USA Today: Apple’s ‘1984’ ad a watershed event; Mac ‘now a niche machine for graphics snobs’

“Apple Computer’s famous ‘1984’ commercial, which introduced the Macintosh, wasn’t the only computer ad that aired then. It’s just the only one that changed people’s lives – particularly people who already loved technology,” Kevin Maney reports for USA Today.

“‘It was like I had discovered gold,’ says Jon Staenberg, another venture capitalist. He was so pumped by the Mac back then, he went to work at Microsoft, which would try to replicate the heart of the Mac’s magic: its graphical user interface, known as a GUI (and pronounced ‘gooey’). That effort became Windows,’ Maney reports.

“Twenty Super Bowls later, many tech industry leaders say the ad and the first Mac played an inspiring role in their career paths. It was one of those rare bolts of lightning that can mobilize a generation in a particular field – the way John F. Kennedy’s call for a man on the moon motivated the aerospace crowd, or Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein rallied young journalists with their Watergate investigation,” Maney reports. “The Mac was definitely a breakthrough. It made computing simple for non-techies. Several Mac aficionados told me it compares with the first jet airliner, the Boeing 707, which revolutionized air transport and influenced the entire range of jets we fly today.”

Maney writes, “Makes sense, but somehow the scale seems too large. The Mac made computing truly personal. It made an inaccessible process human. It was, perhaps, more like the arrival of the telephone in an era when communications happened by Morse Code tapped over telegraph lines. Or the first Kodak camera in 1888, bringing photography to the masses at a time when the art required fragile equipment and harsh chemicals.”

“But Apple famously blew its chance to dominate computing. ‘Ironically, it’s now a niche machine for graphics snobs, and Windows is what ‘the rest of us’ use,’ says Tom Evslin, who developed software for the first Macs and now runs telecom company ITXC,’ Maney reports. “There are whole books and business school studies about why that happened. But Jeff Hawkins – whose wife worked at Apple in 1984, and who was influenced by the Mac when he created the Palm computer – traces the seed of the problem to that ‘1984’ ad.”

“‘The drones in the ‘1984’ ad (symbolize) the very business people that would soon determine the future of the PC industry,’ Hawkins says. ‘From the start, Apple alienated them,’ Maney reports.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: “Ironically, [the Mac is] now a niche machine for graphics snobs, and Windows is what ‘the rest of us’ use,” according to Tom Evslin who now runs telecom company ITXC. Tom’s bio page at ITXC’s website is here. Unfortunately, his email address seems to be unavailable. Perhaps you’d like to send him one of our T-shirts that is especially apropos for Tom, instead?


  1. Ironic that the article is in USA Today. The famous graphics that changed the look of newspapers all over the world were “Made on a Mac”. I know this to be true as I bought and read the very 1st issue of USA Today when it came out. The editor said as much.

  2. Gee, who would’ve guessed that my mother, a potter of modest means with a 10-year-old 12″ TV and dial-up internet, was secretly a caviar-and-champagne guzzling Gucci-set graphics snob?

    Fact is that mere months after replacing her 5th Wintel PC with an iMac she was mousing around like nobody’s business, had a website, and was maintaining her own client database. Not only that, but the peer-group tech support she had always relied on and feared losing became almost completely unnecessary.

    USA Today isn’t known as McPaper for nothing. Or, rather, it is known as McPaper for nothing, because nothing is exactly what it offers as nutritional value.

  3. I am designing a system for one middle sized company at the moment. It will be 100% Micro$oft free and will cost about 100 000� (hardware+software+licenses for one year).
    It will run comblete ERP/HR/CRM/SFA/POS-systems for that company under Os X. With Apple they can actually save nice amount of money every year and it it’s cheaper to buy than that size PC-system. I will post details about that in June when it will be running.

  4. “niche machine for graphics snobs”. Right. It’s also a platform for people who want a stable, virus-free, spyware-free, easy to use machine which just works. Oh – and don’t forget the “Unix snobs” who carry a powerbook instead of a PC w/Linux.

    People who run Windows are either conformists or clueless. I don’t want to be in either group.

  5. Long ago, Plato found the explanation for Microsoft;

    “…None of the gods love wisdom or desire to become wise, for they are wise already — nor if someone else is wise, do they love wisdom. Neither do the ignorant love wisdom or desire to become wise; for this is the grievous thing about ignorance, that those who are neither good nor beautiful nor sensible think they are good enough, and do not desire that which they do not think they are lacking…”
    – Plato, Symposium 203E-204A

  6. The only point that rang true in the article was the one about alienating the business crowd that would eventually run IT. Even though that 1984 depiction was true, those hopeless drones didn’t need to have it pointed out that they were hopeless drones. Now there is an ABA (anyone but Apple) attitude in big business that will be very difficult to overcome – not insurmountable, just difficult.

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