The Age: Apple’s ‘Macintosh has done the most to spread graphics into mainstream’

“The Macintosh has arguably done the most to spread graphics into mainstream business. Although eschewed by the bulk of businesses in favour of the inferior DOS PC from IBM and Microsoft, the Macintosh became the mid-’80s playground in which Microsoft built the new graphical software that became the dominant way to work,” Nathan Cochrane writes for The Age.

“For instance, two-thirds of the software spine of the popular Microsoft Office suite – Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint – began life on the Macintosh before being ported to Microsoft’s native DOS/Windows operating system. Microsoft Word for DOS was released in 1983 but struggled against WordStar and WordPerfect, the dominant non-graphical word processors of the day. It was not until Word made the switch to the Mac, and later to Windows, while WordPerfect and WordStar clung to non-WYSIWYG text editing, that Microsoft’s product gained the ascendancy,” Cochrane writes.

“Microsoft, riding IBM’s coat-tails into businesses across the world, delivered the first mass-produced graphical business desktop, Windows 1.0, in November 1985, much to the chagrin of Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, who over the next few years launched civil proceedings against several companies, including Digital Research and Microsoft, for alleged violation of Apple’s copyrights,” Cochrane writes. “Despite the legal sideshow, GUIs spurred greater interest in graphics, faster hardware, colour, and the software that rode upon them. Popular computers of the day, including the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST, used GUIs to communicate a new series of software applications to a growing number of first-time and largely technically illiterate users.”

“About the time of Microsoft’s Windows, Apple defined the desktop publishing mini-revolution – for the first time, newsletters and magazines could be wholly created, with graphics alongside text, on a computer,’ Cochrane writes. Apple’s desktop system became the lightning rod, collecting innovative energy from two companies: Aldus, which invented the PageMaker software, allowing designers to place graphical objects or ‘clip art’, with text, onto a page displayed on the screen; and Adobe, which produced Postscript, a way to define how that page would be processed inside the computer system’s memory and ultimately printed.”

Full article here.


  1. My home paper. They got G5s in their art & pre-press department & they wrote they are awesome. Their bottle-neck now is their scanners not their computers.

  2. I remember working at the Bronx Museum of the Arts as the main computer guy. It was hard convincing them not to print out the layouts and physically cut them onto a board. I was trying to make them understand that it all could be done on the computer. I’ve since left. I’m guessing they put away their paste up knives by now.

  3. Johhn, looks like you meant that OS X will “spur” or “spawn” a new round of innovation on the PC side. To “spurn” would be to reject. Your combination of the two words made your post say the opposite of what you really wanted to say, I think.

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