Apple’s Macintosh introduced 21 years ago today

On January 24, 1984, 21 years ago today, Apple announced the Macintosh to their Board of Directors and to the world. Apple-history.com writes, “The Macintosh was the first affordable computer to include a Graphical User Interface. It was built around the new Motorola 68000 chip, which was significantly faster than previous processors, running at 8 MHz. The Mac came in a small beige case with a black and white monitor built in. It came with a keyboard and mouse, and had a floppy drive that took 400k 3.5″ disks–the first personal computer to do so. It originally sold for $2,495.”

Two days prior on January 22, 1984 during the Super Bowl, Apple ran their famous “1984” commercial. The voice-over intoned:

“Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology. Where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!”

At that moment, the shocked masses saw the hammer fly through the screen. Then millions saw these words and heard them spoken aloud:

“On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’”

In June 1999, TV Guide ran a cover story on the “50 Greatest Commercials of All Time.” Apple’s “1984” ad was #1 on the list. TV Guide wrote:

“With a single airing during Super Bowl XVIII, ‘1984’ did more to change the way ads are created and viewed than any commercial in years. It was not the most heartwarming spot nor a big laugh getter, but it turned a little-known brand into a household name and set a new commercial standard for production values and cinematic style. ‘1984’ also raised the financial stakes: Apple spent a then-outlandish sum of $400,000 to produce the ad and $500,000 to air it; 15 years later, a minute of Super Bowl time costs $3.2 million. Lee Clow, then executive creative director of Chiat/Day, recalls that ‘1984’ almost debuted during a lowlier college bowl game. ‘We had to make a last-minute switch to the Super Bowl because Apple wanted to air the ad closer to the date when the product would actually be available for sale,’ he says. ‘Funny how something that simple could have changed a big piece of advertising history.”

See Apple’s “1984” ad here.

23 Comments

  1. And I’m looking at mine right now. It’s sitting on a shelf in my office.
    I bought one of the first ones in 1984.

    Still works too!!

    Macs cannot be killed with conventional weapons…

    David Vesey

  2. I bought an early one. Great as it was, it was no business machine. I wonder how the Lisa would have done if it hadn’t been priced as an insanely great machine.

    Happy birthday.

  3. Less is More:

    You can’t get away with a zinger like that and then just walk away. Why wasn’t it a business machine? Was the fact that it networked out of the box against it? High quality printing? Excel? Word? Compact, desk sized shape? Easy to use? What?

  4. I was a Creative Director for a ‘Multi-Media Company’, which meant slides , video, etc.

    I’d bring it in to work in it’s little case and do word processing, budgets, story boards (I can’t draw), set design.

    It really needed that external floppy, but for me what it did out of the box WAS business.

    Within two years I had spent about $6000 what with hardware and memory upgrades, printer ($500 right? or $400?). I was on Compuserve with my $500 modem.

    Yes, I remember it well.

    The Mac was a great leap forward and clearly the future.

    Makes me laugh when I hear kids talk about ‘expensive’ computers that cost over $2000.

    David Vesey

  5. I bought an original Macintosh in April of 1984. With an extra external floppy drive, and a dot matrix printer, it cost $3500. A few years later, my Apple LaserWriter cost $4500.

    And now, 20 years later, the mini Mac is $500. Oh how times change!

  6. I was 14 when we got our first Mac in April 1984. Before that we had a Apple IIc, and I spent hours on it, playing games like Castle Wolfenstein, and text based adventures like The Count (imagine a game without graphics today!). Believe it or not, when my Dad first set the Mac up, I didn’t like it! I was used to Basic. The GUI seemed so strange! But as a kid who spent most of his free time drawing, once I got to play with MacPaint for awhile I was hooked. I hardly ever played games (until Dark Castle came out for the Mac) and spent most of my time time drawing, and then printing on our $4,000 (!) Epson dot matrix printer. I’ve been a Graphic Designer/Art Director for 15 years (hard to believe but when I graduated from college in 1993 they still weren’t teaching commercial art with computers yet), and I owe everything I am and have today to the Macintosh. Happy Birthday Mac!

  7. I mentioned on another thread here that i pulled out my old Mac Plus. I can’t fix the ‘N’ key, but I can have a little fun with it. It’s kind of nice reminicing about the old days of computing.

  8. Congratulations to the Macintosh team and to those of you who were early adoptors in 1984, who helped make the platform a success. Thank-you.

    I consider myself a medium adoptor (buying my first Mac in 1990), but I had wanted one when I first saw them, then thought they were a toy for a while, then looked into them again a bit later and borrowed $4000 (Australian) to buy one when a sale was one. I bought one of the final SE’s available with 4Mb RAM and a 100Mb HDD – the Classic came out not long afterwards at a cheaper price, but the SE was better in many ways.

    I wonder tho, the Mac has had its ups and downs and I think many of us have struggled with our allegiance over the years, especially during the early days of Windows when so much was ripped off. Using Windows was like watching a half-baked sequel to a blockbuster movie – kinda tries hard to be like the original but fails miserably in most respects. Oh the humiliation we all receive(d) at the hands of IBM PC/MS-DOS and Generic PC/Windows users!

    It’s been a tough ride, and lately we have been rewarded with the knowledge that our platform of choice is still the best one available.

    “We shall prevail” – never a truer sentence spoken!

    Happy Birthday to the Mac!

  9. [Nostalgia warning]

    I recall the original Mac 128. I remember being blown away the first day I saw one in person, with MacPaint and MacWrite. I knew I wanted to buy a home computer, but I had no desire to buy an Apple II or IBM (or — especially — Trash 80 from Radio Shack), because I wanted my children (8 and 5) to be able to use a computer. This was perfect, I thought.

    My department (Mathematics & Computer Science) had a big argument. We wanted to get some PCs to serve as smart terminals, for the times when the campus Prime computer network failed. Some wanted to get the IBM. Others the Mac. The big argument for the Mac was that it was $1500 CHEAPER than the IBM. Money finally won the day and we got four Macs plus an ImageWriter I. And a box of ten Apple 400KB floppy disks (which retailed for $54.00).

    That’s when I discovered how unusable the machine was with only 128 KB of memory. So I waited until the so-called Fat Mac came out, with its 512 KB of memory. I bought one for Christmas 1984, together with an ImageWriter 1 and a serial hard disk drive, 5 MB capacity, for a total of $5000. The hard drive was on sale at $1500, down from $2000.

    My family entered Mac heaven. My son, before he could read, became a whiz at MacPaint, using the menu initial letters to print or turn on “mirror,” his favorite option. It’s hard to realize today how amazing it was that a pre-reader could use a computer back then. That more than validated that expensive purchase.

    That Fat Mac became a Mac Plus in two upgrades. We realized we had a queue, so we added a Mac II when it came out with a B&W monitor because we had to wait to install enough memory on the graphics card to do 256 colors. Then a Mac IIx, then a stream of Macs, probably twenty-five in all. My grown-up offspring use Macs, including their spouses and partners. My sister started her Mac life with the ancient Mac Plus I gave her. Bunches of my friends have switched the easy way as I offloaded really old computers on them. (I recently gave away the two original Bondi-blue iMacs I bought when they first came out, both now running OS X.)

    A life I could not imagine without that hammer throw twenty-one years ago.

    [End nostalgia warning]

    Meanwhile, where are the iMac G5 and Mac mini ads?

  10. We (Byte Shop) got the same kind of introduction up in Seattle from a trainer named Ron.

    We were in a darkened hotel conference room and this Ron guy, dressed in a kilt was roller skating back and forth behind the podium. He had a “bag” over his shoulder. After he was introduced, he comes up on the stage and pulls the Mac out and starts his spiel. Needless to say our minds were boggled.

    Our red head sales rep and I looked at each other and at the same time said “We Be Mac’n now”. Both had the same thought and expressed it the same way at the same time. It was weird.

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