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Apple introduced the Macintosh IIcx on March 7, 1989. This new form factor was a smaller and less expandable version of the Macintosh IIx that was released about six months earlier. The versatile IIcx features 68030 performance, three NuBus expansion slots and a small, modular design.

Despite resembling the IIx to a great extent, the IIcx is about half the size and weight. It is also quieter due to its smaller fan and power supply. Unlike the IIx, the IIcx's case is designed to operate in either horizontal or vertical orientation. It can support the weight of a monitor or be turned on its side to operate as sort of a minitower. The IIcx has four rubber feet that can be inserted into slots on the bottom when in the horizontal orientation or slots on the side when used as a minitower.

Macintosh IIx (bottom) and Macintosh IIcx (top)

The IIcx has about the same power horsepower as the IIx. It uses a 16 MHz 68030 CPU with an integrated 16 MHz 68882 math coprocessor (FPU). The 68030 has separate 256-byte caches for data and instructions, plus a built-in Page Memory Management Unit (PMMU) used by advanced multitasking operating systems such as A/UX, Apple's UNIX system.

Macintosh IIcx motherboard

Macintosh IIcx 16 MHz 68030 processor

Although advertised as a 32-bit computer, the Mac IIcx ROMs contain some 24-bit code. This limits the IIcx to 24-bit addressing with a maximum RAM ceiling of 8 MB. The IIcx can break through the 8 MB barrier and run in 32-bit addressing mode by using Mode32 from Connectix.

The IIcx has eight RAM slots in two RAM banks (A and B). RAM has to be installed in groups of four. The IIcx can use 256K, 1 MB, 4 MB, and 16 MB 30-pin SIMMs with a minimum speed of 120 ns. Use of 4 MB and 16 MB SIMMs requires Mode32, because of the 8 MB RAM ceiling of 24-bit addressing. Maximum RAM using Mode32 is 128 MB or eight 16 MB SIMMs.

The IIcx has three NuBus expansion slots compared to the six NuBus expansion slots on the IIx. The slots will accept high-performance NuBus cards up to 12-inches long. Like the IIx, one slot must be occupied by a monitor card. The IIcx does not have a built-in monitor port. The monitor it can support and the bit depth depends on the NuBus card installed. Virtually all 32-bit expansion cards designed for the Macintosh II and IIx are compatible. Apple and third-party vendors offered NuBus expansion cards for external monitors, networking, host connectivity, memory, and a variety of specialized coprocessing applications.

RasterOps NuBus monitor card

Unlike the IIx, the IIcx's 256K ROM is soldered to the motherboard. The IIcx has a separate ROM SIMM slot that could be used to update the built-in ROM chips. Apple intended the ROM SIMM slot be used to make future expansion or servicing easy; however, Apple never released any major ROM upgrade using this slot.

A new capability introduced with Macintosh IIcx is auto-restart, which allows the system to restart itself in the event of a power outage. The Macintosh IIcx uses "soft power" and can be started up by pressing the power button on its ADB keyboard. Unlike the Macintosh II and early versions of the Macintosh SE, the IIcx does not have a soldered PRAM battery. The IIcx uses a 3.6V lithium PRAM battery. The Macintosh IIcx will not boot without a good PRAM battery installed.

The IIcx has the following ports: two ADB ports, one DB-19 floppy drive port, one DB-25 SCSI port, one serial modem port (RS232/422), one serial printer port (RS232/422), and one sound-out jack. The IIcx has a small single speaker mounted in a removable module that attaches to the inside of the front of the case. The IIcx does not have a sound-in jack nor does it have a built-in microphone.

Macintosh IIcx ports

The IIcx originally shipped with Mac OS 6.0.3 (includes Apple File Exchange) and it can support up to Mac OS 7.5.5. Apple originally bundled HyperCard software with the system software for no additional charge. Because it has a 68030 processor, the IIcx supports virtual memory (requires System 7). Virtual memory is a scheme used by the Macintosh to set aside a portion of the internal hard disk drive to use as extra RAM memory. Virtual memory is far slower than real RAM memory.

The IIcx has one bay for an internal 50-pin SCSI hard drive and one bay for a 1.4 MB SuperDrive (FDHD -- Floppy Drive/High Density), a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive that can read and write to non-Macintosh formats. The high-capacity SuperDrive works with Apple File Exchange and later Apple and third-party translation utilities to make the system compatible in a multivendor environment; able to read and write MS-DOS files. Apple originally offered either a 40 MB or 80 MB 3.5-inch half-height internal hard disk drive.

Original pricing for the IIcx was as follows:

  • $4669 US:  1 MB RAM / No Hard Disk
  • $5369 US:  1 MB RAM / 40 MB Hard Disk
  • $7069 US:  4 MB RAM / 80 MB Hard Disk
  • $7552 US:  4 MB RAM / 80 MB Hard Disk (A/UX installed)
All bundles included a mouse, System Software 6.0.3, HyperCard software, all documentation, and SuperDrive. Keyboard and other peripherals were sold separately.

The IIcx was eventually replaced by the Macintosh IIci, but the two computers were sold by Apple contemporaneously for about a year and a half. The IIci uses the same chassis as the IIcx, but is a definite improvement over the older Mac. The IIci has a built-in monitor port and video circuitry; it has a clean 32-bit ROM, a RAM cache card for boosted performance, and a faster 25 MHz 68030. Otherwise, the IIci could easily be mistaken for a IIcx at first glance. The Quadra 700 is the last and only other computer to use the IIcx's chassis. The Quadra 700 was one of the most powerful Macs on the market when it debuted in late 1991. It uses a more powerful 25 MHz 68040 processor. Its port labels and moniker are turned on their side to orient the Quadra 700 as a minitower instead of as a desktop like the IIci and IIcx. The Quadra 700's updated case design is easy to distinguish from its predecessors.

Disassembled Macintosh IIcx

Like the original Macintosh, the IIcx's case is signed by its product design team

The Macintosh IIcx was a significant and important computer for Apple at the time of its introduction. The IIcx combines the flexibility of Apple's Macintosh II open architecture with a small size. This combination of features gave the IIcx very broad appeal. The IIcx strengthened Apple's product line and extended the range of options for users who were interested in considering a modular Macintosh system. Users liked the Mac IIcx in part because its components snapped into place without the need for screws. At the IIcx's introduction, Jean-Louis Gassée, President of Apple Products, demonstrated the IIcx's modular design by assembling one from parts in front of the audience. This made the IIcx less expensive to build, easier to repair, and earned it heavy praise and a warm reception amongst the Mac community. The IIcx sold very well and filled a mid-level niche Apple previously did not address.

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