You might not immediately think of January 1984 as a period of sweeping change, but since that’s when we were introduced to both modern computing as we know it and blockbuster Super Bowl commercials, you probably should. We have one man to thank: Steve Jobs, of course.
On Jan. 24, Jobs introduced the Macintosh personal computer at a mega-event that provided a template for future Apple product launches. (However, Jobs wore a suit with a floppy green bow tie—the black turtleneck wasn’t yet a thing.) To the sounds of “Chariots of Fire,” Jobs pulled a Macintosh out of his bag and a microfloppy out of his pocket and turned the computer on.
The audience, accustomed to command prompts, was dazzled by the scroll of the word “Macintosh” across the screen. Developed underneath a pirate flag by a group of employees in Cupertino, the Macintosh was the first PC to bring a graphical user interface to the mainstream user. Its pull-down menus, windows, and icons were controlled by mouse. The 512-by-342-pixel resolution had been designed to mirror its printed output. Granted, the first Macintosh only offered a paltry 128 KB of memory and microfloppy storage, but it did feature a word processing program and a paint program. It was—accurately self-described—“insanely great.”
Apple's ground-breaking commercial
The world had been tipped off to the coming Macintosh revolution during the airing of Apple’s provocative Super Bowl commercial two days prior. “You’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984,” promised the commercial, which featured the interruption of an Orwellian assembly by a young woman with a sledgehammer. Directed by Ridley Scott, the Macintosh commercial marked a turning point in the world of advertising as well as a major advance in computing.
If you run across a 128K Macintosh, you probably won’t want to take this artifact apart, but know that inside its plastic enclosure you’ll find the engraved autographs of everyone on the original Mac team, including Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
Tech Time Warp is a weekly feature that looks back at interesting moments and milestones in tech history.