Original Macintosh Architecture Questions

MikeWillegal mike at willegal.net
Thu Jun 24 18:13:33 UTC 2021

I agree that the original Macintosh (128K) is very painful to use, especially if you try to use it with only the single floppy drive that came with it.  Saying it has a poor system design without understanding the design constraints that the developers were faced with, is doing them a disservice.

	1) Hardware cost was critical.  Apple already had the Lisa.  The Macintosh was intended to get the Lisa GUI to an affordable price point that would encourage mass market adoption.  The cost goal...
		a) Limited the system to 128K of DRAM and 64K of ROM.
		b) Floppy drive only for mass storage.
	2) The designers were challenged with implementing a fairly complex GUI 
		a) To make the feature set fit within the available memory, the designers had to implement a paging system to pull system features off of floppy as needed.  This degraded performance a great deal, but the only other design choice they had was to reduce the feature set.

Once more memory and a SCSI hard drive were added with the release of the Macintosh Plus, the user experience with the same basic hardware and software system was transformed into a very positive one proving the basic system design was good.

My opinion is that marketing pressures required that the system to be released before the technology for a high performance system of this type was really affordable.  Though significantly enhanced over the years, the same basic architecture lived on until the release of OS/X in 2001, which is not a bad run for a system which was originally designed to work on hardware with such significant limitations.

Mike Willegal

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