The Apple Mac Turns 40

The Apple Mac Turns 40

On 24 January 1984, the Apple Macintosh computer was released. And, while it didn’t change the world immediately like the first iPhone, the Mac would leave an indelible mark on the history of computing.

Lead image: Steve Jobs with original Mac. 

Upon its release, The New York Times described the Macintosh as revolutionary and it went on to become the most successful all-in-one PC for a while, disrupting IBM’s attempts at PC hegemony — at least for a moment.

The Times’ Erik Sandberg-Diment said that while the lack of a large colour screen was a “mistake” the screen was “crisp and clear” and he praised its lack of fan noise. It came with just 128K of RAM — on the small side at the time and paltry by today’s standards. It also only contained a single 400 KB 3.5-inch floppy drive slot, with no option to expand that storage.

But, while many machines were shipped without keyboards, mice or even screens, it promised a look into the more intuitive, useful machines that would follow. The Mac was also available with heavy discounts to lecturers and students at 24 universities, starting Apple’s association with everything young, trendy and forward-thinking.

However, perhaps the most important part of the Macintosh’s story was its marketing campaign. The “1984” ad shown during the Super Bowl proved a game-changer for computer marketing.

Apple also spent a fortune later that year, booking all the full-page ads in a post-election issue of Newsweek, getting it in front of the thinking people of the day.

However, while the Macintosh accounted for 85 per cent of Apple’s sales in early 1985, it failed to crack IBM’s hold on the PC market. Steve Jobs had been leading the Macintosh division of the company and had been butting heads with CEO John Sculley. Jobs left Apple later that year after a plan emerged to oust him from the Macintosh division and towards “new product development” — effectively neutering his influence on the day-to-day business of the company.

In 1987, the Macintosh II replaced the original machine. It did away with the original’s built-in black-and-white monitor, replacing it with a standalone colour unit that sat atop the case. While it proved a success, subsequent Macs would not sell as well, nor capture the public’s imagination as the first Macintosh did. The rot would not be stopped until Jobs returned in 1997.

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