In late 1984, I was getting a tour of my new high school that I would be attending in ’85. It was there that I first got a glimpse of the now famous Macintosh ’84 128K computer. If my memory serves me correctly, the school had just rolled out a school-wide program focused on computer science. I was only but one of hundreds of students who didn’t have a f#%cking clue about computing, but I was very willing to learn. Although I didn’t have the foresight to see that computing was the future (and look where we are now, it’s both a curse and triumph), I became an eager participate in ’85. The first thing that surprised to me was the ease of its start up, approximately some twenty seconds for booting. Next, I noticed how friendly the simple graphic user interface allowed us to interact and access folders. Wow, I thought! There is even a trash bin to throw things in and a moveable mouse, which made the task of using it far easier. Suddenly everything it seemed was only a click away. Desktop publishing, in particular, became a hobby of many aspiring students and teachers alike.
The impact of technology on people’s lives came largely into play during the Second War World. Significantly, it was led by the development of the jet engine, the atomic bomb and computers. The computer industry itself, went through dramatic changes in the 1950’s, with IBM leading the way. Early computers were large, very expensive and often linked to state or military purposes. However, by the 1980’s, computers became smaller, cheaper and more likely to be used by individuals. Most western governments around the world, by then too, had given up trying to control the industry. This led to smaller, more innovative companies, like Apple, to utilize the vacuum created by governments, to develop and sell computers for individuals.
The late 70’s produced the first prototypes of personal computers. Apple, in particular, were at the forefront of this development. It had even surprisingly dented the dominance of IBM who produced it’s first personal computer in 1981. Apple too, also had its fair share of setbacks, but on January 24, 1984, Apple and Steve Job’s wonder machine had truly arrived. Steve Jobs likened the original Macintosh – “as remarkable as the telephone.” It was marketed as a technological marvel that would now belong to everyone, not just ‘big brother’. If not, for its ground-breaking release during the ’84 Superbowl, one has to speculate whether it might have ended up in a rubbish heap rather than in the Computer History Museum in California. It is worth noting that the sixty seconds television commercial (directed by British film director Ridley Scott) that launched the ’84 Mac to America and the world is considered an advertising ‘masterpiece’. (The ad sees a heroine in defiance hurl a sledgehammer at the Big Brother screen in an attempt to save humanity from a conformist society set in a dystopian future.)
The Mac itself was hailed as arguably one of the first successful user-friendly personal computers produced with a great design and straightforward capabilities. It found success amongst private individuals, business and educators. I am no tech head, but even I know that by today’s standards, the original mac would be considered a dinosaur. After a short life span (discontinued in October 1985), the revolutionary mac would give way to improvements and changes. These changes were essential to keeping Apple in the game against giants like IBM and later Compaq.
By the way, writing this article was achieved by using my iMac, which like the original 128K Macintosh, is an all-in-one PC. To think that the original Mac had those capabilities, although somewhat limited, almost forty years ago is mind blowing.