20 ways Apple’s revolutionary, astonishing Mac changed everything

“On January 24, 1984, at the Flint Center on De Anza College’s campus in Cupertino, California, Apple formally announced the Macintosh at its shareholder meeting, in front an audience so packed that large numbers of people who owned Apple stock couldn’t get in at all,” Harry McCracken writes for TIME Magazine. “[Below is] a video of the entire event, complete with an introduction by then-CEO John Sculley apologizing to the shareholders who were stuck outside.”

“The Mac was the first successful computer with a graphical user interface, a mouse and the ability to show you what a printed document would look like before you printed it. As the computer turns 30, it’s tempting to celebrate simply by remembering how profoundly its debut changed personal computing,” McCracken writes. “But as I think about the anniversary, I’m at least as impressed by two other facts about the Mac: 1) It’s actually existed for 30 years; 2) More important, it’s mattered for 30 years… the Mac is the only personal computer with a 30-year history. Other than Apple itself, the leading computer companies of 1984 included names such as Atari, Commodore, Compaq, Kaypro and Radio Shack — all of which have since either left the PC business or vanished altogether. Even IBM, personified as the evil Big Brother-like overlord in the Mac’s legendary ‘1984’ commercial, bailed on the PC industry in 2004. That the Mac has not only survived but thrived is astonishing.”

“Technically, the Macs of today are actually based on operating-system software that originated with the computers made by NeXT, the company Steve Jobs founded after being ousted from Apple in 1985 and then sold to it in 1996. Philosophically, aesthetically and spiritually, though, they’re very much descendants of the original 1984 Mac,” McCracken writes. “The same things Apple cared about then — approachability, integration of software and hardware, a willingness to do fewer things but do them better — it cares about today. It’s always just tried to build the best, most Apple-esque personal computers it could with the technology available to it at the time.”

MacDailyNews Note: In the video below, the standing O and Steve struggling to keep his composure starts at 47:30.

“And if you trace the history of the Mac from 1984 to 2014, you keep coming up with ways the platform influenced the rest of the industry — yes, even during the scary period during the mid-1990s when the company flirted with financial disaster,” McCracken writes. “So for this list, I’m skipping the reasons why the Mac mattered in 1984. Here’s why it’s never stopped being the world’s most influential personal computer.”

Read about 20 ways Apple’s revolutionary, astonishing Mac changed everything here.

Related articles:
Apple invites website visitors to celebrate 30 years of Macintosh – January 24, 2014
Happy 30th Birthday, Apple Macintosh! – January 24, 2014


  1. Pretty good article. Not too long and worth the read. So many design aspects that the general public now take for granted have their roots in Apple history. And several of the major consumer electronics product categories today are defined by the design characteristics that Apple developed for the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Air.

  2. So much for the abridged version of how the Mac has changed everything. Other noteworthy introductions:
    *Internal 3.5″ disk drive
    *Internal HDD [obvious HyperDrive influence]
    *Introduced USB connection [ displaced RS-232, DB25, DB9, ADB & parallel connections]
    *WiFi [displaced modem RJ11 & network connector RJ45]
    *Fax Modem functionality introduced, then displaced to USB dongle use.
    *FireWire use introduction and adoption by an ancillary industry.
    *Cut/Copy/Paste done right

  3. Watching the original Mac TV ads shown from about 50:00 on it is striking how the little general style of Apple product release ads has changed…focus on what the product looks like and what it actually does. A clean white background. Super closeups. That is how a brand is built. Consistency of look and feel in the marketing materials that support a consistently excellent product line. Those ads were 30 years ago and yet the look isn’t a whole lot different from the recent ad pulling the iPad out of a manilla envelop. I say this in admiration; Apple ads (and products) have a look and feel others want to copy but can never pull off.

  4. First computer I ever owned was a Macintosh 128k that I purchased through a local PC shop in Lincoln Nebraska, for $1500. (Running Mac OS 1.0). I knew virtually nothing about “personal” computers, but was using mainframes and micro computers on a daily basis at work. The 128k was purchased so that I could interface with the first Roland keyboard with built-in MIDI, the Juno-106. I purchased the MIDI computer interface from the late-great Paul Lehr, for $50. Six months later, through the same PC shop, I upgraded to a Mac Plus. All of that happened during the winter of 1985-1986, I had just graduated from college. The first time my medical student-younger-brother saw my Mac Plus his response was, ” I knew using computers could be like this.”

    Today I am blessed with an iPhone 5S, an iPad Mini Retina and Mac Mini ( looking forward to the Haswells). At work, a 2010 Mac Pro and a brand new Mac Pro, 12 core, 1TB, 64GB RAM, on the way – hopefully before March.

    Happy Birthday Apple Macintosh, thanks for making my life a lot richer, more productive, and way more fun – in that order.

  5. To the point mentioned above re Cut/Copy/Paste done right…

    Apple set the standard for, well… keyboard standardization.

    Programs had their own way of doing things (remember keyboard templates?) before the Mac but Apple’s User Interface/Guide lead the way.

  6. If you had ever used an Alto, you wouldn’t be able to honestly say that. There were significant differences from, and extensions to, the Mac GUI compared to PARC’s Alto and Star.

    Sure there were similarities, just as PARC’s UI work benefitted from Englebart’s work at SRI, as he benefitted from earlier work by people like Ivan Sutherland and others.

    Apple, unlike all those who preceded them, actually developed and shipped products to a general consumer audience. The not-shipping part, as it happens, is what lead several major players to leave PARC and work at Apple, where their work would see the light of day.

    And it would be difficult to argue convincingly that MacOS didn’t have a huge impact on UI design for most later operating systems, from enterprise unix on down to handheld devices.

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