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Mac / Apple Contributions
Who innovated what.

By: David K. Every,
Bruce Horn,
With the help of many Mac enthusiasts

There seems to be a trend of Windows advocates rambling that Apple is copying Microsoft (Windows). I decided to document a list of innovations -- what came out on Macs first, or the history of how those technologies were created. Some of these technologies were created on the Macintosh; others may have existed before Macintosh (but the Mac was the first mass-market computer with these technologies in micros), sometimes the Mac was at least before Windows, and some technologies just got serious contributions or help (furthered) because of Apple/Mac. Here's a partial list, with links to detailed explanations.

For some background as to why, read: Software Development Cycle


User Interface



[RED - is for when Wintel got, or popularized the same thing]
[TBD - To Be Done, not completely there yet on PCs]

1981 - 1983 (Lisa and Mac Development teams)


  • Desk Accessories (copied in IBM-compatible world as "TSR")
    • multitasking: Desk Accessories [Win3 - 1989, not as versatile]
  • Sensible System folder organization [Win95 - not as clean, consistent or versatile]
  • Dynamic, user-accessible system extension (fonts, INITs, control panels, DA's) [TBD]
  • Drag-and-drop Application installation [TBD]
  • fast and easy access to international characters [TBD]
  • User-extensible font manager [TBD]
  • Plug-and-play printing; page setup & print dialogs [TBD]
  • Built-in clock with backup battery; reliable file dating. [about 1987]
  • Sound
    • Built-in speaker, 4 voice sound synthesizer, full digitized sound samples [SoundBlaster about 1987, but it wasn't common until about 1989]
  • Speech
    • Speech synthesis (Macintalk). [SoundBlaster about 1987, but not as widely used and not a system function]
  • Floppy 3.5" floppy (400K) [about 1988]
    • with automounting and auto-eject. [TBD]
    • Also added a floppy disk cache [TBD]
  • hot-swappable peripherals
    • keyboard, mouse [1997 with USB, TBD popularized]
  • MacPaint, MacWrite, MacDraw [Win3 - 1989, not as versatile]
  • First person mainstream networked game (first person dungeon like game -- MazeWar, initially created at Xerox) [Wolfenstien or DOOM - 1992? far better graphics]
  • Mac128K was an Ergonomic All in one Machine, semi-portable [1983 Osborn, sorta, some Compaq's in about 1993]
  • Use of icons to label ports (all ports keyed to prevent mistakes) [1994?]


  • LaserWriter printer with Postscript (Apple also helped Adobe get off the ground as a company) [Win31 - 1991 was when Windows first supported Postscript, before then support was spotty]
  • Networking (plug & play, integrated -- AppleTalk/LocalTalk) [1993 / TBD, WinForWorkgroups offered some networking as "option", not as easy or as integrated. Win95 improves it -- still not as easy, or ubiquitous as MacOS in 1985]
  • Direct manipulation Resource Editor [TBD]
  • Desktop Publishing (actually came from Mac Application called ReadySetGo, then Adobe Pagemaker, also Scoop, Xpress and a few others at about the same time, because of what the Macs WYSIWG capabilities) [Win31 - 1991 was when it first started working well on PC's]
  • OOP / OOD (Object Oriented Design and Programming)
    • Object Pascal (later borrowed by Borland) [1993]
    • MacApp (first mainstream Object Oriented Framework, MS copied poorly with MFC) [1992 - MFC popularized]
  • Movable Palettes
  • Lifelike Interface [1994 - Bob]
    • (forget the name, but there was a Finder Replacement that had an actual picture of a desktop, with a little assistant. Microsoft copied this about 8 years later as "Bob").


  • Plug-and play peripherals (SCSI) - ability to handle volumes/partitions to 2GB [1995+]
  • Hypercard (simple object programming -- precursor to Visual Basic) [1990]
  • Hypercard (simple hypertext linking -- precursor to the Web) [1993]
  • First personal computer with 4MB linear memory space (Mac Plus) [1993 WinNT]
  • Kanjitalk
  • More versatile "Wavetable" sound manager [1989 SoundBlaster popularized]
  • Memory Modules (SIMMS) instead of installing RAM chips [1988 - 1990]
  • Dial in modem service. Apple create AppleLink communication service -- GE used the software to create AOL.
  • Scroll speed throttle for uniform user experience regardless of processor speed. [TBD]
  • ADB (Apple Desktop Bus): extensible, auto-config low-speed peripheral bus (precursor to USB) - [1997 with USB, TBD popularized]


  • Plug-and-play bus expansion (NuBus) [1995 PCI + PnP, 1997-98 popularized]
  • Multifinder application multitasking [1991 Win31, 1993 WinNT]
  • Ability to assign labels to files [TBD]
  • Multiple monitor support: single large desktop [1998, TBD Popularized]
  • Color QuickDraw, 256 color 640x480 graphics (same year as VGA with 16-color 640x480 or 256-color 320x200) [1991]
  • Accelerated video cards [1991?]
  • Full Page Display [1993]
  • Dual Page Displays [1991]
  • GWorlds (off screen graphics images used) [1992 - 1997, WinG didn't get working until Win95, and really working until DirectDraw]
  • Built in masking, antialiasing and Dithering of images (actually masking and dithering was earlier). [TBD -- Done by programmers]
  • Industrial Design: Snap Open Case (no screws) [TBD]


  • SCSI plug-and-play CD-ROM [1995 for PnP, not as easy or good]
  • Ethertalk
  • Superdrive, can read and write Mac, DOS, OS/2 files [TBD]


  • photo-realistic images (32-bit QuickDraw)
  • 32 Bit Clean OS and 32-bit clean computers (software patches fixed older machines, no BIOS replacements) [1993 WinNT -- 2000 with Win2000]
  • A/ROSE real-time operating system for smart cards [TBD]
  • Multiprocessing (using cards like YARC and Radius Rocket) [1993 WinNT -- 2000 with Win2000 to popularize]
  • Mac Portable, first mainstream portable with an integrated trackball and active matrix screen


  • Sound input [TBD]
  • Built-in Ethernet (Quadra) [TBD, usually a low-cost extra]
  • Publish and Subscribe and early work on Object Embedding (later to be borrowed and become OLE) [1992 - 1995]
  • Aural feedback for controls (Sonic Finder) [Win95]
  • Ability to assign custom icons to Finder objects [1989 through hacking, TBD]


  • Powerbook 100: first laptop with keyboard in back, trackball in front. [1993 - 1994]
  • TrueType outline font technology (licensed to Microsoft)
  • Balloon help (with contextual feedback) [1991 - Still not as versatile]
  • Built in File sharing [1992 WfW, Win95 popularized]
  • Robust aliases (unlike Windows' fallible "shortcuts" that came years later) [TBD]
  • QuickTime [1992, Authoring not Available until 1995]
  • Multimedia -- Apple created the term. They had been the first to integrate Sound, Speech, Text and Graphics (multiple medias), then expanded to include video (and later 3D) and pushed with CD-ROMs [1993 - 1995 until things worked right]
  • Virtual Memory [1991 Win31 - 1993 WinNT, 1995 to popularize]
  • Appletalk Remote Access [Extra]
  • AppleScript: application and system scripting [1981 poorly, 1995 VBfApps, TBD]
  • Integrated eMail [Win98]
  • Integrated Keychain (Security) [TBD]
  • Encryption and Security [1993 WinNT -- 2000 with Win2000 to popularize]
  • Network Browser [Win95]
  • Trash you have to empty (item in trash survive power down) [Win95]


  • Powerbook Duo: first dockable (e.g. "port replicator") but much more elegant [TBD]
  • Global text input support (WorldScript) [TBD]
  • ColorSync color matching [1999]
  • Built-in CD-ROM's [?? 1994]
  • Video Input - AV models
  • Integrated DSP [1989 NeXT, 1996 with MMX]
  • Industrial Design: Slide out Drawer [Some servers, rare]


  • Next generation speech synthesis
  • Speech recognition (Speakable Items) [1996 - Win95 add-on, 1997 as powerful add-on, TBD to be popularized]
  • Integrated telephony (Geoport) [Win98]
  • First PC with built-in TV
  • PDA [WinCE -- 1997 - 1998, but not as nice]
  • Handwriting Recognition (Newton) [TBD]
  • Gesture Recognition [TBD]


  • Powerbook 520: first widely-available laptop with trackpad.
  • Power Macintosh: PowerPC RISC chip [1993 WinNT, most RISCs killed, TBD to popularize maybe 2001 - 2004 with Merced/McKinley]
  • 68K emulation for seamless backward compatiblity. [TBD -- Alpha tries but not mainstream or as reliable]
  • Graphing Calculator: real-time equation visualization, 2D and 3D.[TBD]
  • MacOS on Unix (MAE)
  • "Most Recent" folders
  • Hierarchical menus
  • Windowshade (collapsable windows)
  • AppleGuide (help system with coachmarks) [TBD]
  • PC Exchange (cross platform file compatibility) [TBD]
  • Macintosh Easy Open (can open PC files)
  • DOS/Windows compatibility cards and emulation software
  • Threads [1993 NT, TBD to popularize]
  • TCP/IP support
  • Powerbook file synchronization [TBD]
  • Continuous speech recognition and input (Cantonese dictation)
  • Bento - Object Oriented Document model [TBD]
  • IEEE-1394 (FireWire) [1998 as option (Sony), TBD popularized]


  • QuickTime VR, Conferencing
  • Open Transport Networking (streams)
  • QuickDraw 3D [1994 OpenGL, 1998 to popularize with Direct3D]
  • Plug & Play PCI bus (PCI Only -- no ISA or older bus) [1995 Win95 was PnP support, general PCI earlier, PnP didn't work fully until 1997]


  • OpenDoc (Fully document centric interface model) [TBD]
  • Integrated Browser (CyberDog) [Win98]
  • Web as a data-type (CyberDog) [Win98]


  • Popup folders [TBD]
  • Spring loaded folders [TBD]
  • reorganized system folder [Still not as clean]


  • Sherlock full-text indexing and internet searching [TBD]
  • Titlebar icons to represent the folder itself for dragging etc. [TBD]
  • Appearance manager (Themes) [Limited in Win95, TBD]
  • Audio Themes (Sonic Finder finally ships in 8.5) [Limited in Win95, TBD]
  • Tear off Menu (Application Menu. Also Apple and NeXT merged, NeXT created them) [TBD]
  • Resizable Menus [TBD]
  • Customizable scroll bar behavior [TBD]
  • Integrated System Wide antialiasing [1996 Win95 OSR2?, Win98]
  • iMac - clear case, return of all-in-one, simplified design, ALL plug & play I/O, floppyless design [TBD]
  • USB (Universal Serial Bus): this is a copy of the Apple Desktop Bus (ADB). Apple was also the first to make it ubiquitous and standard.[Added in 1996, support in Win98, TBD popularized]


There are many, many more items that should go in this list. A few are probably in the wrong year, or minor mistakes -- feel free to contribute. Due to the quantity of feedback I may get, I may not respond to these (just add the items/correction in). I will improve this list, and add to it over time.

What is even more impressive is how much easier many of these dates are -- Apple started most of these technologies years before they were released. Microsoft got a head start at copying because these features were developers and Apple discloses their plans pretty early. It still often took an additional 5 or 10 years to rip them off -- but occasionally, Microsoft hacked up a solution (after seeing the Apple demos) and actually beat Apple to market with their own technology. But it came out of Apple's labs, and Apple usually took the time to do it right. Microsofties used to call Apple, "R&D South" for a reason.

Created: 11/22/98
Updated: 06/02/05

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