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Apple Macintosh Turns 40!

Wait, how old does that make us?

Dan Carney

January 24, 2024

3 Min Read
The 1984 Apple Macintosh introduction.
The 1984 Apple Macintosh introduction.Apple

It was 40 years ago that then-Apple Computer Co. introduced the seminal graphical user interface computer, the Macintosh. It was a follow-up model as a more affordable graphical computer after the pricey Apple Lisa, which cost $10,000.

Macintosh, by comparison, debuted at $2,495. Those prices correspond to $29,300 for the Lisa and $7,300 for the Macintosh, which illustrates how much more affordable computers have become in the 40 years since.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs led a Macintosh development team that was inspired by a visit to the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, where they saw the Xerox Star, which pioneered the mouse-driven graphic user interface and local area networking.

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Apple teased consumers with a stunning Ridley Scott-directed Super Bowl commercial that played on the theme of George Orwell's 1984 novel. The tagline was "You'll see why 1984 won't be like 1984."

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Job officially introduced the Macintosh at the company's annual shareholders meeting, pulling the compact computer from a bag to underscore its integrated design.

It is worth remembering that the command line interface of operating systems like the Microsoft DOS used by IBM's PCs and Apple DOS used by Apple II computers was daunting for the uninitiated. Apple sought to allay potential customers' concerns by describing the ease of using a graphical user interface with a mouse as a pointing device.

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"If you can point, you can use a Macintosh," touted one ad. Another promoted the Macintosh as "The computer for bemused, confused, and intimidated."

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Another ad presciently predicted that "Soon there will be just two kinds of people. Those who use computers. And those who use Apples." This seemed to forecast the company's much later "I'm a Mac," series of ads contrasting the Macintosh experience with that of a Windows user.

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Another Mac innovation was the use of a 400K 3.5-inch floppy disc drive at a time when the 5.25-inch floppy was the industry standard. The 9-inch built-in display was monochrome only, the Motorola 68000 processor ran at a clock speed of 8 MHz and that first Mac packed 128K of RAM.

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Those might not seem like the necessary ingredients to achieve a product that was "insanely great," in Jobs's hyperbolic description, but they were good enough to launch the revolution of graphical user interfaces for popular use.

The company, now called simply "Apple," sold 26 million Macintoshes in 2022 alone, according to Statistica.com.

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