August 7, 2006: Apple unleashes the first Mac Pro, a high-end desktop computer that completes the company’s transition from PowerPC 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
Apple began switching its Mac lineup to Intel processors from PowerPC in 2005, seeking chips that could deliver more power while generating less heat. This would prove especially crucial for the thinner, light laptops on Apple’s product roadmap.
The first Mac Pro, on the other hand, was a tank of a desktop, with plenty of I/O options for professional users who demanded flexibility from their high-end hardware. CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the powerful computer during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.
“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?”
First Mac Pro vs. Power Mac G5
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.
Also on this day in Apple history: First aluminum iMac unveiled
The first Mac Pro wasn’t the only machine unveiled on this day in Apple history. A year later, on August 7, 2007, Jobs showcased the first aluminum iMac, which built on the company’s increasing reliance on the versatile metal.
“We build our most professional products out of aluminum,” Jobs said while introducing the new iMac. “It’s extremely durable and it’s very lightweight. Professionals love our pro products made with aluminum. And recyclers love aluminum, too.”
The new iMac took its place alongside other products made of aluminum and glass, including the Mac Pro, the MacBook Pro and the iPhone. It replaced the iMac G5, a machine made of white polycarbonate that drew on the design of the iPod.
“This is the new iMac design,” Jobs said before showing it off. “And it’s just stunning. We’ve managed to make it even thinner than before.”
Did you own a 2006 Mac Pro or the first aluminum iMac?
Did you own a 2006 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 the back of 2006 Mac Pro and added info about the first aluminum iMac.