The third generation of Apple's Macintosh computers based on the PowerPC chip encompasses all computers introduced from May 1998 onwards, with the exception of August 1998's second revision of the PowerBook G3 Series. The machines that comprise this set are commonly referred to as New World PowerMacs.
Visually, the primary distinction between these machines and their first and second generation siblings is the move away from the plain beige cases common among most desktop PCs. Instead, third generation Power Macintoshes favour bright colours, such as those found on the iMac, or shiny metal cases, such as those found on the Titanium PowerBook and the new G5s.
From a hardware standpoint however, the third generation represents a radical leap forward from its predecessor. Gone were Apple's proprietary serial and parallel ports, being instead replaced by USB ports. Also gone was the ROM only implementation of the Open Firmware standard, having been replaced with Open Firmware 3 -- which allowed the parameters to be read off of a file contained on the hard drive. The venerable ADB also got the axe, although some early third generation machines, such as the blue and white G3, kept them as an alternative means of input. Additionally, after flirting on and off with it in their low end models, the high-speed SCSI bus was finally permanently replaced by the more affordable IDE interface.
However, the move that may have caused the greatest furor among members of the computing community, both Macintosh fans and otherwise, was the decision not to include a floppy drive in any of the new designs. Fans declared it the start of a revolution that would finally remove legacy hardware from all systems, while critics declared it a death blow for the new systems. In the end it was neither, but it, combined with their unique colour schemes, brought the new systems much needed publicity.
While some might argue that the third generation of PowerPC-based Macintoshes has been a triumph of style over substance, pointing to such items as the G4 Cube and the much hyped G4, which failed to deliver as much of an increase over the G3 as the latter had been over the PPC 60x, as examples, there were notable successes. Firewire, which had been developed by Apple and featured on Macintoshes from the blue and white G3 onwards, gained widespread acceptance. In addition, 2003's introduction of the G5 processor, based upon IBM's POWER4 architecture, brought the Macintosh into the age of 64bit computing.
It should also be noted that, with the exception of the second generation G3s, only third generation machines are officially supported by any versions of MacOS X, Apple's current Unix-based operating system.
Although a chronology of third generation machines is more difficult than prior generations, with the prior's identifying model numbers being replaced in favour of changes in case design and features, the following is an attempt to list those members to date, along with year of introduction and processor type:
Those machines, such as the revision C and D iMacs and the various iterations of the white iBook, that are distinguished only by processor speeds, amount of RAM, hard drive space, etc, are combined into a single entry for simplicity's sake. In addition, machines that Apple itself lists under a single specification, such as the iMac (Slot-loading) and iMac DV, are listed as one item.
- iMac (Rev. A and B) (1998, PowerPC 750 aka G3)
- iMac (Rev. C) (266MHz) / iMac (Rev. D) (333MHz) (1999, PowerPC 750 aka G3)
- Power Macintosh G3 (Blue and White) (1999, PowerPC 750 aka G3)
- PowerBook G3 (Bronze Keyboard) (1999, PowerPC 750 aka G3) (Sometimes referred to by its development codename of Lombard in order to distinguish it from the second generation PowerBook G3s)
- iBook (1999, PowerPC 750 aka G3) (Also sold as the iBook SE)
- Power Macintosh G4 (PCI Graphics) (1999, PowerPC 7400 aka G4)
- Power Macintosh G4 (AGP Graphics) (1999, PowerPC 7400 aka G4)
- iMac (Slot Loading) / iMac DV (1999, PowerPC 750 aka G3) (Also sold as/upgraded as the iMac DV SE, iMac DV/SE, and iMac DV+)
- PowerBook G3 (Firewire) (2000, PowerPC 750 aka G3) (Sometimes referred to by its development codename Pismo in order to distinguish it from the other PowerBook G3s)
- iMac (Summer 2000) (2000, PowerPC 750 aka G3)
- Power Macintosh G4 (Gigabit Ethernet) (2000, PowerPC
7400 aka G4)
- Power Macintosh G4 Cube (2000, PowerPC 7400 aka G4)
- iBook (Firewire) (2000, PowerPC 750cx aka G3) (Also sold as the iBook SE (FireWire))
- Power Macintosh G4 (Digital Audio) (2001, PowerPC
7400 aka G4)
- PowerBook G4 (2001, PowerPC 7410 aka G4)
- iMac (Early 2001) (2001, PowerPC 750 (400MHz) or PowerPC 750cx (500MHz) both aka G3) (Also sold as the iMac SE (Early 2001)
- iMac (Summer 2001) (2001, PowerPC 750cx aka G3)
- iBook (Dual USB) (2001, PowerPC 750cx aka G3) (Upgraded as iBook (Late 2001), iBook (14-inch), iBook (Mid 2002), and iBook (Late 2002), the latter two with a PowerPC 750fx)
- Power Macintosh G4 (Quicksilver) (2001, PowerPC 7450 aka G4) (Also sold as the Power Macintosh G4 (Quicksilver 2002))
- PowerBook G4 (Gigabit Ethernet) (2001, PowerPC 7450 aka G4)
- iMac (Flat Panel) (2002, PowerPC 7450 aka G4) (Upgraded as iMac (17-inch), iMac (Early 2003) and iMac (USB 2.0) -- the latter two with a PowerPC 7455)
- eMac (2002, PowerPC 7450 aka G4) (Upgraded as eMac (ATI Graphics) with a PowerPC 7455
- PowerBook G4 (DVI) (2002, PowerPC 7450 aka G4) (Upgraded as PowerBook G4 (1 Ghz/867 MHz) with a PowerPC 7455)
- Xserve (2002, PowerPC 7455 aka G4) (
- Power Macintosh G4 (Mirrored Drive Doors) (2002, PowerPC 7455 aka G4)
- Power Macintosh G4 (FW 800) (2003, PowerPC 7455 aka G4)
- PowerBook G4 (12-inch) (2003, PowerPC 7455 aka G4) (Upgraded as PowerBook G4 (12-inch DVI) with a PowerPC 7447)
- PowerBook G4 (17-inch) (2003, PowerPC 7455 aka G4) (Upgraded as PowerBook G4 (12-inch 1.33 GHz) with a PowerPC 7447)
- Power Macintosh G5 (2003, PowerPC 970 aka G5)
- PowerBook G4 (15-inch FW 800) (2003, PowerPC 7447 aka G4)
- iBook G4 (2003, PowerPC 7455 aka G4)
- Xserve G5 (2004, PowerPC 970 aka G5)
It should be noted a breakdown of what are normally classified as third generation Power Macintoshes down into further generations is possible. Although there are numerous variations as to how this could be done, this noder humbly suggests that the best spot to end the third generation and begin the fourth would be with the introduction of the G5 and the subsequent move from 32 to 64 bit computing.
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Index: Power Macintosh
- My own recollections
Am I missing something? Want to know why something was classified as an upgrade and not a separate product? Let me know.