On this day in 1984 the Apple Macintosh launched.
During Super Bowl XVIII, a dystopian ad, based on George Orwell’s 1984, and directed by Ridley Scott, director of the films Alien and Bladerunner, aired for 60 seconds.
The dark stage of the TV ad featured grey monotonous people filing in to watch a huge screening of an Orwellian Big Brother, whilst a colourful, athletic woman, wielding a hammer, ran towards the projected image in front of the audience. Pursued by faceless authoritarian law enforcers, the woman reached the auditorium and swung the hammer, in Olympian style, straight toward the screen. Just as Big Brother said “We will prevail…” the great hammer struck the screen in a blaze of light.
Text rolled up the screen, with the message echoed by a new narrator…
On January 24th
Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh.
And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like “1984”
The Apple Macintosh was the first all-in-one desktop computer with a graphical user interface (GUI), a built-in screen, and a mouse. The idea was that it would challenge the dominance of the IBM computer and its corporate conformity.
Of course, it was still a beige plastic box, with only a black-and-white 9” CRT screen, but it was the machine that was credited with kickstarting the desktop publishing era.
The Macintosh Era
The Apple Macintosh soon became the Macintosh 128K and really was revolutionary. Sales were good but, like all computers of the time, quickly became outdated. However, “the cult of Mac” was born, as “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” author Douglas Adams said, it wasn’t the best machine in the world, but the brand was inspiring.
With the Macintosh 512K and an external floppy disc drive, sales picked up again. Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple to form NeXT Computer Inc, in 1985.
In 1987 the Macintosh II came about, with full-colour graphics, but it was still a beige box and the IBM PC still dominated the personal computing world. Even with the hugely clunky Macintosh Portable, an early “laptop” computer, and later PowerBook 100, the Macintosh was still not “sexy”. Microsoft’s Windows 95 and NT took their foothold.
Enter the iMac
Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1997. That was probably the year I first used the Macintosh. I was a graphics & design student, still studying typography, photography, and other traditional methods of production. Seeing the world wide web come about, we were keen to computerise, so we forced the syllabus to introduce us to the Macintosh.
But in 1998 the incredible iMac G3 burst onto the scene. Our old grey towers and desktops were blown away by the all-in-one unit with a colourful, semi-translucent case, still housing a CRT as well as the hard drive etc. This was British industrial designer Jonathan Ive’s brainchild as Apple’s Chief Design Officer.
I nearly had an iMac. I was quite partial to the green one, or the purple one. (There was a great blue version, and a vivid orange case too). However, something drew me to the IBM PC and I became a Windows guy, designing on Corel Draw and Photo Paint for the next few years. Our designers were all Mac users back then, they were the Apple aficionados.
But that colourful iMac brought the Apple Computer to people’s homes. It truly was a thing of beauty.
The iMac G4 followed in 2002. That was the first one with an LCD screen, perched atop a domed unit housing the rest of the hardware.
And then in 2004, exactly 20 years after the birth of the Mac, and 20 years ago from now, the form factor started to stabilise. The Mac became a single LCD unit mounted on a sturdy stand. It was still a beautiful gloss white polycarbonate unit, but that was roughly how the Mac would look for the next 20 years.
In 2007 we finally got our aluminium bodied Macs. I used one myself from 2014-2015 and our designers had theirs until last year.
Sine then we’ve had Mac Minis, the Mac Pro “trash can”, and the ubiquitous Mac Book and Mac Book Air.
Of course, hardware aside, the Mac has been the mainstay of graphic design for many years now. With Adobe Photoshop onboard, the Mac is the number one choice of nearly all the designers I’ve known. Very rarely have I met a Windows creative, but they do exist.
That’s 40 years of Apple Macintosh. So Happy birthday to you, you brilliant family of graphic design tools.