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Macintosh at 25: Still the innovation leader

On January 24, 1984, the Macintosh came into the world, starting a revolution in personal computing. Now, all attention is turned to what Apple will introduce next.

On January 24, 1984, the Macintosh came into the world, starting the second major revolution in the personal computer industry. Steve Jobs and team took some lessons from Xerox PARC and created the first user-friendly, mass market computer.

By today's standards, it wasn't that user-friendly (some will remember disk-swapping with the original Mac, which had 128KB of RAM and a 400KB 3.5-inch floppy disk drive), but compared with Microsoft's DOS operating system, it was a major technical innovation.

The Macintosh at 25: 1984 - 2009.

The 128K Mac version of the graphical user interface, with icons, fonts, folders, audio and a mouse, started a new era of computing that hasn't yet run its full course. MacPaint, MacWrite, and eventually LaserWriter, PageMaker, and Photoshop led to a revolution in desktop publishing, and AppleTalk made networking relatively simple.

The Macintosh introduced typography to personal computers. Susan Kare

After nearly 25 years, the Macintosh and its offspring, such as the iPod and iPhone, are still leading in terms of setting the pace for innovation. Mac sales climbed over the past several years, but still represent a small portion of overall PC sales and have slowed down recently. The iPod holds market share in its category and the iPhone has set a new standard for smart phones.

With the annual Macworld conference approaching, and Steve Jobs declining to participate in the proceedings, expectations are low for any major announcements.

Of course, the Mac fan sites and blogs are full of speculation about Steve Jobs' health, a new Mac Mini and iMac, a quad-core Mac laptop, new home servers, a cloud-based version of the iWork suite of applications, an iPod e-book reader, and a Netbook with a 7- to 9-inch screen.

Whatever Apple announces at Macworld, without Jobs spinning his reality distortion field onstage, the result will be less impactful. Nonetheless, don't expect the Mac faithful to walk away from Macworld without something to satisfy their cravings.