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Overcoming Limitations: The Mac Color Classic, 20 years later

Benj Edwards | Feb. 13, 2013
Two decades ago, Apple unveiled the Macintosh Color Classic, the last US-released Mac to sport a compact form factor and the first desktop Mac with an integrated color display. Announced at the Tokyo Macworld Expo on February 10, 1993, the Color Classic made its mark as a beautiful but hamstrung machine that, years later, played host to numerous unofficial modifications that enhanced its fan appeal.

Intrepid users also overcame the Color Classic's limiting 512 by 384 resolution, which few color Mac OS programs supported. With additional surgery, fans found a way to upgrade its display resolution to a more standard 640-by-480.

The upgrades originated from a large community of Color Classic hobbyists that emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s in Japan. These groups used the Web to trumpet increasingly bizarre mods like stuffing the circuitry from a G4 cube inside the Color Classic's chassis or wedging a slot-loading CD-ROM drive where the floppy typically sits.

In some sense, the early Internet-based Mac modding community that sprung up around the Color Classic (and later moved to the U.S.) served as a seed to a larger movement to modify and personalize Macs that continues to this day. And the Color Classic continues to receive its share of love, as the moderately rare machine continues to fetch higher-than-average prices for Macs of its era on eBay.

The Color Classic did receive a sequel, the Color Classic II, later in 1993, which shared the same case design but upgraded the motherboard to more reasonable specifications. Sadly for US collectors, that machine never made it to the U.S., making it one of the rarest production Macs out there today.

As for the original Color Classic, its legacy lives on as a hobbyist's dream machine and as the progenitor of a long line of color-enabled all-in-one desktop Macs. Its continued popularity among collectors serves as a reminder about the fundamentally artificial nature of technical limitations--and how each one, with enough determination, can be overcome.


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