Today in Apple history: New Power Mac is faster and more expandable

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Power Macintosh 9500
This was the iMac Pro of its day.
Photo: Übernommen/Wikipedia CC

June 19: Today in Apple history June 19, 1995: Apple releases the Power Macintosh 9500, a high-end Macintosh that boasts a second-generation PowerPC chip that’s much faster than its predecessor.

The Power Mac 9500 is also significant for coming with six Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) slots, allowing it to attach to other hardware using the Intel-developed industry standard connection. Along with seven bays for internal drives and a swappable daughterboard, this makes it the most expandable Power Mac ever produced.

Power Mac 9500: A significant step-up

Visually, this machine looked similar to Apple’s previous mini-towers like the Power Mac 8100 (which shipped in 1994) and the Macintosh Quadra 800 (which shipped a year before that). In terms of outward design, the biggest difference from the Power Mac 8100 was that the new Power Mac 9500 measured a few inches taller.

Inside, however, major changes took place. While the 8100 used the first-gen PowerPC 601 processor, running at 110 MHz, the 9500 came in 120 MHz and 130 MHz models. This made it blisteringly fast at the time: 50 percent faster than the Power Mac 8100. It was even astonishingly fast next to a Pentium 133 MHz processor — running between 72 percent and 87 percent faster for certain operations.

Given that 1995 was the height of Apple’s mid-1990s identity crisis, as Microsoft’s Windows 95 surged ahead, the Power Mac 9500 was proof positive that Apple was the company you relied on if you were serious about computers.

Another big selling point was the fact that the Power Mac 9500 CPU was connected via an easily swappable daughterboard, making upgrades easier and cheaper. Immediately, a variety of third-party upgrades and accelerators came on the market.

Even more upgrades

Right from day one, upgraders could boost their Power Mac 9500 up to 150 MHz. Before too long, users could upgrade to single-processor cards up to 200 MHz, or a dual-processor card featuring twin 180 MHz CPUs. With the right G4 CPU upgrade, owners of the Power Mac 9500 were still able to use the latest Mac operating system, OS X Leopard, in 2007.

In terms of storage, customers who bought the Power Mac 9500/120 got a hard drive with 1GB, while this increased to 2 gigs for the higher-end 950/130. The 120 featured a 4x CD-ROM, while those who bought the 130 got an 8x CD drive.

The decision to replace Apple’s standard NuBus architecture — also used in Steve Jobs’ NeXT Computer — in favor of the Intel-designed PCI connector was considered the biggest news at the time. It’s a decision that suddenly opened up Macs to the massive number of standard peripherals that had previously only been available on PC.

All of this came at a price, of course. If you wanted the Power Macintosh 9500 — the equivalent of the iMac Pro of its day — you’d need to cough up $5,299 as a starting price. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $8,500 today — which is significantly more than the $4,999 base price Apple will be charging for its “seriously badass” iMac Pro this December. The Power Mac 9500 didn’t come with a monitor, either!

Did you own a Power Macintosh 9500? What was the first Mac you ever bought or used regularly? Leave your comments below.