One day, all computers will look like the Mac. That was the sentiment expressed by a technology reviewer when Apple's legendary computer was born, 30 years ago on Friday.
On that date in the year 1984, a young Steve Jobs walked over to a bag on a table in a hall in Cupertino, Calif., took out the small-screen Mac, turned it on and inserted a diskette. To the music track of the film "Chariots of Fire," the letters Macintosh scrolled across its screen, which by itself was considered at the time to be a feat. It then showed screens from the original versions of MacPaint, MacWrite and other applications.
Like many inventions, it's difficult to understand from this vantage point how revolutionary those early demonstrations were, with a graphical user interface that did not require memorizing obscure text commands, built-in text-to-speech, and WYSIWYG word processing. The personal computer of that era rarely even displayed pictures of any kind.
'Came with a Promise'
On its Web site, Apple is now showing a Happy Birthday to Mac message, which notes that the device "came with a promise -- that the power of technology taken from a few and put in the hands of everyone" could change the world. The site also features a commemorative video, a Mac timeline and an interactive presentation for users to tell about their first Mac.
At the time of the Mac's launch, the Apple II was still selling reasonably well, but the Apple III, which almost no one remembers, was a bomb and the Lisa, out the preceding summer, was way too expensive at $10,000.
When Jobs made that first introduction to the Mac, the famous Mac launch commercial had aired two days before. Directed by feature film director Ridley Scott, it was broadcast only once -- during Super Bowl XVIII. It showed a young woman, running through a hall occupied by shaved head prisoners, hurling a large hammer at a screen showing the image of a Big Brother-like figure, which all the prisoners were blankly watching.
"On January 24th," the text read after the hammer destroys the screen, "Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.' "
'Few Things Very Well'
Ross Rubin, principal analyst with Reticle Research, told us that the Mac "provided a usage model that has defined a generation of computers," in the form of the graphical user interface. He added that this GUI "is what most people associate the Mac with."
But Rubin also pointed to its "design philosophy," an elegant minimalism that has been similarly adopted in other Apple devices, as well as in other companies' products. The Mac, he said, showed "Apple's focus on doing a few things very well."
For example, he said, the Mac's "de-emphasis on the keyboard" -- the first Mac did not have the then-popular cursor keys -- continued across to the iPhone, iPad and iPod.
Additionally, the original Mac was "a closed box," he pointed out, and was single-tasking, as other Apple products have been. Rubin noted that the iOS platform "only recently added a real multi-tasking capability."