Thirty-five years ago today, Steve Jobs introduced the all new Macintosh computer to the world. It happened at Flint Center in De Anza College, Cupertino, California and while the original Mac was not the huge hit that had been hoped, it did set the direction for computer design.
When it was launched, the Macintosh was far from affordable. It was priced at $2,495 which at the time was an eye watering cost. Keep in mind that the average US income in 1984 was just shy of $28,000 per year so the Mac was nearly 10% of that annual income. It was also not really complete. It worked but there were scarcely any apps available for it and those that were available were expensive.
The launch of the Macintosh was also at an interesting time within Apple. Essentially, the entire project was a skunks work project being led up by Jobs as Apple, then under the leadership of John Sculley, was focused on developing the Apple III. In many ways, the company which seems so rock solid today in when it comes to self identity, was struggling with this in the early 80s. Jobs, frustrated by where the company was going and the insistence of an iteration of what the company already had in the Apple II series, began working on the Macintosh with a hand picked team. Apple, feeling that Jobs was more of a distraction than a help, basically let him do it.
There is little argument that the Macintosh was not a huge commercial success. It had marginal sales and Apple spent millions in marketing that they never really recouped. The shining moment in this however was the now famous 1984 commercial that broadcasted just once during the Super Bowl. That advert caused a spike in sales but nothing long lasting.
What can be argued however is the long term impact of the Macintosh design and its impact on personal computing. The team that built it was all about customer functionality and ease of use. It had a mouse. It has a GUI (Graphical User Interface). It had a keyboard that was detachable, and it was in many ways portable. All of these were game changing events in the history of personal computing.
As I write this on my 2017 MacBook Pro, in many ways, I have the original Macintosh to thank for the simplicity yet elegant design of this laptop. Yes they are miles apart technically and functionally, but the lineage is there to see.
Happy Birthday Macintosh.