Apple launched Macintosh on January 24, 1984 and changed the world -- eventually

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in General Discussion edited January 24
At launch, the Macintosh was far from a hit, far from being affordable and even far from being completely workable. Yet, the that original model did succeed in forever changing computing not just for fans, but for the entire world.




"You've just seen some pictures of Macintosh," said Steve Jobs at the official launch of the Mac. He was on stage at the Flint Center in De Anza College, Cupertino, on Tuesday, January 24, 1984. "Now I'd like to show you Macintosh in person."






The Mac he unveiled looks little like today's machines. It had a small, monochrome monitor, blocky graphics and the kind of synthesized voice that you wouldn't even get in a toy now. Yet crucially, it also looked nothing like the computers of its time.

"Up until that moment," wrote Steven Levy of when he saw a preview of the Mac, "when one said a computer screen 'lit up,' some literary licence was required. By the end of the demonstration, I began to understand that these were things a computer should do. There was a better way."

Levy was one of the journalists who got an early demonstration when Apple previewed the Mac in October and November 1983. This was part of the company's dual-pronged aim of having everyone talking about the Mac at its launch but also everyone being able to get right away.

As well as briefing journalists, Apple was manufacturing the Mac and getting it into resellers. And there were videos. It's possible that an outside news agency or station decided to cover the Mac but what's more likely is that Apple itself made a series of videos as it does today. This Evolution of a Computer looks most like an early Electronic Press Kit.





There appear to have been around eight of these videos and in a later one, then-CEO John Sculley inadvertently reveals his entire attitude to computing. "With Macintosh we have put together an extremely well-coordinated, very powerful consumer marketing program to introduce this product," he says.

Bless. Compare him to someone else in these videos, someone you'll recognize immediately. "We're gambling on our vision. And we would rather do that than make 'me too' products. Let some other companies do that," said Steve Jobs.

Perhaps he would come to rue saying that when later Microsoft did exactly this with Windows and much later when Google did so with Android.

Yet if they were copiers, Jobs was not the original either. He did not invent the Macintosh, as much as he would regularly let people believe.

Jef Raskin

In fairness, the Mac we got that day in 1984 would not have been what it was without Jobs. It wouldn't have had a mouse, for a start. "I couldn't stand the mouse," Apple's Jef Raskin told Owen W. Linzmayer in Apple Confidential 2.0. "Jobs gets 100 percent credit for insisting that a mouse be on the Mac."

Raskin, however, gets 100 percent credit for starting the project, starting the basic ideas of what the machine would do, and for calling it Macintosh. He even gets credit for how the mouse turned out as despite his preference for a joystick, it was his work that resulted in the one-button model when others use two or three.

Talking to High Tech Heroes around 1987, Raskin explained that he had been was a regular at the Xerox PARC facility -- " I had an honorary beanbag chair [there]" -- long before Steve Jobs's fateful visit in late 1979.





"They had this three-button mouse and I couldn't keep track of which button was which. And so when I came to create the Macintosh project... I realized you could do all that you have to do with a one-button mouse. It took me a while to convince people that was possible."

Jef Raskin, who died in 2005, wasn't always precise in his telling of how the Macintosh came to be but in either Spring or September of 1979, he was talking with Apple chairman Mike Markkula. Either Raskin straight-out pitched the idea for Macintosh or he first turned down Markkula's request that he work on a game machine.

Whichever it was, he says in that High Tech Heroes interview that he had been thinking about the future of Apple.

"The projects that were in the works were the Apple III and the Lisa. I [told Markkula that] I thought the Apple III didn't have the technical pizazz to take us to the future... and the Lisa was going to be overpriced and too slow. So I proposed a thing which I called Macintosh."

Apple V

Even though the company was then working on the Apple III, Raskin considered the name Macintosh to be just a code one and that the final machine would be called the Apple V. It was to be a simpler machine than previous Apple computers, or at least it was in terms of how easy it was to use.

"There were to be no peripheral slots so that customers never had to see the inside of the machine," he said. He proposed an all-in-one machine that had bitmapped graphics -- so that the screen could show any image, not just DOS-like characters - and he planned to make it sell for $500. That's the equivalent today of $1,208, which is a little more than the cost of a six-core Mac mini.

Raskin also imagined the machine would be out by Christmas 1981. Instead, it launched in January 1984 and went on sale for $2,495 or $6,000 in today's money. That's about the cost of a 10-core iMac Pro at the moment.

What happened in between

Steve Jobs happened. And then John Sculley happened. Having originally disregarded the Mac project as unimportant, Steve Jobs changed his mind when he was removed from the Apple Lisa project.

One of the reasons he was removed was that he had now visited Xerox PARC and had been pushing to change the Lisa to be more like the machines he'd seen there. He still had that in mind and Macintosh was this little project nobody on Apple's board seemed to care about, so they found each other.

It was late 1980 or early 1981 when Jobs really took over the Mac project -- and then steadily cut Raskin out until the Mac's creator resigned in March 1982.

Without question, it is unfair that Raskin fails to get credit for the Macintosh and it is undoubtedly true that Jobs didn't deserve it. However, Raskin did get another chance to put his ideas into practice and he created the Canon CAT.

Ad for the Canon Cat (Source: Archive.org)
Ad for the Canon Cat (Source: Archive.org)


The CAT was a failure where the Mac was this giant success.

Eventually.

What happened afterwards

The launch of the Macintosh was a giant success in terms of marketing and publicity, so perhaps Sculley was right. It was not, initially, much of a hit in terms of being a visionary product because all it had was vision. You couldn't do a lot with the original Macintosh, so maybe Jobs was wrong.

Both men, though, pushed the price up. Jobs by demanding higher specifications and then Sculley by spending $78m ($188m today) on marketing and trying to recoup that as fast as possible.

So the original Mac that launched on January 24, 1984 was a lumbering and very costly machine. Even so, it transformed the computing industry and ultimately it actually, genuinely did change the world.

You can trace the history of the screen you're reading this on all the way back to the very first Macintosh. And on that screen of yours, you can watch something else from the introduction of the Mac.

The Apple of 1984 and the Apple that created the Macintosh also created one of the most famous adverts of them all. It had aired on TV during the Super Bowl two days before and Jobs screened it again as part of the launch.





Since those days, and surely because of what the Mac started, television is no longer the screen that everybody watches the most. Today we're more likely to be online, too, and it was of course here that Tim Cook chose to celebrate the Mac's anniversary.

Tim Cook tweets about the Mac's 35th anniversary in 2019
Tim Cook tweets about the Mac's 35th anniversary in 2019







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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    nhtnht Posts: 4,487member
    Raskin’s original vision of the Mac sucked.  It would have been text based with no mouse and no GUI.  

    The Canon CAT was his vision and lacked GUI and mouse.  He may have been to Xerox PARC first but completely rejected everything they learned.  

    The one button mouse was obviously the wrong choice given that everyone can keep track of what two buttons do...IF it was his contribution, and some folks dispute that, it was another poor one.

    Raskin also had a tendency to “embellish” his accomplishments.  He, as Andy once commented, was NOT the father of the mac but it’s strange uncle...one with a nearsighted  vision of where computing would go.

    He’s another example of an engineer under Jobs that did well at Apple and never did anything really relevant again after...and IMHO his primary contribution to the Max was hiring Atkinson and promoting Hertzfeld from service to development.
    Soliradarthekatronncharlesatlasraulcristianwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 2 of 24
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,818member
    I ordered a Mac 128 about three weeks after the initial release, along with the color printer. Later upgraded that machine to the 512K motherboard, and when available, added the external floppy drive, all of which made the Mac much more usable.

    After 35 years, I still see the same basic interface that I saw the first time that I turned on that 128k Mac, albeit much refined and performant today.

    The only other exciting machine of that time was the Amiga, though I never considered it was a variety of reasons.
     



    radarthekatronnmobirdraulcristianwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 3 of 24
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,751member
    Hmm, where IS that new iMac we are all waiting for?

    hmm, I must have been about nine months behind you Tmay. Daleks rule!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 24
    Seems like the “eventually” part is the thing that all the “if Steve Jobs was still alive” people don’t want to remember. There really weren’t any instant successes in Apple’s history. It’s almost always a new thing that gets incremental upgrades until it becomes the brilliant thing everybody thinks it was in the first place. 

    Then we forget all that, and when we watch it happening again in real time, It’s all “Apple is doomed, Tim Cook is an idiot, and if Steve Jobs were alive, we’d have an instant success every six months!”
    radarthekatronnStrangeDayswatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 24
    yolayola Posts: 6member
    35 yrs ago I wasn't even a teen yet but I distinctly & clearly remember the commercial and the word Hello on the computer..that stuck with me. And then the commercial..to date, imo, one of THE best!
    radarthekatronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 24
    I don't remember it when it was released, but I do remember the affect it had on the Apple II line. My first Apple Computer was an Apple IIGS (which was release a few years later). To me, it felt like Mac fractured Apple as a company. The IIGS had a Mac like Desktop (when that program was loaded), so I didn't see why they went with the Mac (no backward compatibility). To a kid, it felt like a betrayal.
  • Reply 7 of 24
    But, the real story is the Lisa, without Lisa, there would be no Mac. The Macintosh was a revamped Lisa...Lisa was $10,000.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 24
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,635administrator
    benji888 said:
    But, the real story is the Lisa, without Lisa, there would be no Mac. The Macintosh was a revamped Lisa...Lisa was $10,000.
    Today is not the anniversary of the Lisa.

    We'll be talking more about the Lisa later in the year.
    mobirdwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 24
    mobirdmobird Posts: 184member
    I was a Apple II owner/user at the time that the Apple Mac 128 was released. I saw it and had to have one. My friend was the manager of a retail computer store that was an authorized Apple and IBM dealer. I got that Mac 128 at just above dealer cost along with a ImageWriter printer! 


    JWSCraulcristianwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 24
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,295member
    Seems like yesterday!  It was tough going at first but then in the November of that year, we had a ton of them delivered for the "Test Drive a Macintosh" campaign which went very well.  Our clients could take a Mac home for the night.  Many 'tests' converted to sales even though the buyers had no actual use or need, they were just so damn cool.

    November 8, 1984

    StrangeDaysraulcristianwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 24
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,448member
    MacPro said:
    Seems like yesterday!  It was tough going at first but then in the November of that year, we had a ton of them delivered for the "Test Drive a Macintosh" campaign which went very well.  Our clients could take a Mac home for the night.  Many 'tests' converted to sales even though the buyers had no actual use or need, they were just so damn cool.

    November 8, 1984

    We’re those 128K or 512K Macs?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 24
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 444member
    tmay said:
    I ordered a Mac 128 about three weeks after the initial release, along with the color printer. Later upgraded that machine to the 512K motherboard, and when available, added the external floppy drive, all of which made the Mac much more usable.

    After 35 years, I still see the same basic interface that I saw the first time that I turned on that 128k Mac, albeit much refined and performant today.

    The only other exciting machine of that time was the Amiga, though I never considered it was a variety of reasons.
     



    I did exactly the same when I was at university. Bought the 128K then upgraded to 512K.  Those where the days.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 24
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,295member
    mac_128 said:
    MacPro said:
    Seems like yesterday!  It was tough going at first but then in the November of that year, we had a ton of them delivered for the "Test Drive a Macintosh" campaign which went very well.  Our clients could take a Mac home for the night.  Many 'tests' converted to sales even though the buyers had no actual use or need, they were just so damn cool.

    November 8, 1984

    We’re those 128K or 512K Macs?
    It is all a bit fuzzy but the 128 was released in September and this campaign in November was no doubt to bolster its sales after the lackluster sales of the original Mac.  We were still shifting lots of Apple ][s, Apple ///s and several Lisas at that point.
    edited January 24 watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 24
    IanSIanS Posts: 32member
    I bought a Mac 128 and ImageWriter in my last year of high school. I had no complaints at all, it got me through English that year and was a great help with many assignments. It was a vast improvement over the VIC 20s and Commodore 64s my friends had and the Commodore Pets my school had. Or the Unisys ICONs that they got before I left school, you can look that one up on Wikipedia.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 24
    Still have my copy of BYTE magazine on the shelf that has the Mac on the cover. That was a chaotic yet exciting time in personal computing, so unlike today when computers and even smartphones have become everyday commodities.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 24
    benji888 said:
    But, the real story is the Lisa, without Lisa, there would be no Mac. The Macintosh was a revamped Lisa...Lisa was $10,000.
    Not really, no. Two different products, two different markets, two different teams. Jobs encouraged competition between them, as leader of the Mac team.

    https://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=And_Another_Thing....txt&sortOrder=Sort+by+Date&topic=Lisa

    https://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=Square_Dots.txt&sortOrder=Sort+by+Date&topic=Lisa

    https://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=I_Dont_Have_a_Computer!.txt&sortOrder=Sort+by+Date&topic=Lisa



    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 24
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,448member
    MacPro said:
    mac_128 said:
    MacPro said:
    Seems like yesterday!  It was tough going at first but then in the November of that year, we had a ton of them delivered for the "Test Drive a Macintosh" campaign which went very well.  Our clients could take a Mac home for the night.  Many 'tests' converted to sales even though the buyers had no actual use or need, they were just so damn cool.

    November 8, 1984

    We’re those 128K or 512K Macs?
    It is all a bit fuzzy but the 128 was released in September and this campaign in November was no doubt to bolster its sales after the lackluster sales of the original Mac.  We were still shifting lots of Apple ][s, Apple ///s and several Lisas at that point.
    I think you mean the 512K was released in September. I seem to recall reading it was the 512K which was really needed to re-launch the Macintosh to the public for that campaign. The 128K just simply didn't have enough memory to use with one 400K disk, and most weren't buying the external drive at the $2500 price point. That extra RAM allowed the entire application programs to be held in memory along with large documents and files, not to mention actual multi-tasking. I think by the time the 512K was released, the Lisa 2 was already using the Macintosh emulator too, followed shortly by the Lisa being rebranded Macintosh XL. Those must have been interesting times to be in that business. Do tell -- how many Apple ///s did you personally repair by dropping it on the floor? Ha
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 24
    nhtnht Posts: 4,487member
    AppleZulu said:
    Seems like the “eventually” part is the thing that all the “if Steve Jobs was still alive” people don’t want to remember. There really weren’t any instant successes in Apple’s history. It’s almost always a new thing that gets incremental upgrades until it becomes the brilliant thing everybody thinks it was in the first place. 

    Then we forget all that, and when we watch it happening again in real time, It’s all “Apple is doomed, Tim Cook is an idiot, and if Steve Jobs were alive, we’d have an instant success every six months!”
    Eventually may be a given but not in any sort of good timeframe.  Take for example the stirrup...something completely obvious in hindsight but humans have been riding horses since 4500BC and the stirrup on a treed saddle didn't appear until somewhere between 206BC and 302 AD in China.  It didn't make it to Europe until 6th century AD.

    Without Jobs and the Mac we could have been using ever better versions of command line interfaces and textual user interfaces (curses) for a couple more decades.  That a GUI is obvious hindsight ignores that if the Lisa and Xerox had been the only early examples and market failures its possible IBM PCs and Unix wouldn't have moved to GUIs.

    Likewise full screen smartphones are "obvious" in hindsight but without Jobs and the iPhone we would have been treated to ever better versions of the blackberry and stylus based UIs.

    Jobs was unique in that he jumpstarted two major computer interface paradigm shifts.  Three if you count voice interaction with virtual assistants which we probably should.

    He didn't just skate to where the puck would be but knocked it in that direction when everyone else wanted it to go somewhere else.


    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 24
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,448member

    benji888 said:
    But, the real story is the Lisa, without Lisa, there would be no Mac. The Macintosh was a revamped Lisa...Lisa was $10,000.
    The reality is that the Lisa would have likely been the Mac had Jobs not been forced off the team. It's of course infamously allegedly named Lisa after his daughter. Jobs started that project, and only turned his attention to the Mac as a competitor after he was ousted whilst looking for something else to do. For all practical purposes, the Lisa was the Mac, and the Mac is the Lisa 2.0 -- it's a direct evolution. Only the marketing of the product was different, until they buried the Lisa in a landfill in Utah, and introduced the Mac Plus as a replacement business computer boasting similar features.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 24
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,295member
    mac_128 said:
    MacPro said:
    mac_128 said:
    MacPro said:
    Seems like yesterday!  It was tough going at first but then in the November of that year, we had a ton of them delivered for the "Test Drive a Macintosh" campaign which went very well.  Our clients could take a Mac home for the night.  Many 'tests' converted to sales even though the buyers had no actual use or need, they were just so damn cool.

    November 8, 1984

    We’re those 128K or 512K Macs?
    It is all a bit fuzzy but the 128 was released in September and this campaign in November was no doubt to bolster its sales after the lackluster sales of the original Mac.  We were still shifting lots of Apple ][s, Apple ///s and several Lisas at that point.
    I think you mean the 512K was released in September. I seem to recall reading it was the 512K which was really needed to re-launch the Macintosh to the public for that campaign. The 128K just simply didn't have enough memory to use with one 400K disk, and most weren't buying the external drive at the $2500 price point. That extra RAM allowed the entire application programs to be held in memory along with large documents and files, not to mention actual multi-tasking. I think by the time the 512K was released, the Lisa 2 was already using the Macintosh emulator too, followed shortly by the Lisa being rebranded Macintosh XL. Those must have been interesting times to be in that business. Do tell -- how many Apple ///s did you personally repair by dropping it on the floor? Ha
    None thankfully but those Lisas were a slipped disk waiting to happen!  Yep, the 512k you are right but they also released a revised 128k same time according to Wikipedia.

    It was an unbelievably fascinating time to have owned Apple dealerships for sure.  A few years later we were into the DTP era and the roof came off.
    watto_cobra
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