30 years on: the rise of the Macintosh computer

Chloe Vince, a volunteer working on the upcoming Information Age gallery, celebrates 30 years of the Apple Macintosh computer.

‘Hello, I am Macintosh’ said the robotic voice ‘It sure is great to get out of that bag!

The robotic voice in question belonged to a computer called Macintosh, which was first launched and demonstrated by Steve Jobs 30 years ago, on January 24 1984, in front of expectant audience of 3000 people. The Macintosh (there’s one from our collection pictured below) bears little resemble to those that are used today. A beige upright case housed a 9-inch black and white screen and had an in-built handle to easily transport its 7.5kg weight.

The Apple Macintosh, launched 24 January 1984 (Source: Science Museum / SSPL)

The Apple Macintosh, launched 24 January 1984 (Source: Science Museum / SSPL)

The Apple Macintosh was not the first of the Macintosh computers, but it was the first that was commercially successful. In comparison to previous models, it was considered to be relatively affordable at £1,840 and sold 70,000 in the first 5 months of sale. Prior to this, the Apple Lisa, targeted more at business users, was less affordable at £6,000 resulting in only around 6,500 being sold worldwide.

The Apple Lisa was the precursor the Apple Macintosh, but did not share such commercial success (Souce: Science Museum / SSPL)

The Apple Lisa was the precursor the Apple Macintosh, but did not share such commercial success (Souce: Science Museum / SSPL)

But it was not just the price that made this computer so popular. Firstly, it came complete with a mouse, which may seem an obvious counterpart to desktop computers we use today, but prior to this most computers had to rely on the keyboard entirely. In addition there was also 3.5” floppy disk drive which could manage 25% more data than discs used previously.

The biggest improvement came with the graphical user interface (GUI) which used square pixels instead of rectangular ones making the graphics much clearer and sharper. It also included icons of real-life items such as a ‘documents’ image and a ‘trash’ image instead of abstract text commands used previously.

These developments made the Macintosh an ideal personal computer for the majority of those that had no previous experience of computing, or as the advertising famously stated, ‘introducing Macintosh… for the rest of us.’

Do you own or have any memories of the original 1984 Macintosh? Can you remember a time before Macintosh existed or have you always grown up around these computers?

Discover more about the history of communication technologies in our new Information Age gallery, opening in Autumn 2014.

4 thoughts on “30 years on: the rise of the Macintosh computer

  1. peta Kerrigan

    I used this at school. My music teacher had one. It was so cool at the time. The other comuters we had we much harder to get to grips with.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Disaster: How The Macintosh Failed (and Still Changed Computing) | pundit from another planet

  3. Pingback: 30 Anos do Macintosh Blog do Usuário

  4. Pingback: Five Iconic Macintosh Computers to Remember Since 1984 | GizmoRev

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