Apple introduced the Macintosh LC on October 15, 1990. It was one of the low cost trio of Macs released on the same day that also included the Macintosh IIsi and Macintosh Classic. LC stands for "low-cost color". Apple realized that its high cost strategy* of the 1980s resulted in an unacceptable substantial loss of market share to inexpensive MS-DOS/Windows-compatible clones. Apple's Macintosh platform had an unquestionable technological lead on the rest of the industry, but that alone wasn't enough to stem the tide of the emerging Windows-Intel standard that threatened to sweep Apple off the typical homebuyer's radar screen. Apple priced the Macintosh LC beginning at $2,500 for a 2 MB RAM / 40 MB hard drive configuration. This may seem expensive today, but in 1990, it was considered a bargain. Apple's previous lowest cost color system, the Macintosh IIci, originally cost around $8000 when it was introduced a year earlier in 1989. I acquired my Macintosh LC in 2008 for $30.

*A high cost strategy is a market position whereby a company attempts to produce a very high-quality product that no one else can replicate and charge a premium to consumers to acquire it. The strategy inevitably leads to a loss of market share, but it is hoped that a higher gross margin due to the higher price per unit passed on to consumers will make up for the loss of total volume shipped.

The Macintosh LC has a 16 MHz 68020 processor with no FPU. It uses a bottlenecked 16-bit data bus. This 16-bit data bus placed on top of a 32-bit processor was considered an acceptable low-cost configuration when the LC hit the market in 1990. However, Apple would soon move to Mac OS System 7, which was explicitly designed to take advantage of a pure 32-bit computer, requires more RAM, and is more tasking on the processor. The LC thus suffers from significant performance degradation with System 7, especially newer versions of System 7. Although later low cost Macs like the Classic II, LC II, and Color Classic all originally shipped with very early versions of System 7, they too suffer from their 16-bit data bus. Their performance is acceptable with the version of System 7 they shipped with, but upgrading past Mac OS 7.5 seriously impacts their responsiveness. Boot time increases dramatically and doing routine tasks such as copying files or launching programs slows down to such an extent that the user experience is often frustrating.

Macintosh LC with cover removed

The Macintosh LC originally shipped with Mac OS 6.0.7, but it supports up to Mac OS 7.5.5. My Macintosh LC is using Mac OS 6.0.7, so it has never been upgraded. Unfortunately, the LC cannot effectively handle the RAM and computational requirements of newer versions of System 7. I would suggest not installing more than Mac OS 7.1 on the Macintosh LC. It can handle Mac OS 7.5 with a drastic reduction in system responsiveness, but Mac OS 7.5.5 chokes it so dramatically that it is almost unusable. Below are screen shots taken from my Macintosh LC. Notice that I have the LC set to black and white mode. Unfortunately, the standard Macintosh "Command-Shift-3" screen capture shortcut only works in black and white mode in System 6. If this LC had System 7 installed, I could take full color screen captures, but I don't want to upgrade it. It shipped with 6.0.7 and from a historical perspective; there is no reason for me to take it any further. I have plenty of other color Macs running System 7. System 6 is quaint, loads in seconds, and more closely fits the capabilities of this computer.

"About This Macintosh Finder" showing system software and RAM

Click to view screen capture 1 - (About This Macintosh)

Click to view screen capture 2 - (General Control Panel)

Click to view screen capture 3 - (Monitor Control Panel)

Maximum RAM for the Macintosh LC is 10 MB with 2 MB on the motherboard. 10 MB is achieved by installing two 4 MB 100ns 30-pin SIMMs. My LC has 10 MB of RAM. The LC shipped with 256K VRAM (video RAM) capable of producing 16 colors at 640 x 480 or 256 colors at 512 x 384. A 512K VRAM SIMM can be installed to produce 256 colors at 640 x 480 or thousands of colors at 512 x 384. My LC has 256K VRAM. Most LCs were purchased with a Macintosh 12" RGB Display capable of a single fixed resolution of 512 x 384. The LC is actually capable of two resolutions: 512 x 384 and 640 x 480. My LC is using a 13" Macintosh Color Display monitor, which is only capable of the higher 640 x 480 resolution.

The LC has the following ports: one ADB port, one DB-15 video port, one D-25 SCSI port, one serial printer port, one serial modem port, one microphone jack, and one speaker jack. The LC was one of the first Macs with the ability to accept audio-in. It shipped with an external microphone shown in the image below.

Macintosh LC ports

Source: Setting Up Your Macintosh LC, Copyright 1990, Apple Inc.

The LC has a single expansion slot called a Processor Direct Slot. This slot accepts a 16-bit PDS card. Typical cards that can be installed include network cards, monitor cards, processor upgrade cards, or video capture cards. When the LC was first introduced, many schools were beginning to migrate to the Macintosh platform from the Apple II platform. Schools were hesitant to make the transition because of their substantial investment in Apple II software. Apple introduced the Apple IIe Card in conjunction with the introduction of the Macintosh LC. The Apple IIe Card is a PDS card that made it possible for the LC to use Apple II software. This option allowed schools to move to the Macintosh while at the same time continuing to make use of their Apple II educational software.

The LC shipped in two drive configurations: an internal SCSI hard drive and an internal 1.4 MB floppy disk drive or two internal 1.4 MB floppy disk drives. The LC has room for two internal drives, but only one of these drive bays can support an internal SCSI hard disk drive. The LC has an internal SCSI bus and two floppy disk drive connectors on the motherboard. The LC's floppy disk drives do not run on the SCSI bus. LCs with two internal floppy disk drives were primarily sold to education markets. My LC has a 40 MB internal hard drive. Apple offered either a 40 MB or 80 MB internal hard drive. Notice that on the front of the LC you can see the removable drive cover located on the left side over the stenciled "Macintosh LC" label. LCs using the two floppy drive configuration have this cover removed because the second floppy drive would occupy the slot that an internal hard drive would otherwise occupy.

Source: Setting Up Your Macintosh LC, Copyright 1990, Apple Inc.

The Macintosh LC sold very well. Apple sold about 500,000 LCs within 12 months of its release. Apple replaced the LC with the LC II on March 23, 1992. The Macintosh LC II sold even better than the LC and this spawned a whole series of LC labeled models.

Low cost revolution...

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