Today in Apple history: Original Mac Pro launch brings serious Intel power

Today in Apple history: Original Mac Pro packs serious Intel power


Mac Pro
The original Mac Pro took productivity to new levels.
Photo: Apple

August 7: Today in Apple history: Original Mac Pro packs serious Intel power August 7, 2006: Apple unleashes the first Mac Pro, a high-end desktop computer that complete’s the company’s transition to Intel processors.

Built for computation-heavy tasks like 3D rendering and professional audio and video editing, the quad-core, 64-bit Mac Pro serves as a replacement for the Power Mac G5 (from which it borrows its aluminum “cheese grater” design).

First Mac Pro: An impressively expandable Apple workstation

Original Mac Pro packs serious Intel power
Compare a Power Mac G5 (left) and a 2006 Mac Pro (right) to see the newer desktop offered many more expansion options.
Photo: Wikipedia

“Apple has successfully completed the transition to using Intel processors in just seven months — 210 days to be exact,” said Steve Jobs in a press release. “And what better product to complete it with than the new Mac Pro, the workstation Mac users have been dreaming about?”

Twin dual-core Intel Xeon 2.0 GHz, 2.66 GHz or 3.0 GHz processors powered the Mac Pro “Quad Core” tower. Apple said the new Mac brought twice the performance of the machine it replaced, with more internal storage, too. (The Power Mac G5‘s internal design centered on cooling down its excessively hot processors.)

The Mac Pro’s Intel Xeon processors ran much cooler. That freed Apple to put space previously earmarked for a cooling system to alternate use. While the Power Mac G5 could accommodate only two Serial ATA drives, the Mac Pro housed up to four.

This generosity also extended to the number of ports: The Mac Pro sported five USB 2.0 ports and four FireWire ports. The default Nvidia GeForce 7300 GT graphics processor could be augmented by adding up to three more. Or users could select an ATI Radeon X1900 XT or Nvidia’s top-end Quadro FX 4500 instead.

Users could choose their own monitors, but Apple recommended pairing the computer with its 30-inch Cinema HD Display for the ultimate Mac Pro experience.

Mac Pro launch faced software challenges

Not everything about the Mac Pro proved perfect initially. The computer shipped with Mac OS X Tiger, which ran like a dream. However, some software packages did not run natively on Intel Macs. This included Adobe Creative Suite, which a lot of professionals used.

As a result, some programs actually ran more slowly on the Mac Pro than they did on older Macs because they required Apple’s Rosetta software, which translated PowerPC commands into Intel equivalents. This became less of a problem over time. However, some early adopters did not gain all the benefits of their upgrade straight away.

Did you own a 2006-era Mac Pro? Now that Apple has transitioned to using its own chips in Macs, it’s fascinating to reminisce about computers like this, which seemed so amazing at the time. Leave your comments about the original Mac Pro launch below.

Update: Replaced picture of back of 2006 Mac Pro.