Happy 28th Birthday, Macintosh!
Low End Mac Staff - 2012.01.24
It was less than 30 years ago that Apple introduced the world to the Graphical User Interface with its Lisa computer - and a year later that Apple unveiled the Macintosh to the world. It was a revolution that would forever change the way we worked with our computers. Instead of typing in commands, which were very picky about typos, we would point and click on icons to launch programs and open files. We would see our word processing documents displayed using the typefaces they would be printed in. We could create our own illustrations using MacPaint, a precursor to Photoshop.
Today our staff looks back to that day in 1984 when Apple rolled out the first Macintosh.
Alan Zisman (Zis Mac): When the Mac was introduced, I didn't pay much attention - I was not yet "hip" to personal computing, and I was a parent with a not-quite-three year old daughter and a son who was born a week later. And not being a Superbowl watcher (or much of a TV watcher in any event), I missed the buzz over the TV commercial.
Within a few years, though, as a teacher, it became clear that personal computers were going to play an increasingly important role in education - and that the personal computer to do that was going to be a Mac. By 1985, I was taking education courses to upgrade my teaching credentials; the university's education faculty had three computer labs available - an Apple II lab, an IBM PC lab, and a Mac lab. It was clear that the Mac lab was the way to go. By 1987, the education faculty profs all seemed to be raving about HyperCard - and of course that required a Mac.
Finally, by 1988 I was ready to take the plunge into personal computing. I had a friend who loaned me a Mac (original 128 KB Mac upgraded to 512 KB of memory) along with an external floppy drive - and that was my start.
Dan Knight (Mac Musings): I have to admit to being a very early personal computing geek. The guy I worked for bought an Apple II+ around 1978, my first two computers were a Commodore VIC-20 and 64, and I followed them with a Zenith Z-151 (upgraded to a Z-158) MS-DOS PC. I cut my teeth on the command line, and I pooh-poohed the Mac's user interface.
When I started using Macs at work, they frustrated me. How did you write a batch file? Why was everything so slow compared to DOS. But I got used to Macs, and around 1990 or 1991 got my first one, a near-end-of-life 1986 Mac Plus. It didn't take long to expand it - borrowing a second floppy drive from a coworker, upgrading RAM, getting my own hard drive, moving to System 7, getting ClarisWorks when it first came out. At one point I even got a 16 MHz processor upgrade, doubling system performance. It was a real workhorse that I used for several years.
The Mac Plus was a somewhat upgraded version of the original Macintosh. Same 8 MHz 68000 CPU. Same case and mouse. Same 9" black-and-white display. The Plus had a keyboard with a numeric keypad, used double-sided disks, had a fast (for its day) SCSI interface for adding a hard drive, and was designed with memory expansion in mind, but the experience wasn't all that far removed from the original Macintosh.
Yes, those 8 MHz Macs were kind of poky, even once you added a hard drive. But they got the Graphical User Interface in the hands of users, creating the only alternative hardware platform from the 1980s to survive to the present day, which is still dominated by Microsoft's OS.
Kudos to Apple for making the GUI much more affordable in 1984 and changing the face of computing for the better.
Dan Bashur (Apple, Tech, and Gaming): The only thing I have to say is in retrospect-Ê since I was 7 years old when the first Mac arrived on the scene, not to mention that my family's first Mac was an LC. However, over the years I have learned to appreciate the earliest Macs for starting a revolution in home computing. That revolution would begin with the infamous 1984 commercial, and the aftershock still resonates today with everything that Apple has done and continues to do that changes how we master our digital world. I must mention that I am currently reading Steve Jobs' biography by Walter Isaacson. It has been an incredible journey thus far to see the humble beginnings of what would become the massive super-power of a company it is today - partly in thanks to the design, build quality, and simplistic engineering of the original Mac and the OS that accompanied it.
The original Macintosh was perhaps the turning point that slowly made Apple one of the most recognized brands on the planet. Despite the fact that cheaply built Windows PCs would dominate the market for quite some time, the blueprint that the original Mac laid out by creating a friendly (and much more stable) user interface would continue through Mac OS X and iOS and has changed the minds of millions of former skeptics and critics.
Jason Schrader (Maximize Your Mac):I vaguely remember getting our first Mac when I was 7 years old. What I do remember is playing Tri Fokker Airplanes. It was wire framed flight simulator. It truly was an amazing piece of technology. It was so much smaller than my friends parent's PCs, and it had an interface instead of typing commands. I remember making pictures using MacPaint (I actually have one of those drawing to this day). This was the first Mac I would ever use, and I have owned, I don't know, maybe 20 Macs since then. Computers have come a long way since then - and to think that I got to see the beginning of it. This will make a wonderful story for my daughter some day. "I remember when we had one button mice, um . . . well, a mouse is this sort of . . . ah nevermind."
Further Reading on the First Macintosh
- The Original Macintosh
- The Roots of the Mac OS
- 25 Years: The Macintosh Legacy
- The Overpriced Mac in 1984 compares pricing and value of early Macs to PCs of the era.
- 1984: The First Macs looks at the original 128K Mac and the 512K "Fat Mac" introduced later in the year.
- The First Macs: 1984 to 1986
- Lost Apple Designs from the 1980s shows some design concepts that could have been Macs.
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