In the 80s, most home computers had the CPU and keyboard in a single unit with monitor and disk drive separate; most business computers had the CPU and disk drives in a 'desktop' horizontal case (monitor on top), later switching to tower form factor (vertical case beside the monitor).

The original Macintosh had an unusual form factor that I'm calling 'obelisk' for want of a better name: CPU, disk drive and monitor in one unit (keyboard separate), arranged vertically, with slightly tapering lines. I get the impression that there were two reasons for this:

  1. Compared to some form factors, it avoided having cables running all over your desk; such aesthetic details mattered to Steve Jobs.

  2. Thanks to the plastic case, unusually small screen, and small number of other components (lack of expandability), the whole unit was still light enough to be reasonable to carry, so this arrangement actually increased rather than decreased portability. (Evidence for this motive: the carrying handle at the top of the case.)

Eventually, the later models of the Mac switched to desktop and then tower form factor, like other business machines.

What was the last Mac released in the obelisk form factor?

2 Answers 2


Putting all wording beside this question seems to asks for 'Which compact Macs were there', which is already nicely summarised by the accordingly named Wikipedia article:

Time wise it never stopped. All-In-One have always been a corner stone of Apple desktop products.

  • The original 1984 Mac was an All-In-One.
  • The 'separate box and monitor' Mac was added in 1987 with the Mac II.
  • Some Compact Mac resembled the original Mac quite close until the discontinuation of the SE/30 in 1991.
  • The M1600 aka Color Classic II (discontinued in 1995) might count as last of the beige/grey 'Würfelmacs' (*1) with straight lines, but
  • the All-In-One form factor continued with the LC 500 series. Although way less visible than before as these machines were almost exclusive directed at educational use.
  • The Power Mac 5200 LC carried it over to the new CPU architecture. All the way to
  • the infamous G3 Molar Mac introduced in 1996 (*2). It was up to
  • the new 1998 G3 iMac (*3) to reintroduce the All-In-One to the general public as Jedermann-Mac. The next step in evolution was
  • the iMac G4, making the Mac look like a screen with no computer at all - still following the All-In-One idea and adhering to the two features named in the question.
  • All-In-One design continues today overseveral steps, each more stylish, with the 'Apple Silicon iMac being the latest incarnation.

Some Remarks:

  • The question wording is a bit complicated by trying to makeup a new naming "Obelisk" when these machines are commonly known as All-In-One and, especially for the older Macs by the well established term of "Compact Mac".

  • Likewise singling out Apples with their design of an All-In-One doesn't hold when looking at other machines at the time or even before, like the TRS-80 Model II and others.

  • The features (no cable clutter, portability (*4)) mentioned for the "Obelisk" design what makes an All-In-One design. Portability of course depending on individual value of size and weight (*5).

  • In addition I would think the assessment of 'most' and 'business computer' is rather debatable.

*1 - Würfelmac, literaly Dice- or Cube-Mac, German slang term for all classic Macintosh due their very boxy style.

*2 - There's a real nice in depth article about it on Mac Stories.

*3 - Strictly there's also the 1997 TAM, but due being a one-off run, fore shading the later Intel iMac, it may not really count.

*4 - Having a 'handle' like ditch is no really a sign for potability as such can be found on many devices - including classic monitors - without adding portability as a feature. They are to enable handling in general.

*5 - Anyone who had ever the need to move a compact Mac for a longer distance than to one desk over might agree that they are not really that portable at all.

  • 1
    I guess you could split hairs and insert the Molar Mac into the list just before the iMac, but it was education only and usually stated to have been inspired by the pending iMac. So I don’t think I’m adding anything with this comment. Thumbs up as always to Raffzahn.
    – Tommy
    Nov 15, 2022 at 18:49
  • 2
    @Tommy Oh, you're right. It was before the new iMacs, right? Yes, you're right it needs to be named. In fact, the All-In-One never vanished. I completely forgot about the PowerPC variants (like the Performa 5400) - maybe because they were much more prevalent in the US than anywhere else. I need to rewrite that.
    – Raffzahn
    Nov 15, 2022 at 20:12
  • Hey, and don't forget the eMac, the enormously heavy G4 CRT AIO. We had one. I'm glad we don't any more. Although meant for education, it was generally available to any buyer
    – scruss
    Nov 16, 2022 at 1:40
  • 1
    @scruss sure, it was a G4, but other than that it continued the CRT based iMac form factor, didn't it? The next step in evolution only came with the Intel ones being LCD based. I tried organize above according to (notable) changes in case design, as that's what I think the OP is researching. Beside that, yes, Apple made so many variants of everything, one could write a book ... I would bet someone already did :))
    – Raffzahn
    Nov 16, 2022 at 13:12
  • 2
    @scruss yes, we have an eMac... I've searched inside it for the cans of depleted uranium they must have added to make it that heavy. It was heavy on purpose and did not have a handle like the Originals and G3s, to make it harder to steal. It was for schools after all. Nov 16, 2022 at 23:06

According to this site:

Mac Models

The last "obelisk" shaped Mac was the Macintosh SE from 1987:

Mac SE

You might make the case that the Color Classic:

Color Classic

Is also of that form factor and it's from 1993 but the case shape is somewhat different from the original.

But (based on rwallace's comment) that the absolute last one was the Classic II from 1991 that has essentially the same case style as the original.

There are other later models that are unit + keyboard + mouse, but they use a different form factor.

  • Good link! Though following it, I see this, from 1991 and seemingly with the same case shape as the original? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macintosh_Classic_II
    – rwallace
    Nov 15, 2022 at 15:51
  • 5
    I would guess the OP would regard the Color Classic as being an "Obelisk" form factor even though the shape isn't quite identical, but I also recall the SE/30 as being the same shape as the SE.
    – supercat
    Nov 15, 2022 at 16:03
  • 1
    The SE/30 is to the SE as the IIx is to the II, i.e. just a later, more powerful version of the same. Albeit with a necessary change in naming convention.
    – Tommy
    Nov 15, 2022 at 18:44
  • 1
    @Tommy The SE/30 must have had a quite different motherboard - it had 8 slots for RAM and could take 128 MB which was an insane amount of memory at the time. My G4 tower came with 32 GB and I later upgraded it to 160 MB - that was my first machine that had more than 128 MB and that was released 10+ years after the SE/30.
    – d-b
    Nov 16, 2022 at 0:55
  • @d-b yeah, it’s colloquially reported to be the IIx board adapted to the SE case though the layout looks fairly distinct to me; possibly I’m taking the claim too literally — it might just be a reference to ‘x’ being Apple’s suffix for 68030 machines at the time.
    – Tommy
    Nov 16, 2022 at 13:36

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