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At launch, the Macintosh was far from a hit, far from affordable, and far from fully workable. Still, that original model managed to change the computer forever, not just for its fans, but for the entire world.
“You just saw some pictures of the Macintosh,” said Steve Jobs at the Mac’s official launch. He took the stage at the Flint Center in De Anza College, Cupertino on Tuesday, January 24, 1984. “Now I want to show you the Macintosh in person.”
The Mac he unveiled bears little resemblance to today’s machines. It had a small, monochrome monitor, blocky graphics, and the kind of synthesized voice you wouldn’t even get in a toy right now. But crucially, it was nothing like the computers of its day.
“Up to that point,” wrote Steven Levy in his book on the Mac, “when someone said a computer screen ‘lighted up,’ some literary license was required. By the end of the demonstration, I was beginning to understand that these things were a computer. should. There was a better way.”
Levy was one of the journalists who got an early demo when Apple previewed the Mac in October and November 1983. This was part of the company’s dual goal of getting everyone talking about the Mac at launch, but also being able to prove everyone right. away.
In addition to informing journalists, Apple produced the Mac and shipped it to resellers. And there were videos. It’s possible that some outside news agency or station decided to cover the Mac, but what’s more likely is that Apple itself made a series of videos, as it does now.
Editions of an eight volume Evolution of a computer series come and go on YouTube, but are not available at the time of writing. They most closely resemble an early electronic press kit, and one showed then-CEO John Sculley inadvertently revealing his entire attitude toward computers.
“With Macintosh, we’ve put together an extremely well-coordinated, very powerful consumer marketing program to introduce this product,” he says.
To bless. Compare him to someone else in these videos, someone you instantly recognize. “We gamble on our vision. And we’d rather do that than make ‘me too’ products. Let other companies do that,” said Steve Jobs.
Perhaps Jobs would regret saying that later Microsoft did exactly this with Windows and much later when Google did with Android.
But if they were copiers, Jobs wasn’t the original either. He didn’t invent the Macintosh, as much as he would like people to believe.
Frankly, the Mac we got that day in 1984 wouldn’t have been what it was without Jobs. For starters, it wouldn’t have had a mouse. “I couldn’t stand the mouse,” Apple’s Jef Raskin told Owen W. Linzmayer Apple Confidential 2.0. “Jobs gets 100 percent credit for insisting there’s a mouse on the Mac.”
However, Raskin gets 100 percent credit for starting the project, starting the basic ideas of what the machine would do, and calling it Macintosh. He even gets credit for the result of the mouse, because despite his preference for a joystick, it was his work that resulted in the one-button model while others used two or three.
To talk with High-tech heroes around 1987 Raskin explained that he had been a regular at the Xerox PARC facility – “I had an honorary beanbag chair [there]— long before Steve Jobs’ fateful visit in late 1979.
“They had a three-button mouse and I couldn’t keep track of which button was which. And so when I started making the Macintosh project…I realized that you could do everything you need to do with a one-button button .” mouse. It took me a while to convince people it was possible.”
Jef Raskin, who died in 2005, was not always precise in his description of how the Macintosh came about, but in the spring or September of 1979 he spoke with Apple chairman Mike Markkula. Raskin either pitched the idea straight to Macintosh, or he first turned down Markkula’s request to work on a game console.
Whatever it was, he says in it High-tech heroes interview that he had been thinking about Apple’s future.
“The projects in the works were the Apple III and the Lisa. I [told Markkula that] I thought the Apple III didn’t have the tech to take us into the future…and the Lisa was going to be too expensive and too slow. So I suggested something I called Macintosh.”
Although the company was then working on the Apple III, Raskin viewed the Macintosh name as just a code one and that the final machine would be called the Apple V. It was going to be a simpler machine than previous Apple computers, or at least it was in terms of how easy it was to use.
“There would be no peripheral slots so customers never had to see the inside of the machine,” he said. He proposed an all-in-one machine with bitmap graphics – so the screen could display any image, not just DOS-like characters – and in 1979 he planned to sell it for $500. That’s the equivalent of $1,920 today, which is less than the price of a 27-inch iMac.
Raskin also envisioned the machine being out by Christmas 1981. Instead, it launched in January 1984 and went on sale for $2,495 or $6,695 in today’s money.
What happened in between
Between Raskin’s idea and the shipment of the Mac, Steve Jobs happened. And John Sculley happened too. After initially ignoring the Mac project as unimportant, Steve Jobs changed his mind when he was removed from the Apple Lisa project.
One of the reasons he was removed was that he had now visited Xerox PARC and insisted that the Lisa be changed to more closely resemble the machines he had seen there. He still had that in mind, and Macintosh was this little project that no one on Apple’s board seemed to care about, so they found each other.
It was late 1980 or early 1981 when Jobs really took over the Mac project – then steadily weeded out Raskin until the Mac’s creator stepped down in March 1982.
It’s no doubt unfair that Raskin doesn’t get credit for the Macintosh, and it’s undoubtedly true that Jobs didn’t deserve it. However, Raskin got another chance to put his ideas into practice and created the Canon CAT.
The CAT was a failure where the Mac was this huge success.
What happened next
The launch of the Macintosh was a huge success in terms of marketing and publicity, so maybe Sculley was right. It wasn’t much of a hit initially when it comes to a visionary product because it only had vision. You couldn’t do much with the original Macintosh, so maybe Jobs was wrong.
However, both men pushed the price up. Jobs by demanding higher specs and then Sculley by spending $78 million ($209 million today) on marketing – then trying to recoup all of that as quickly as possible.
So the original Mac that launched on January 24, 1984 was a bulky and very expensive machine. Still, it transformed the computer industry, and ultimately it really changed the world.
You can trace the history from the screen you’re reading this on, all the way back to the very first Macintosh. And on that screen of yours, you can watch something else from the introduction of the Mac.
The Apple of 1984 and the Apple that created the Macintosh also created one of the most famous advertisements of all. It had aired on TV two days earlier during the Super Bowl and Jobs screened it again as part of the launch.
Since then, the Mac has undergone the massive change of running on Apple Silicon. It really is a huge change, but it’s done so well that it’s easy to forget how much effort it must be for Apple.
And for all the changes, all the developments, all the advancements in the years since 1984, the Mac is still the Mac.
It was a flop when it launched, but the Macintosh was so right it really changed the world. In the end.
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