Macintosh At 30: Interesting, Profound And Curious Things Said About The Mac

Posted: Jan 24 2014, 7:00am CST | by


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Macintosh At 30: Interesting, Profound And Curious Things Said About the Mac
Photo Credit: Forbes

“Hello, I’m Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I’d like to share with you a maxim I thought of the first time I met an IBM mainframe: NEVER TRUST A COMPUTER YOU CAN’T LIFT.”

— The Macintosh ‘speaking,’ with help from a computer-generated voice narrator, at its introduction by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs on January 24, 1984 at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California.

The crowd burst into applause as Steve Jobs unzipped the oddly-shaped bag, pulled out a tall, beige, rectangular computer, set up a keyboard and heretofore unknown device called a ‘mouse,’ and then popped a 3.5-inch diskette into a slot at the front of the machine, right below its nine-inch square monochrome screen.

They knew even 30 years ago that they were looking at something different.

On January 24, 1984, Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh computer at Apple’s shareholder meeting. Video of the event shows Apple’s co-founder, dressed in a suit and bow tie, smiling his way through the new product introduction. Two days earlier, Apple had introduced the Mac to the world in a 1-minute SuperBowl ad that Apple almost didn’t run — and that would go on to become one of the most famous television commercials in history.

But rewind to October 1983, where a young Jobs shows the ad to Apple employees at a sales meeting in Hawaii. He describes the battle between Apple and IBM, which wants to dominate the personal computer market, and fires up the audience, saying “IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?”

That presentation forms the script for his Jan. 24 introduction, recalls Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the original Macintosh team, who shared his reminiscences of the product launch in a series of blog posts at

“Steve Jobs appeared at a podium on the left side of the stage. He was resplendent in a finely tailored black suit complete with a prominent bow tie, looking more like a Las Vegas impresario than a computer industry executive. You could tell that he was nervous as he quieted the rousing applause and began to speak,” said Hertzfeld, who joined Apple in 1979 as employee No. 435. “Pandemonium reigns as the demo completes. Steve has the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on his face, obviously holding back tears as he is overwhelmed by the moment. The ovation continues for at least five minutes before he quiets the crowd down.”

And all that for a machine with a mere 128 kilobytes of memory and priced at a hefty $2,495.

Once Apple’s main moneymaker, the Macintosh — including MacBook notebooks and iMac and Mac Pro desktops —accounts for just 15 percent of sales today. Apple, which dropped the word “computer” from its name in 2007 when it introduced the iPhone, now gets most of its sales from its best-selling smartphone and from its iPad tablet. Apple is not among the top 5 global PC makers and ranks No. 3 in PC sales in the U.S., with the Mac holding a 13.7 percent share of the market in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to Gartner Inc.

Still, the Mac’s influence — from popularizing easy-to-use elegant software with its graphical user interface and icons to emphasizing the importance of innovative hardware design — continues to inform and inspire today’s gadget makers. “We were not doing it from a business point of view,” Bill Atkinson, who developed the first Mac software programs, MacWrite and MacPaint, recently told the San Jose Mercury News. “We were doing it from the change-the-world point of view. We wanted to make something beautiful and usable and something that people would delight in.”

As for Apple, CEO Tim Cook will reportedly talk about the Mac in an interview with ABC News later today. But global market chief Phil Schiller has already shared his thoughts on the machine in an interview with MacWorld published yesterday. “Every company that made computers when we started the Mac, they’re all gone,” said Schiller. “We’re the only one left. We’re still doing it, and growing faster than the rest of the PC industry because of that willingness to reinvent ourselves over and over.”

In honor of the Mac’s birthday, here are some of the interesting, profound and curious things people have said about the Macintosh over the past 30 years. Unsurprisingly, Jobs, who served as Apple’s main pitchman, was the most vocal about the Mac’s promise.

“Welcome to Apple’s 1984 Annual Shareholders meeting. I’d like to begin by reading part of an old poem by Dylan, that’s Bob Dylan.” Steve flashed a big smile as he started to recite the second verse of “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” stretching an occasional vowel in a Dylanesque fashion:

Come writers and critics/Who prophesize with your pen

And keep your eyes wide,/The chance won’t come again

And don’t speak too soon/For the wheel’s still in spin

And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’.

For the loser now/Will be later to win

For the times they are a-changin’.”

— Steve Jobs, introducing the Macintosh, as remembered by Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld.

“We’re gambling on our vision, and we would rather do that than make “me too” products. Let some other companies do that. For us, it’s always the next dream.” — Steve Jobs at the 1984 launch event for the Macintosh

“If, for some reason, we make some big mistake and IBM wins, my personal feeling is that we are going to enter a computer Dark Ages for about 20 years. Once IBM gains control of a market, they almost always stop innovation. They prevent innovation from happening.”Steve Jobs, speaking on the early rivalry between the Mac and IBM-compatible personal computers running Microsoft’s DOS operating system, Playboy, February 1985

“You may be surprised to learn that as Steve and I stood behind the curtain moments before he was to go on stage, Steve was terrified. “I’m scared sh*tless,” Steve whispered to me. “This is the most important moment of my entire life. Everything I have dreamed about and worked on for years will actually happen in the next few moments.”

Steve was standing in the shadows behind the curtain, sneaking a look out at the audience. The room was packed. The first three rows of seats were reserved for the 100-person Mac team. To the right of us was a large platform with probably a dozen TV cameras. Off to the side were another dozen TV cameras. All around the stage area were many more TV cameras waiting for Steve to appear.

Steve started to shake almost uncontrollably. He was wearing a gray blazer, white shirt, and a green bowtie. His black hair was long and flowing. At just 27 years old, he looked handsome and more like a Hollywood celebrity than a Silicon Valley geek. “I am so scared,” he repeated. “I’m not sure I can talk.”

I grabbed him firmly in a big hug. “Get over it,” I said. “You are Steve Jobs. You have told us you are about to change the world. Now go out there and do it.” — Former Apple CEO John Sculley, describing the launch of the Macintosh, in an essay penned commemorating the Mac’s 30th birthday in an essay for Cnet, Jan. 22, 2014.

“Steve Jobs sez, ‘You’ve just crashed.” — Screen message that appeared on the Mac prototype, along with a caricature of Steve Jobs, that appeared when the system crashed. The crash message was replaced with a drawing of a bomb for the commercial release of the Mac. (As told to me by a member of the PR team at Regis McKenna, which helped launch the Macintosh.)

“The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a ‘mouse’…the Macintosh uses icons to represent functions as though there was some intuitive knowledge on the part of the user as to what these icons mean…The nature of the personal computer revolution is simply not fully understood by companies like Apple (or anyone else, for that matter.) Apple makes the arrogant assumption of thinking that it knows what you want and need. It, unfortunately, leaves the ‘why out of the equation — as in, ‘why would I want this?’” Early Mac reviewer John C. Dvorak, explaining that while he liked the new Apple computer, he didn’t think it would be a hit. San Francisco Examiner, Feb. 1984.

“Macintosh is a machine that is fun. As an Apple II owner, I felt uncomfortable and even suspicious about a computer that is so easy to operate…Whether or not you’re in the market for a computer, experience a Macintosh. I bet that you will want one.” Early Mac reviewer Keith Thompson. Microcomputing, March 1984.

“Some people are saying that we ought to put an IBM PC on every desk in America to improve productivity. It won’t work. The special incantations you have to learn this time are the “slash q-zs” and things like that. The manual for WordStar, the most popular word- processing program, is 400 pages thick. To write a novel, you have to read a novel –– one that reads like a mystery to most people. They’re not going to learn slash q-z any more than they’re going to learn Morse code. That is what Macintosh is all about. It’s the first ‘telephone’ of our industry.” Steve Jobs describing the Mac’s ease of use, Playboy, February 1985.

“My God. I drew a circle!” Artist Andy Warhol after using the Mac, MacPaint and a mouse for the first time, at a birthday party in New York where Steve Jobs had presented the 9-year-old birthday boy with a Mac. Playboy, February 1985.

“What he did was he made a really weak, lousy computer, to tell you truth, in the Macintosh, and still at a fairly high price. He made it by cutting the RAM down, by forcing you to swap disks here and there. It was a lousy product. Every time we improved the Macintosh, year by year by year, it got closer to what the Lisa had been.”Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, reminiscing about the Mac, The Verge, June 2013.

“Well, Steve and I worked together, creating the Mac. We [Microsoft] had more people on it, did the key software for it.”Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, in response to a question after Steve Jobs biography quoted Apple’s co-founder as describing Gates’ as “unimaginative,” (among other uncomplimentary things), ABC’s This Week, October 24, 2011.

“Apple must make Macintosh a standard. But no personal computer company, not even IBM, can create a standard without independent support. Even though Apple realized this, they have not been able to gain the independent support required to be perceived as a standard… Apple should license Macintosh technology to 3-5 significant manufacturers for the development of “Mac Compatibles… Microsoft is very willing to help Apple implement this strategy. We are familiar with the key manufacturers, their strategies and strengths. We also have a great deal of experience in OEMing system software.”Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Jeff Raikes in a June 25, 1985 email to then-Apple CEO John Sculley and Jean-Louis Gassee about licensing the Macintosh operating system software and allowing hardware makers to “clone” the Mac hardware. Upon his return to Apple in 1997, Steve Jobs killed the Mac clone program as one of his first changes.

“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.”Steve Jobs, Wired, February 1996.

“One of the talents of the great Steve Jobs is that he knows how to design Medusa-like products. While every Macintosh model has had flaws (some more than others), most of them have has a sexiness and a design sensibility that has turned many consumers into instant converts. Macintosh owners upgrade far more often than most computer users for precisely this reason. We have to own that new flat panel display. We must have the new color of iBook.” Marketing guru Seth Godin, in 2001’s Unleashing the Ideavirus: Stop Marketing AT People! Turn Your Ideas into Epidemics by Helping Your Customers Do the Marketing thing for You.

“I get asked a lot why Apple’s customers are so loyal. It’s not because they belong to the Church of Mac! That’s ridiculous. It’s because when you buy our products, and three months later you get stuck on something, you quickly figure out [how to get past it]. And you think, ‘Wow, someone over there at Apple actually thought of this!’ And then three months later you try to do something you hadn’t tried before, and it works, and you think ‘Hey, they thought of that, too.’ And then six months later it happens again. There’s almost no product in the world that you have that experience with, but you have it with a Mac.”Steve Jobs, on innovation, BusinessWeek, Oct. 12, 2004

“I am a Mac user. If they had water, I would drink the Mac water.” Comedian Chris Rock on his love affair with Apple’s products, People, April 2010

“Ultimately, it comes down to taste. It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then try to bring those things in to what you’re doing. Picasso had a saying: good artists copy, great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas, and I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.” — Steve Jobs, in PBS’ Triumph of the Nerds, June 1996

“iMac is next year’s computer for $1,299, not last year’s computer for $999.”Steve Jobs, at the introduction of the first iMac computer at the Flint Center, May 1998

“Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating. None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.”Steve Jobs, in a commencement speech at Stanford University, June 12, 2005

“By the way, if you get mad at your Mac laptop and wonder who designed this demonic device, notice the manufacturer’s icon on top: an apple with a bite out of it.” Author Peter Kreeft, in 2008’s Jesus-Shock

Source: Forbes

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