NeXT Computer Inc. (Palo Alto, Calif.)

Steve Jobs founded NeXT Computer after he was forced out of Apple. The much-anticipated NeXT Computer System (commonly referred to as the Cube) was the company’s first computer. Intended to be sold primarily to the higher education market, the Cube lived up to its advanced billing with many innovations. The most obvious were its cube shape and the lack of a floppy drive. Its GUI-based NeXTstep operating system was based on the Mach Unix kernel, which was compatible with the BSD Unix used at many universities. A DSP chip boosted graphics and audio performance, and its removeable optical disks could hold more than 200 times more data than a standard floppy.

Steve Jobs enlisted the Frogdesign team, led by Hartmut Esslinger, to design the Cube. Frogdesign was also responsible for the Apple IIC and Macintosh designs. A complete Cube will have the computer itself (uniquely dimensioned at 12 x 12 x 12 inches–hence the Cube name), the MegaPixel video display, the NeXT Laser Printer, and a keyboard. Most systems that you see today are missing one or more of these components.

In 1990, NeXT announced a new line-up consisting of three produce lines, including an enhanced Cube confusingly called the NeXTcube. Many people refer to it as the Cube II. It used a 68040 processor, a larger hard drive, and a floppy disk drive. The NeXTdimension, commonly referred to as the Color Cube, was a color version of the Cube II. It featured a high-performance graphics coprocessor and 4MB of video RAM. (The Cube II had only 256K.)

At the same time, Next introduced the NeXTstation. It offered Cube II-like performance at a lower cost, with the main trade-off being less expandability. A NeXTstation Color was also available. Both abandoned the cube design for a small rectangular enclosure.

Apple Computer bought NeXT in 1996 for its software, much of which was incorporated into its latest operating system (at this writing), OS X.

NeXT Computer System, a.k.a. Cube (Oct. 1988, desktop)
Original Retail Price: $6,500
Base Configuration: 25MHz 68030 CPU; NeXTstep 1.0; four NuBus slots; 8MB RAM (64MB max); 128K ROM; 40MB hard disk drive; 256MB magneto-optical drive; 17-inch MegaPixel monochrome monitor; keyboard/keypad; mouse; three serial, SCSI, and DSP ports; Ethernet; application suite
Video: 1120 x 832 graphics
Size/Weight: 12 x 12 x 12 inches
Important Options: second optical drive, 670MB hard disk drive, laser printer

NeXTcube (Sept. 1990, desktop)
Original Retail Price: $11,495
Base Configuration: 25MHz 68040 CPU, NeXTstep 2.0, 16MB RAM (64MB max), 128K ROM, 3.5-inch floppy disk drive, 340MB hard disk drive, 17-inch MegaPixel monochrome monitor, keyboard/keypad, mouse, two RS-423 and one parallel port, Ethernet
Video: 1120 x 832 graphics
Size/Weight: 12 x 12 x 12 inches
Important Options: laser printer

NeXTdimension (Sept. 1990, desktop)
Original Retail Price: $17,615
Base Configuration: 25MHz 68040 CPU, NeXTstep 2.0, 24MB RAM (64MB max), 128K ROM, 3.5-inch floppy disk drive, 340MB hard disk drive, 16-inch color monitor, keyboard/keypad, mouse, two RS-423 and one parallel port, Ethernet
Video: 1120 x 832 graphics
Size/Weight: 12 x 12 x 12 inches
Important Options: laser printer

NeXTstation (Sept. 1990, desktop)
Original Retail Price: $4,995
Base Configuration: 25MHz 68040 CPU; NeXTstep 2.0; 8MB RAM (32MB max); 128K ROM; 3.5-inch floppy disk drive; 105MB hard disk drive; 17-inch MegaPixel monochrome monitor; keyboard/keypad; mouse; two RS-423, parallel, and SCSI-2 ports; Ethernet
Video: 1120 x 832 graphics
Important Options: 16-inch color monitor

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