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Apple's five most important displays

Benj Edwards | March 25, 2013
To celebrate Apple's achievements in display technology, let's take a look at five of the most important displays Apple has ever released. These displays have carried with them the most impact and influence on the computer industry, Apple, and even the wider world as a whole.

For the past three decades, Apple has made it a point, with few exceptions, to ship the highest quality computer displays it can muster.

The company's obsession with the clarity and accuracy of its displays began with the original Macintosh in 1984 and grew as the platform attracted a large audience of visually-oriented professionals from fields such as graphic design, desktop publishing, photo retouching, and film production. Feedback from these pros only strengthened the quality of Apple's displays over the years.

Apple spent nearly two decades selling some of the world's sharpest and most color accurate CRT displays (mostly manufactured by Sony), but the company has truly shined in its pursuit of flat-screen technology, racking up a number of industry firsts since the debut of its first LCD for the Apple IIc in 1984.

To be sure, Apple's largest contribution to computer display innovation has not come from the invention of new display technologies themselves--technologies that usually originate from companies like Sony, Samsung, or LG--but from Apple's push to integrate the most cutting-edge display technologies into consumer products.

So to celebrate Apple's achievements in visual computer displays, let's take a look at five of the most important displays Apple has ever released. The following units had the most impact and influence on the computer industry, Apple, and even the wider world as a whole.

(By the way, it's telling that only one of these five displays is a stand-alone product. Since the introduction of the Apple Lisa in 1983, Apple has frequently produced computers that integrate a monitor with the main unit housing the CPU.)

Macintosh Portable display (1989)

Released: September 1989
Type: Monochrome Active-Matrix LCD (1-bit color)
Native Resolution: 640 by 400
Size: 9.8-inches diagonal

Few folks remember 1989's Macintosh Portable because few folks owned the Macintosh Portable. It retailed for an astounding $6500 to $7300 (about $12,000 to $13,500 in today's dollars)--a price that ruined the machine's prospects more than any particular fault of its design.

In fact, the Mac Portable's design was cutting-edge at the time, and Apple cut no corners choosing its display: they integrated the world's first active-matrix LCD to appear in a production laptop. Its active-matrix design meant that every pixel of its 640 by 400 screen remained vividly sharp in a wide range of lighting conditions. That was particularly important because the first model of the Mac Portable's display did not come equipped with a backlight.

Active-matrix LCDs were very expensive to produce in 1989 due to low yields from a complex and difficult manufacturing process. (In fact, Apple repeatedly delayed production of its first portable machine until active-matrix technology was commercially viable.) Apple took a big gamble by including such a pricey component in its first portable machine; its choice of panel alone forced Apple to sell the Portable at prices over $1000 more than its passive-matrix PC competitors.

 

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