24 years later, Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh still serves [Setups]

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Pictured to the right of a nice modern iMac, the once-glorious flop still gives pretty good sound.
Pictured to the right of a nice modern iMac, the once-glorious flop still gives pretty good sound.
Photo: Cbaltz2@Reddit

By the time of its release in March 1997, the over-the-top-shelf powerhouse known as the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh had seen its initial price of $9,000 cut to $7,499, or about $12,000 in today’s dollars.

The interesting-but-still-hopelessly unaffordable system — for a time delivered door-to-door and set up by tuxedoed concierges — failed in the marketplace. It went on to become a collector’s item.

These days, a Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, or TAM, often sells for around $1,500. So Redditor Cbaltz2 kind of scored when he picked one up a while back on eBay for $800. And remarkably, he found a good use for it in the here and now.

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Starting in March 1997, Apple shipped 11,601 TAMs in five countries to celebrate the eventful and at-times-profitable two decades since Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak incorporated the company in 1977.

Jobs was, of course, not with Apple during the TAM’s development. But, with Apple’s acquisition of NeXT at the end of 1996, he would return. Jobs discontinued the preposterous product in March 1998.

Then a tech showcase, now not entirely obsolete

The TAM system served as a technology showcase of its time. It ran on a 250 MHz PowerPC 603e processor and featured a 12.1-inch active-matrix LCD that could display up to 16-bit color at either 800 x 600 or 640 x 480 pixel resolution.

A rich person's Mac, circa mid-1997.
A rich person’s Mac, circa mid-1997.
Photo: Benoît Prieur / Wikimedia Commons

TAMs came loaded with a 2GB hard drive, SCSI slots, a 4x CD-ROM optical drive, an Apple floppy Superdrive, a TV tuner, an FM tuner, a remote control, an S-video input card and a unique, 75-key ADB keyboard with leather palm wrests and a trackpad instead of a mouse.

It even had a custom-made Bose audio system with a subwoofer built into the power-supply “base unit.”

So what do you do with a TAM now?

The Bose audio figures heavily into how Cbaltz2 uses the TAM, other than as a cool historical keepsake. As his post’s headline notes, “The speakers still sound great!”

Setting up the elderly equipment, however, was a bit tricky, Cbaltz2 said. Thankfully, though, he didn’t have to perform surgery on the frail old TAM.

“I used an HDMI to S-Video converter to get video from my iMac into the S-Video port of the TAM,” Cbaltz2 noted. “The Apple TV Tuner software on Mac OS 8 didn’t support full screen for some reason so I had to use a program called BTV View — worked perfectly! Didn’t have to open or modify the old TAM at all!”

Once connected, the modern iMac treated the TAM as a second display and an audio player.

“Video [goes] out from the iMac using a USB-C to HDMI adapter, then an HDMI to S-Video converter brings the signal into the TAM’s original video and audio inputs,” Cbaltz2 said.

Who needs tiny-but-awesome Bluetooth components when you can have a bizarre piece of Apple history playing your tunes?

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