Happy Birthday: the Apple Mac turns 40

The Apple Mac Classic Photos: Flickr CC / Antonio Marín Segovia

On January 24 1984 the first ever Apple Mac went on sale.

Initially the Macintosh was a bit of a flop; it wastoo slow and too expensive but it was the first commercially successful personal computer to feature the mouse and the graphical user interface, features which we take for granted today. Those and in fact most of the features in the Mac, were later integrated into Windows.

Ridley Scott

The sale of the first Mac was pre-empted on January 22 1984, during the Super Bowl, when Apple aired its iconic advert which launched the computer. In a break during the third quarter of the match, a George Orwell-inspired ad showed a woman running through a futuristic citadel, all directed by Ridley Scott of Alien and Gladiator fame. She throws a sledgehammer at a screen, to the shock of its citizens, telling viewers to prepare for the Macintosh.

The 60-second ad was inspired by George Orwell’s novel 1984, which foresaw a dystopian future, controlled by a televised Big Brother-like figure which was a veiled jab at IBM, the market leader at the time.

Richest company in the world

The aim of Apple and advertising agency Chiat/Day, was to show a form of empowerment against IBM, as it was the company’s biggest competition at the time, way before Microsoft brought out Windows which overtook both companies. Fast-forward to 2024 and Apple has become one of the richest companies in the world;  the very thing it had been created to go up against.

Although Steve Jobs is usually credited with the invention of the Apple Mac, the Macintosh project started in the late 1970s with Jef Raskin, an Apple employee who envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer. He wanted to name the computer after his favorite type of apple, the McIntosh, but the name had to be changed for legal reasons.

The rise of Steve Jobs

In 1979 Raskin assembled a large development team that designed and built the original Macintosh hardware and software. The design caught the attention of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple. Realizing that the Macintosh was extremely marketable, he began focusing on the project. Raskin finally left the Macintosh project in 1981 over a personality clash with Jobs, and the final Macintosh design is said to be closer to Jobs’ ideas than Raskin’s.

The original Macintosh came bundled with two applications designed to show off its interface: MacWrite and MacPaint. Although the Mac was slow (glacial by today’s standards), it garnered an immediate andenthusiastic following.

As we now know, it was a huge success, and thanks to its ongoing regenerations, you can go to an Apple Store today and look to buy a MacBook, an iPad, an iPhone and more but they all originated from that day in January 1984. Forty years ago.

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Written by

Kevin Fraser Park

Kevin was born in Scotland and worked in marketing, running his own businesses in UK, Italy and, for the last 8 years, here in Spain. He moved to the Costa del Sol in 2016 working initially in real estate. He has a passion for literature and particularly the English language which is how he got into writing.