And a TAM Joins the Family

In 1976 Apple ignited the personal computer revolution. In 1996 Apple Computer turned twenty years old. To commemorate the occasion, the company released a limited edition Twentieth Anniversary MacintoshTwentieth Anniversary Macintosh affectionately known as the TAM among Apple collectors and aficionados.

The TAM represented Apple’s design vision for the future. It included a flat panel screen with a vertical orientation, the computer was incorporated into the monitor. While this is the standard form factor of the iMac line today, in the 1990s this design was very groundbreaking. Advanced capabilities included a TV tuner, FM radio, a custom designed Bose sound system (with subwoofer), and a removable trackpad in place of a mouse.

Unlike the beige Macs of the day, the TAM was colored a brown-grey hue similar to the PowerBook. It was also priced at $7500. Initial units were individually hand-delivered to customers and setup by a tech-in-a-tux! I’ll bet they even came with a jar of Grey Poupon.

However while visually striking, the TAM wasn’t a hit among buyers. The CPU was a middle-of-the-road 250MHz PowerPC 603, the computer didn’t include ethernet, had limited expansion capability, and was unaffordable to all but the most affluent of buyers. Sales languished and Apple lowered the price several times. It finally dropped to as low as $1995 before the company pulled the plug a year later. Personally I remember scoffing at the TAM as an overpriced, underpowered status symbol when it was released, and didn’t feel it was worthy of ownership nor inclusion in the Vintage Mac Museum.

Fast forward two decades, and the TAM appears quite differently. In retrospect this computer is clearly the ancestor of the flat-panel iMac. Starting with the iMac G5 and continuing to the present day, the design of Apple’s desktop-for-the-masses harkens directly back to the TAM. It is also an early Jony Ive influenced product, one championed by former Director of Industrial Design Robert Brunner before Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997. Evolution of the iMac

Today the TAM has become a coveted collector’s item, and sells for $1000 (or more) on eBay if in good condition with original packaging. With age and wisdom I began to feel that it was indeed a model which should be included in the collection. Recently through a series of good circumstances and a few mutual favors, I’ve finally managed to acquire one.

My TAM came with it’s original packaging, a large outer box with four inner cartons numbered in the order they should be opened. After wrestling the quite sizable shipping carton home in my small hatchback, I did the whole unboxing thing in numerical order and hooked everything up.

It’s quite rare that I sit down in front of a vintage Mac I’ve never used before. This one feels like using a primordial iMac, made from a rearranged pre-G3 PowerBook. The curved stand and bracket which holds the computer allows it to be pivoted forward or backward to nearly any angle desired, and it does sound quite nice. The 12-inch active-matrix display screen is bright and crisp.

TAM and friends
The TAM has a unique startup sound. I’m not sure this really works, the Mac’s standard startup chime through that audio system would be quite impressive. But reflecting the decade in which it was designed, a huge multipin connector links the computer to the subwoofer, which also serves as the power supply. Apple would never do that now, the subwoofer would just be connected via Bluetooth.

Wait, what am I saying? There wouldn’t be a subwoofer at all, but rather enhanced low frequency output from incredibly small speakers in the computer itself using Apple’s proprietary iFeel™ technology…

I’m very happy to finally have a TAM in the VMM family. The PowerPC Beige Collection page has been updated appropriately. A big thanks to Hap and Matt for their help to make this acquisition possible!

4 responses to “And a TAM Joins the Family”

  1. Frank Bergess says:

    I still have my TAM.
    Sitting next to the bed on the nightstand currently.
    I have the remote control for it too.
    But alas no longer have the original packaging.

    I used to have a 8600, and 9600 but finally let them
    go a couple years ago.

    I would love to trade UP…
    I have the TAM and a G4 Quicksilver with display
    Trying to trade for a system that will run Yosemite

    Any idea who I can talk to about trading?


  2. Steffan says:

    I too avidly collect vintage Macs but, alas, so little room that I have few that aren’t portables. Certainly few of the desktops I’d like.

    One makes any number of exceptions for a TAM, however.

    It’s my favourite among so many treasures.

    Lashings of leather (inc. on accessories: CD case, pen/mech. pencil case and, inexplicably but typical TAM over the top, a profoundly useless leather holster for the remote control) and leather wrist-rests, even a leather insert (in the underside of the keyboard) that goes where the trackpad is, should you choose to separate it from the keyboard.

    I heard it was $10 000, or $7500 if you opted out of the limousine, tuxedo delivery man. Happy to be corrected.
    I also heard that when the price dropped to $1995, they sold out in about an hour.

    I have almost every PowerBook, pretty much every Newton, some very rare 2400c variants like the Japan-only /240, a G3/320 with translucent keyboard and some non-Apple rare ultra-portables like the Japan-only, ludicrous (you’re actually expected to close it and hold it to your head, using it as a telephone!), palm-sized IBM PC110, two Transnotes, most of the Toshiba Librettos and other oddities..

    .. and they’re excellent collections, I have so many weird, wonderful things to show and invite people to play with but the TAM stands alone.

    TAM owners I know agree that especially if arranged well, with good software, it’s usually the collectible to complete any collection, big or small (or at least redefine, class up) – especially outside the US where nobody’s ever seen one in any shop or saw any ad at the time.

    It’s rare (only 10 came here to Australia, all only for Apple execs, one of which, before being stolen, had been the only TAM ever seen here or Cupertino by an exec I know… who wasn’t the only person to visit it, not me) – 12 000 commissioned, of which reports vary but usually 11,400 released/assembled, rest kept as/for parts.

    I remember being critical in the day also, especially reading critique of the pokey 4x CD-ROM (seen it open?) and I think the 256K cache lets it down more than anything (and I have yet to find a cache module greater – except for the G3/1Mb in mine, more on that later)

    Growing up, stuck with a Mac Plus as Quadras, 6100s,6200s were coming out, I loved the new startup sounds.
    When the original iMac came out, with such fervour I asked if I may restart it. I was disappointed to hear the PCI PowerMac (G2 if you will) sound again on that iMac..

    Sound turned up, take a step back, start it with the remote. I know nothing like starting up a TAM loudly.

    No matter where the sub is, it sounds like some of that unique startup sound comes from behind you for a moment.

    Sound, leather smell, leather feel and aesthetics – four senses enveloped.

    Sometimes, just sometimes, you should meet your heroes. Not always a letdown, sometimes better than imagined.

    If you wish to be a collector but only have room, time, energy for few, this one machine is quite the collection. Even runs iTunes, L2 cache G3 upgrades aren’t expensive (find them for 5500/6500s, basically same computer) and though I have yet to try it, XPostFacto might even give you OSX. For Ethernet, same as CPU UG – Get a CSII slot or even PCI card as for 5500/6500. For very little (About $50) I got a G3 card because it’s only 250MHz – but it needs no fan, it’s fast, and when you enable the 1Mb cache it’s really extremely fast (and a careful choice of high speed CompactFlash card replacing the hard disk, like an SSD, removes bottlenecks and need no internal fan : silence).

    I love my Colour Classic (The LC575 logic board goes right in and just works), 512K, 128K, G4 Cube, but nothing like the TAM.

  3. Marilyn Garvey says:

    I have an old iMac G5 monitor and a iMac computer I am looking to sell. If you are interested please email me and I will send pictures and serial numbers to verify models.

    Marilyn Garveu

  4. Gregory Schaatt says:

    Anyone here know how to fix a TAM? My keyboard stops working soon after start up.
    Thanks, g.

Leave a Reply