Apple Archive

The Friendly LC 500 Series

- 2001.05.18

When the Colour Classic was introduced in 1993, it became a success for users who needed a small computer for a small space. Color ClassicThe cute, compact design and 10" Trinitron colour screen capable of displaying "thousands of colours" now make it a collectable item for Macheads everywhere.

After the Colour Classic was released, its designers were asked to make something with a larger screen, CD-ROM, and stereo speakers. They came up with the Macintosh LC 520 (a.k.a. Performa 520), which was basically an LC III, 14" Apple Colour Display, Apple 300e CD-ROM, and a pair of stereo speakers - all in one case. The result was to be one of the most popular consumer and education models produced.

The LC 520 featured the same 25 MHz 68030 processor as the LC III, an 80 or 160 MB hard disk, and an optional 1x or 2x Apple 500 Seriesinternal caddy-loading CD-ROM drive. A later version came with a tray loading CD-ROM and a manual-inject floppy drive. The LC 520 shipped with System 7.1.

After the LC 520 came the LC 550 (a.k.a. Performa 550). The 550 featured a 33 MHz 68030 processor, like the LC III+, 5 MB of RAM, a 160 MB hard drive, and a 2x tray loading CD-ROM drive. The LC 550 shipped with System 7.1; the Performa 550 shipped with System Software 7.1P6.

At the top of the line came the LC 575 (a.k.a. Performa 575). The Performa 575 featured a 33 MHz 68LC040 processor, 5 MB of RAM, a 2x CD-ROM drive, and a 250 MB hard drive. The 575 was also available to schools with no CD-ROM drive and 4 MB of RAM. Early versions of the LC 575 shipped with System 7.1, while later versions shipped with 7.5. Early versions of the Performa 575 shipped with System 7.1P6, later versions shipped with 7.5.

Later on, Apple used a similar case for the LC 580. The LC 580 was essentially a Quadra 630 in an all-in-one case. The 580 featured the Communications slot, video board slots, and two RAM slots instead of one (if you look at the 575 logic board, there is a place for a second RAM slot). The 580 used a less expensive, non-Trinitron screen, which was rounded and prone to glare. The 580 was offered with 8 MB of RAM, a 2x CD-ROM drive, and a 500 or 800 MB hard drive. There was also a version without the CD-ROM. The LC 580 shipped with System Software 7.5.

I first got into these 500 series Macs when I got an LC 520 from a thrift store a couple years ago. I consider the design of the 500 series Macs to be one of the best looking designs Apple has come up with, although I understand the original designers weren't real crazy about it.

After getting that LC 520 and upgrading it to 12 MB of RAM, installing a 160 MB hard disk, and upgrading to Mac OS 7.6.1, I got a Performa 550. Recently I ended up with a 575 as well.

When these 500 series models were introduced, they were meant to bring families into the Internet age, so they were fully Internet capable. The 575 still does a decent job on the Internet.

Load it up with Internet Explorer 4.0 or Netscape Navigator 3.02 (4.08 if you have more than 20 MB of RAM), FreePPP, and you are ready to use the Internet. For a more detailed description, visit my other article "Getting on the Net with an older Mac".

500 series Macs make good machines for kids. They are all in one - they don't confuse kids by having many different parts to them. They have good colour screens, a CD-ROM drive, and, most importantly, they will run many kids games without a problem. For example, you can play Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (remember the TV show?), SimCity 2000, and Civilization (the last two I have and enjoy playing myself).

You can often find a 500 series Mac on eBay for less than $75, and occasionally one may turn up at your local thrift shop or garage sale (I got my 520 from a thrift shop, and the 575 from a garage sale). You can also check newspaper classified ads.

These Macs make great second or third computers for the family, as well as great computers for younger child to play games or do research and writing for school. They don't cost much, but give you a lot of computer for your money.

As a side note, you may have noticed my "Xcitement" (bad pun) about OS X, and I have been writing about that quite a bit recently. Since this is Apple Archive on Low End Mac, I thought that taking a break to write about an actual low end Mac was appropriate.

Further Reading

  • The reliable all-in-one 500 series, Charles W. Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2001.06.04. For inexpensive, reliable word processing and email, these older Macs are great.

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