Today in Apple history: Macintosh LC II is the Mac mini of its day

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The Macintosh LC II was more powerful and cheaper than its predecessor.
The Macintosh LC II was more powerful and cheaper than its predecessor.
Photo: Jonathan Zufi

March 23: Today in Apple history: Macintosh LC II launch March 23, 1992: The “headless” Macintosh LC II arrives, wooing value-oriented customers with a beguiling mix of updated internals and budget pricing.

Designed to take up minimal space underneath a monitor (sold separately), the Mac LC II is destined to become a hit. In retrospect, the entry-level machine is roughly analogous to today’s Mac minis.

Macintosh LC II: A budget Mac

Macintosh LC II
The Macintosh LC II measured about 3 inches high.
Photo: Jonathan Zufi

The Mac LC II wasn’t Apple’s first “pizza box” computer to come without a monitor. The first-gen Mac LC (for “Low Cost”), released in October 1990, got discontinued the same day the LC II came on the scene.

The original LC was a heavily crippled machine that used the old 68020 chip Apple retired with the Mac II. However, the LC sold 500,000 units within its first year, which made it a massive success.

The LC II was the sequel. It didn’t change much in terms of the formula, which was clearly working. But it packed more power — and came with a lower price tag. At a time when Macs were, adjusted for inflation, a lot more expensive than today, the LC II cost just $1,699 for a base model with 4MB of RAM and a 40MB hard drive.

Mac LC II
The Mac LC II boasted all the standard Apple ports you’d expect.
Photo: Jonathan Zufi

This was $800 cheaper than its predecessor, although with both models you had to shell out extra for a monitor. (A more expensive version with an 80MB hard drive ran $1,849.)

Instead of the 16-MHz 68020 CPU of the original, the LC II boasted a 68030 CPU. This provided an on-board memory management unit (MMU), 256K data cache and 32-bit data path.

The low-cost machine let users tap into the virtual memory of Mac’s System 7 operating system. That was considered a big advantage at the time — and an important selling point.

Despite these improvements, many speed tests found that the LC II ran a bit slower than its predecessor.

Another ‘headless’ hit for Apple

Still, it won reviewers’ recommendations. Like today’s Mac mini, the LC II wasn’t a computer you’d buy if you were looking for a top-of-the-range Macintosh with every feature under the sun. Instead it offered an improved, entry-level machine that was more affordable for budget-oriented customers.

If you went to school in the early 1990s, and used a Mac in your classroom, this could well have been it.

Do you remember the Macintosh LC II? Leave your comments below.

The photos of the Macintosh LC II were kindly provided by Jonathan Zufi. His book, Iconic: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation, is available on Amazon.

LC II
The Mac LC II seen in profile.
Photo: Jonathan Zufi