I picked up another old Mac for the Museum this weekend – which I do with reserve these days since space is finite and the models many. However this is an unusual offering, a Radius 81/110 Power Macintosh clone.
For a short time in the mid 1990s, and too long after it would have made a difference in market share, Apple licensed the Mac OS to third party clone manufacturers. The clones were based on Apple supplied motherboards, with value-added features added by the vendors. The group included PowerComputing, Radius, Umax, SuperMac, Daystar, and Motorola – the latter also one of the manufacturers for the PowerPC CPU.
Apple’s intent was for the clone makers to grow the overall Mac OS market, focusing on the low end. However some of the clones were better bargains and performers than Apple’s own offerings, and they began to sell at the expense of Apple-branded systems. PowerComputing was the most successful of the lot, and their PowerCenter Pro and PowerTower Pro systems were the fastest Macs of the day.
The Radius 81/110 I acquired is a NuBus model, based on the PowerMac 8100 motherboard. This Mac was used for video editing using a proprietary Radius VideoVision editing system, complete with multiple NuBus cards, two outboard rack units, and a whopping 4GB external SCSI RAID. It costs many thousands of dollars when new, and was purchased for $30 at the MIT Flea. But the tower doesn’t work and there’s some major corrosion inside, so I don’t feel too guilty! I love the wave pattern on the front bezel.
Steve Jobs killed the clones when he returned to the company in 1997, buying PowerComputing outright to stop sales cannibalization of Apple’s own models. Motorola was on the verge of releasing a G3 version of their StarMax tower, and had announced the system at MacWorld Boston. The cancellation was costly for everyone, and the resulting impact was often viewed as one reason why Motorola was never able to produce enough fast PowerPC G4 chips for Apple’s use. Coincidentally, Apple switched to IBM exclusively for the PowerPC G5 CPU.
It was definitely an angst-filled chapter of the “Beleagured Apple Computer” era.