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Macintosh LC II "pizza box" computer, circa 1992.

The Macintosh LC (meaning low-cost color) was Apple Computer's product family of low-end consumer Macintosh personal computers in the early 1990s. The original Macintosh LC was released in 1990 and was the first affordable color-capable Macintosh. Due to its affordability and Apple II compatibility the LC was adopted primarily in the education and home markets. Together with the Mac IIsi, it introduced built-in audio input on the Mac. The "LC" name was subsequently used for a line of low-end Macintosh computers for several years and spanned the 68k to PowerPC transition.



Macintosh computers, especially the color Macs starting with the Macintosh II in 1987, had always been rather expensive computers with large profit margins. The original LC was an attempt at an affordable, modular, color-capable Macintosh. Compared with earlier Macs, Apple cut some corners on performance and features in order to keep the price down.

The Mac LC sold well, and in 1991 was replaced by the LC II, which replaced the LC's 68020 processor with a 68030. It retained the original LC's 16-bit system bus however, making its performance roughly the same as the earlier model. The main benefit of the 030 processor was the ability to use System 7's virtual memory feature. In spite of this, the LC II sold even better than the LC and this spawned a whole series of LC models, most of which later were sold both with the LC name to the education world and to consumers via traditional Apple dealers, and as Performa to the consumer market via electronics stores, and department stores such as Sears. (For example, the LC 475 was also known as the Performa 475.) The last official "LC" was the Power Macintosh 5200/75 LC, which was released in 1995 and discontinued in 1996. The LC 580 was notable for being the last desktop Motorola 68k-based Macintosh of any kind. All subsequent Macintoshes used PowerPC processors and, later, Intel processors.


Notably, the LC used a very small "pizza box" case with a PDS (processor direct slot) but no NuBus slots, had a 16 MHz 68020 microprocessor and no floating-point coprocessor (although one could be added via the PDS). It had a 16-bit data bus (a major bottleneck as the 68020 was a 32-bit CPU), a limit of 10MB RAM (only 8 MB of which being accessible) and shipped with only 256KB of VRAM, therefore only supporting a display resolution of 512x384 pixels at 8-bit color on Apple's 12" RGB monitor. The VRAM was upgradeable to 512KB though, supporting a display resolution of 512x384 pixels at 16-bit color or, on a VGA-compatible display, 640x480 pixels at 8-bit color. Nevertheless, most LCs were purchased with an Apple 12" RGB monitor with a fixed resolution of 512x384 pixels. An Apple 13" 640x480 16-bit Trinitron display was also available. Many software programs that had been designed for other color Macs assumed that the minimum screen size was 640x480 pixels. Some programs simply would not function correctly on the LC at the lower resolution, and for several years software developers had to add support for this smaller screen resolution in order to guarantee that their software would run on LCs. Overall, general performance of the machine was disappointing due to the crippling data bus bottleneck, making it run far slower than it should have been (e.g. the same 16 MHz 68020 based Macintosh II from 1987 ran almost twice as fast as the Macintosh LC). One difference between the Mac II and the Mac LC is the latter had no socket for a 68851 MMU, therefore it could not take advantage of System 7's virtual memory features.

The standard configuration included a floppy drive and a 40 MB or 80 MB hard drive, but a version was available for the education market which had an Apple II card in the PDS slot, two floppy drives, and no hard drive. The LC, as with a number of other Macs of the day, featured built-in networking via "PhoneNet" that used standard RJ11 phone cabling and connector boxes. Ethernet was also available as an option via the single PDS slot.

The successor model LC II's 68030 has a built-in MMU. The CPU was the only major change to the LC II; the bus remained 16 bits. A full 32-bit bus had to wait for the LC III successor a year later.


Apple IIe

Despite the LC's lack of NuBus slots, it did come with a Processor Direct Slot (PDS). This was primarily intended for the Apple IIe Card, which was offered with education models of the LCs. The card allowed the LC to emulate an Apple IIe. The combination of the low-cost color Macintosh and Apple IIe compatibility was intended to encourage the education market's transition from Apple II models to Macintoshes. Despite the LC's minimal video specs with a 12" monitor, any LC that supports the card can be switched into 560x384 resolution for better compatibility with the IIe's 280x192 High-Resolution graphics (essentially doubled).

Other cards, such as CPU accelerators, ethernet and video cards were also made available for the LC's PDS slot.

LC models

"Pizza boxes"

Model Processor Bundled Mac OS Maximum Mac OS Hard disk RAM Expansion Video RAM Equivalent
LC 16 MHz 68020 6.0.6/6.0.7 7.5.5 30-80 MB 2 MB (max 10 MB) LC PDS 256 KB (max 512 KB) N/A
LC II 16 MHz 68030 7.0.1 7.6.1 4 MB (max 10 MB) Performa 400-430
LC III 25 MHz 68030 7.1 80-160 MB 4 MB (max 36 MB) LC III PDS 512 KB (max 768 KB) Performa 450
LC III+ 33 MHz 68030 Performa 460-467
LC 475 25 MHz 68LC040 8.1 80-250 MB 4 MB (max 136 MB) 0.5-1 MB Performa 475, Quadra 605


Model Processor Bundled Mac OS Maximum Mac OS Hard disk RAM Expansion Video RAM Equivalent
LC 520 25 MHz 68030 7.1 7.6.1 80-160 MB 4 MB (max 36 MB) LC PDS 512-768 KB Performa 520
LC 550 33 MHz 68030 Performa 550-560
LC 575 33 MHz 68LC040 7.1.1 8.1 160-320 MB 4 MB (max 68 MB) LC PDS/Comm slot 0.5-1 MB Performa 575-578
LC 580 33 MHz 68LC040 7.5 500 MB 4 MB (max 52 MB) LC PDS/Comm slot/Video 1 MB Performa 580CD-588CD

Unofficial LCs

Model Processor Bundled Mac OS Maximum Mac OS Hard disk RAM Expansion Video RAM Equivalent
Color Classic 16 MHz 68030 7.1 7.6.1 40-160 MB 4 MB (max 10 MB) LC PDS 256-512 KB Performa 250
Color Classic II 33 MHz 68030 80-160 MB 4 MB (max 36 MB) 512 KB Performa 275
TV 32 MHz 68030 160 MB 4 MB (max 8 MB) LC PDS* N/A
*filled with custom TV tuner card.

Standard desktop

Model Processor Bundled Mac OS Maximum Mac OS Hard disk RAM Expansion Video RAM Equivalent
LC 630 33 MHz 68LC040 7.1.2 Pro 8.1 250-500 MB 4 MB (max 36 MB) LC PDS/Comm/Video 1 MB Performa 630-640CD, Quadra 630

Timeline of Macintosh LC models

All LC models except the original LC (and Mac TV) were also sold under the Performa brand.

Timeline of Apple II family models


680x0 Models

Component LC LC II Color Classic† LC III LC 520† Color Classic II† LC 475 Macintosh TV† LC III+ LC 550† LC 575† LC 630 LC 580
Released/Discontinued October, 1990/ March, 1992 March, 1992/ March, 1993 February, 1993/ May, 1994 February, 1993/ February, 1994 June, 1993/ February, 1994 October, 1993/ February, 1994 October, 1993/ May, 1995 October, 1993/ February, 1994 October, 1993/ February, 1994 February, 1994/ March, 1995 February, 1994/ April, 1995 July, 1994/ October, 1995 April, 1995/ April, 1996
Processor, Speed
(Bus speed):
Motorola 68020, 16 MHz (16 MHz) Motorola 68030, 16 MHz (16 MHz) Motorola 68030, 16 MHz (16 MHz) Motorola 68030, 25 MHz (25 MHz) Motorola 68030, 25 MHz (25 MHz) Motorola 68030, 33 MHz (33 MHz) Motorola 68040, 25 MHz (25 MHz) Motorola 68030, 32 MHz (16 MHz) Motorola 68030, 33 MHz (33 MHz) Motorola 68030, 25 MHz (25 MHz) Motorola 68040, 33 MHz (33 MHz) Motorola 68040, 33 MHz (33 MHz) Motorola 68040, 33 MHz (33 MHz)

indicates interchangeable logicboards

External links


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