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How to tell the difference between an Apple and a Mac

Want to rile up a group of Mac enthusiasts? Then attend a local Mac Users Group and innocently call the above computer a Mac. There will be fits, spits and cursing as the group prepares to lecture you on the difference between an Apple and a Mac computer. Below is a quick primer to save you from the unfortunate faux pas of misidentifying your Macs. It is especially useful for Mac owners who came to the platform through their experiences with the iPhone and may have not a long and storied history with the Mac.

First and foremost, some history. The term Apple Computer is the name of the company that was originally founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in the 1970s. On January 9, 2007 during his Macworld keynote address, Jobs announced the company would be dropping "Computer" from its name and would become Apple Inc. With the introduction of the iPhone and the success of the iPod, Apple was no longer just a computer company.

In the early days of Apple Computer, the company produced a line of computers that were released under the Apple brand. Everyone is familiar with the company's first commercial release, the Apple I. This was followed by the Apple II and its many variations (II+, IIe, IIc, IIc+, IIe), the Apple III, the Apple III+, the Lisa, the Lisa 2 and the Apple IIGS. Though the Apple II was a success for the company, the Apple III and the $10,000 Lisa never caught on. The early versions of the Apple computers ran Apple DOS.

During the development of the Lisa in the early 1980s, Jobs was removed from the Apple division by then Apple President Mike Markkula and joined the Macintosh group. The Macintosh group originally was headed up by Jef Raskin, who envisioned a low-cost computer for the everyday user. Raskin assembled a superstar team that included Bill Atkinson, Burrell Smith, George Crow, Chris Espinosa, Joanna Hoffman, Bruce Horn, Susan Kare, Andy Hertzfeld, Guy Kawasaki, Daniel Kottke, Jerry Manock and more. Raskin left Apple in 1982, and Jobs assumed leadership of the division.

Taking the best of the Apple II and the Lisa, the combined hardware and software talent of the Macintosh team produced the first Macintosh computer, the Macintosh 128K. The Macintosh 128K was unveiled during Apple's annual shareholder's meeting on January 24, 1984, two days after Apple's legendary "1984" commercial aired during Super Bowl XVIII on January 22, 1984.

The Macintosh 128K computer ran "System" software, which was later renamed to Mac OS. It was one of the first operating systems to use a full graphical UI and ran the original MacWrite and MacPaint applications.

As the Macintosh line took off, the Apple division was slowly disassembled. The final Apple computer, the Apple IIGS, was introduced on September 1986 and discontinued on December 1992. The Apple IIGS was the most powerful Apple computer at that time, but it was overshadowed by the Macintosh line. The Macintosh is still going strong today with the iMac, the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air, the Mac mini and the Mac Pro.

The terms Apple and Mac are now used interchangeably, but 30 years ago, they meant two very different things. And now you know the rest of the story.

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