How Apple’s Keeping the Iconic Macintosh Name Alive

There’s a lot about the Macintosh name that you probably hadn’t realized. Until now.
Macintosh Credit: Alexander Kirch
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Apple hasn’t called any of its computers a “Macintosh” since the late 1990s. But, despite that, the iMac or MacBook Pro that you’re using is still technically a Macintosh.

Mac, of course, has always been short for Macintosh. But starting with the iMac and Power Mac G4, Apple began shortening the name to just “Mac.” From there, we get the Mac minis, MacBook Airs and iMac Pros that we know and love today.

Where You Can Still Find References to the ‘Macintosh’

But while the Macintosh name may seem like a relic of the past, there are actually still a few places where you can see the moniker on Apple’s products, services and packagings. Here are just a few.

  1. If you bought your Mac new, the original name of the internal drive will be called “Macintosh HD” — whether it’s an actual hard drive or SSD.
  2. Open a new Finder window in macOS. Click Finder in the top menu bar and then About Finder. You’ll see some text proclaiming “The Macintosh Desktop Experience.”
  3. On the bottom of some Mac boxes, including the iMac, you’ll find the phrase “Macintosh … Think different.” That’s a throwback to the Mac’s original (and full) name, as well as to the famous ad campaign.

Of course, you’ll also find the word Macintosh in most Apple press releases, which frequently start with the phrase “Apple revolutionized personal technology with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984.”

Why Are These References Still Around?

Many modern Mac users don’t even know that Apple’s flagship computers were once called Macintosh. There’s also a high probability that you’ve never called your MacBook Pro a “Macintosh Book,” or macOS the “Macintosh operating system.”

So why does Apple keep the original Macintosh name around?

You could make the argument that the current Mac computers are still Macintoshes — Apple just shortens the name to Mac for convenience’s sake.

It’s also likely that Apple needs to keep these references around so that the trademarks for Macintosh don’t fall into the public domain.

Abbreviations like “Mac” count as separate trademarks, so Apple would need to use the full Macintosh name to hold onto its trademarks. It’s sort of similar to why some Levi’s jeans have a blank red tab instead of one with the brand name. It all comes down to trademark law.

Why Are Macs Called Macintoshes?

As far as where the name “Macintosh” came from, it’s actually a deliberately misspelled reference to the McIntosh Apple. (Get it?)

Reports suggest that Apple changed the spelling to avoid conflicts with an audio manufacturer named McIntosh Laboratory.

There’s actually a funny story about Apple sending talk show host Dave Cavett a free Macintosh computer. Cavett later thanked Apple CEO Steve Jobs for the “McIntosh,” later realizing his spelling mistake and apologizing for the error. “Don’t worry about it,” Jobs responded. “You didn’t spell it wrong. We did.”

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