Apple introduced the Macintosh LC II on March 23, 1992 as a replacement for the Macintosh LC. The LC II is basically the same machine as the LC but with a more powerful processor at its core. Instead of the LC's 68020, the same chip that drives the Macintosh II, the LC II uses a 16 MHz 68030, the same chip that drives the Macintosh Classic II. The change doesn't really boost the LC II's performance beyond the LC, but the LC II does give you access to System 7's virtual memory scheme, which was not available with the earlier chip. Like the original LC, the LC II came in two hard drive configurations: 4 MB RAM / 40 MB hard drive (4/40) for $1699 or 4 MB RAM / 80 MB hard drive (4/80) for $2049. The price for the LC II was actually about $200 less than its predecessor. I purchased my LC II in 2000 for $35.

The most important difference between the two available configurations was the amount of VRAM (video RAM) they included. The 4/40 configuration included 256K VRAM, while the 4/80 configuration included 512K VRAM. The maximum VRAM for the LC II is 512K giving it the ability to display 16-bit color (thousands of colors) at 512 x 384 or 8-bit color (256 colors) at 640 x 480. An LC II with only 256K VRAM can display 8-bit color (256 colors) at 512 x 384 and 4-bit color (16 colors) at 640 x 480. My LC II has 512K VRAM and the photos taken for this page show it using a Macintosh Color Display (M1212) that is only capable of a single resolution of 640 x 480. Only 256 colors is possible with an LC II with 512K VRAM using this monitor.

The LC II has 4 MB of RAM built into the motherboard. It is capable of a maximum of 10 MB of RAM using two 100 ns, 4 MB 30-pin SIMMs. Even though using two 4 MB SIMMs actually equals 12 MB of RAM (4 MB onboard and 8 MB in RAM slots), the LC II can only use up to 10 MB. With 12 MB of RAM, the lower 2 MB of RAM on the logic board cannot be addressed. The original LC had the same maximum RAM of 10 MB but only had 2 MB of built-in RAM on the motherboard. The LC II has 2 MB more built-in RAM, but sacrifices these extra 2 MB if both its two RAM slots are populated with 4 MB RAM SIMMs. In 1992, two 4 MB SIMMs cost around $250. My LC II has 10 MB of available system RAM.

Like the original LC, the LC II has one standard internal 1.4 MB floppy disk drive. Unlike the original LC, the LC II cannot be configured to use two internal floppy disk drives. Apple removed the extra floppy disk connector on the motherboard as a cost savings measure because very few original LC's actually shipped in the two floppy disk drive configuration. Users would have to forgo the internal hard drive because the extra floppy disk drive occupies the slot otherwise occupied by an internal hard drive. The LC II cannot be configured to use two internal floppy disk drives because along with the lack of a second internal floppy disk drive connector on the motherboard it also does not have a removable floppy disk drive door like the original LC. The LC II can support a single internal 50-pin SCSI hard drive and as stated earlier, it shipped with either a 40 MB or 80 MB hard drive. My LC II has its original, rather slow, 40 MB internal SCSI hard drive.

Another cost savings measure incorporated into the LC II is the omission of the plastic mount used on the original LC to house the internal speaker and fan. Apple redesigned the case so that the speaker and fan simply snap down firmly under two plastic tabs built into the chassis.

Macintosh LC II with cover removed

Like the original LC, the LC II has a single Processor Direct Slot (PDS) for expansion. This 16-bit slot can be used to install expansion cards or processor accelerators. Typical expansion cards include network (Ethernet) cards, monitor (video out) cards, or video capture cards. This slot is also compatible with the Apple IIe Card.

The LC II has the same ports as the original LC. These ports include: one ADB port, one serial printer port, one serial modem port, one DB-25 SCSI port, one DB-15 video port, one speaker jack, and one microphone jack. The LC II supports audio-in through its microphone jack but it does not have a built-in internal microphone.

Macintosh LC II ports

The LC II originally shipped with Mac OS 7.0.1 and it supports up to 7.6.1. As with the original LC, the LC II's 16-bit data bus chokes on anything above Mac OS 7.5. It does an adequate job of handling Mac OS 7.0.1, but it is slightly slower than the original LC running its original system software. This is primarily because the LC II does not offer any performance boosts over the LC even though its processor is more powerful and because System 7, with its built-in MultiFinder, requires more processing power to use than the LC's original system software, Mac OS 6.0.7. My LC II has never been upgraded past its original system software, Mac OS 7.0.1.

"About This Macintosh" showing system software and RAM

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

Click to view screen capture 2

Click to view screen capture 3

Click to view screen capture 4 - (Calculator)

Click to view screen capture 5 - (Memory Control Panel)

Click to view screen capture 6 - (General Control Panel)

Click to view screen capture 7 - (Monitor Control Panel)

A significant performance increase would come later with the release of the LC III, which has a 32-bit data bus capable of effectively managing the requirements of System 7. The LC II's crippled 16-bit bus instantly relegated it to forever be low end. Even with an accelerator card, this 16-bit bus significantly impacts system performance. The only advantage the LC II has over the LC in performance is its 68030 processor that allows it to use virtual memory, which is impossible with the 68020 processor in the original LC. Virtual memory, part of System 7's suite of features, sets aside space on the computer's hard disk and treats it as random access system memory. Rather than add additional RAM to the computer, a user could turn on virtual memory and trick the machine into thinking it has got more headroom than actually exists. Virtual memory, however, is no substitute for the real thing because it is much slower.

The big question for Macintosh LC owners in 1992 was "should I upgrade to an LC II?" The price to upgrade the motherboard was about $800. Most found that the cost to upgrade simply could not be justified by the addition of the only real advantage the LC II offered over the LC, virtual memory. It was far cheaper to simply add more memory to the LC. The 68030 chip that makes virtual memory possible does not boost the computer's speed beyond that of the original LC and in real world comparisons, it is hard to tell the difference between the two machines. Still, even the smallest gains in technology are better than none. Especially when it didn't cost a new Macintosh LC II buyer in 1992 any additional cost.

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