Thirty years ago, Apple introduced the Macintosh with the promise to put the creative power of technology in everyone’s hands. It launched a generation of innovators who continue to change the world. This 30‑year timeline celebrates some of those pioneers and the profound impact they’ve made.
This demo emulates a Mac Plus with a bunch of abandonware applications and games to check out.
Thirty years ago today, Steve Jobs introduced Macintosh. It was the single most important product announcement of my life. When that upright beige box arrived in my home, it instilled in me an incredible sense of urgency. I greedily consumed every scrap of information about this amazing new machine, from books, magazines, audio cassettes, and any adult whose ear I could bend. This was the future—my future, if I could help it.
Join us as we live the time-traveler’s dream—the deep, lucid, Orwellian vision of hope, fear, and nostalgia that is 1984. Just in time for its 30th anniversary, we laid hands on an ’84 original: the Macintosh 128K. And, you guessed it—we’re tearing it down like it’s the Berlin Wall.
Of course, the success of the iPhone and iPad has also led to speculation that the Mac is on a collision course with iOS, one that will inevitably merge the two into one single Apple interface for all its devices. The appointment of Federighi as the leader of all of Apple’s software efforts could have been seen as a sign of that merger, but Federighi himself is adamant that the Mac will always be true to itself.
“The reason OS X has a different interface than iOS isn’t because one came after the other or because this one’s old and this one’s new,” Federighi said. Instead, it’s because using a mouse and keyboard just isn’t the same as tapping with your finger. “This device,” Federighi said, pointing at a MacBook Air screen, “has been honed over 30 years to be optimal” for keyboards and mice. Schiller and Federighi both made clear that Apple believes that competitors who try to attach a touchscreen to a PC or a clamshell keyboard onto a tablet are barking up the wrong tree.
Apple has a new page/advertisement celebrating 30 years of the Mac. It’s glossy, and pretty, but there are two things that stand out to me.
1. Even though this is about the Mac, iOS products are featured.
2. There is not a developer in sight.
It’s no coincidence that the earliest experimenter in the area we were commercializing, Doug Engelbart, was also the inventor of the mouse. We had been hearing about mice, I had even used one in a demo at Xerox PARC, but now, with the Mac -- I had one on my desk. I loved the Mac at first sight, but the foundation of our long-term relationship was the mouse (30 years later, I’m writing this story in my outliner, on a Mac, with a mouse).
I love the Mac. I love what it did for me, it gave me a lot of freedom I wouldn’t have gotten any other way. However, it stopped short of where it could have gone, and in doing so, I hope serves as a lesson for future generations of technologists. When someone argues for reserving the best stuff for your employees, tell them to stop screwing with your success.
I also had access to MacApp and the tools (LightSpeed Pascal) to write my own Mac software. Until then all my programming had been on PCs (and mainframes, and Unix). I had spent two summers as an intern (at Martin Marietta, the same company dBase programmer Wayne Ratliff worked!) hacking around MS-DOS writing utilities to do things that were as easy as drag and drop on a Mac or just worked with MacWrite and Mac Excel. As fun as learning K&R, C, and INT 21h was, the Macintosh was calling.
There’s no doubt our collective experiences contribute to the products we each work on. Wikipedia even documents the influence of MacApp on MFC (my first product contribution), which was by design (and also by design was where not to be influenced). It is wonderful to think that through tools like MFC and Visual Basic along with ubiquitous computing, Windows brought to so many young programmers that same feeling of mastery and empowerment that I felt when I first used Macintosh.
The Macintosh was new, but the media would have to be old. There were no tech blogs, no Facebook, no Twitter, and certainly no Mac rumor websites. There were no websites at all. So Jobs had to generate his own campaign to tell the world about the computer that he would announce on January 24, 1984, 30 years ago today.
I have to admit my first moments with Jobs were not auspicious. He complained again that the story would not be on the cover. Then he proceeded to use scatological terms to describe a recent Rolling Stone story about MTV. I interrupted the rant by informing him that I had written that story. Jobs simply changed the subject.
Steve Jobs, interviewed by Steven Levy in 1984:
There’s sort of a local maximum happening where we know how to do really great crisp, printer resolution on black and white sheets. We can’t do colored sheets, it’s double the price. The second thing is, laser printers that are coming out which are going get really cheap-they are monochromatic, they’re black and white. Black panel displays, all black and white. So there’s a whole thing, in the next few years we’re going be able to make the dream come true of having this incredibly great, Dynabook type of thing. Even better, I think we’ve sort of gone even beyond that a little bit, and color will come, we’ll have color types of products, but I think this we need to make a reality, too.
Nevertheless, it’s still important to understand the role of the Mac. In years gone, the advantage of Windows was measured in multiples of Mac sales. That peak occurred in 2004 when there were 56 times more PCs sold than Macs. At that moment, when the Windows advantage peaked, the Mac sold 3.2 million units into a market where 182 million PCs shipped. This means the Mac had 1.7% market share.
And yet, remarkably, even with 1.7% share, the Mac did not disappear. The figure of 3.2 million units was not great and below the peak to date but it was enough to sustain Apple while it developed its next products. At the time the iPod was starting to grow rapidly and development on iPhone/iPad was already underway. The point being that there were new products. 3.2 million was a sufficient volume to preserve the company until such time when they would be ready.
Update (2014-01-27): Jean-Louis Gassée:
As we celebrate 30 years of Macintosh struggles and triumphs, let’s start with a semiserious, unscientific comparison between the original 128K Mac and its dark, polished, brooding descendant, the Mac Pro.
Looking for a great way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Mac? You could certainly do worse than download a font from Apple that shows every single Mac that’s even been created in place of the usually boring business of letters and numbers.
It’s January, 1984. Steve Jobs, nattily attired in a double-breasted suit, is demonstrating Apple’s breakthrough personal computer, Macintosh, before a packed room. […] Over at YouTube, you can watch the Cupertino presentation, along with a sort of a rough draft held as part of an Apple sales meeting in Hawaii in the fall of 1983. As for the BCS version, all 90 minutes of it are there in the video at the top of this post, available for the first time in their entirety since they were shot on January 30, 1984.
Update (2014-01-31): John Gruber:
“Special” was a stroke of genius. Two of its four items were dangerous (and Empty Trash, originally, didn’t prompt for confirmation), and “Special” seems like as friendly a way as possible to cue the user to be a little careful in this menu. But more than serving as an apt categorization of the menu items it contained, “Special” served a higher purpose — an apt description of the Macintosh in its entirety.
Update (2014-02-02): Harry McCracken:
Last weekend, when I shared the unseen January 1984 Boston Computer Society meeting at which Steve Jobs and team demonstrated the Mac, I mentioned that Glenn Koenig, the BCS’s videographer, had saved it for all these years in a now-obsolete tape format: U-matic. Glenn shared a few fun photos of the setup he used in his video studio to get the meeting off that fragile tape and into a format everybody can enjoy.
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