LCD displays cost more, they brought some big advantages over CRT monitors. These included decreased power consumption, increased brightness, and a reduced flicker effect caused by the slow refresh rate of CRT displays.
LCD means thinner displays for Macs
The biggest impact of switching from CRT to LCD, though, was that the technology allowed Apple to explore thinner displays for Macs. These dragged the computer industry out of the “large beige box” era it had been stuck in since the 1980s.
As large, boxlike computers go, the eMac, which was aimed at the education market, was actually a pretty neat computer. It looked like a white version of Apple’s Mac G3. However, it ditched the travel handle. It also ran considerably faster, courtesy of its PowerPC G4 processor. It received a few upgrades during its life as an active Apple product line, with the final version boasting a 1.42 GhZ CPU and Radeon 9600 graphics chip.
A working unit today will probably cost you less than $100, so you’re not exactly sitting on a goldmine if you’ve held onto one. However, due to its status as Apple’s last CRT Mac, the eMac definitely deserves its place in Apple history.