Today in Apple history: Powerful, upgradeable Macintosh IIx arrives

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The Mac IIx in all its glory
Photo: Laptopanda

Mon19 September 19, 1988: Apple debuts the Macintosh IIx, an incremental upgrade of its fantastic Macintosh II.

The updated model is the first Mac to come with Apple’s new, improved 1.44MB floppy disk SuperDrive. It also packs a hefty price tag of between $7,769 and $9,300 — the equivalent of $15,817 to $18,934 today.

So don’t even try complaining about the cost of an iMac, circa 2016!

The Macintosh IIx built on the foundations laid by the Mac II, retaining much of what made the first Mac so good. But the Mac IIx offered better hardware capabilities, including an optional color monitor (!), and was also — crucially — expandable.

Mac iix
The Mac IIx was a stunning machine for its time.
Photo: Apple

Unlike the hobbyist computers that came before it, Steve Jobs’ vision for the Mac was for a computer that “just worked” and didn’t need (or want) its users to open it up to tinker with the insides.

The Mac II was, in a sense, more philosophically Apple II than Macintosh. It took its inspiration from the open architecture of Steve Wozniak’s computer. Users could expand their Macs without voiding their warranty for the first time, and six NuBus slots allowed for component upgrades and the insertion of expansion cards.

The Mac IIx, which celebrates its birthday today, made this even easier, with less fiddling needed to upgrade RAM and other internal components.

Today, the idea of Apple making its devices easy to upgrade has been largely left behind. However, in the late 1980s it was openly described by Apple execs as a return to the company’s roots.

In terms of specs, the Mac IIx replaced the 16 MHz Motorola 68020 CPU and 68881 FPU (floating-point unit) with a 68030 CPU and 68882 FPU. This was the first Mac to include both of these components. It also included 1MB of RAM, expandable to 8MB.

As final interesting piece of Apple trivia: The Macintosh IIx was the top-of-the-line computer made by Apple at the time that Jobs (then outside the company) debuted his rival NeXT Computer. NeXT undercut the Mac IIx’s price point by charging the still-ludicrously-expensive-by-modern-standards $6,500.

Apple continued supporting the Mac IIx with parts and support until 1998, the year after Jobs’ triumphant return to Apple.

Do you remember the Macintosh IIx? Leave your comments and recollections below.