On January 24, 1984, Apple introduced the Macintosh. That was 36 years ago last Friday, and with the introduction of the Mac, Apple embarked on a path that has earned it a market value of $ 1.3 trillion today.
I was at the Macintosh launch, and it was an amazing event. I still remember where I was sitting. Third row back, middle. Two rows in front of me were Bill Gates and his entourage.
I didn’t realize at the time how historically significant the launch of the Mac would be. I got to talk to Steve Jobs on stage right after the event. He was rambunctious, and I especially remember the broad smile he had when he talked about how he thought the Mac was going to “change the world”.
When he told me this directly, I thought his comment was pure hype. Yet the Mac changed the world in many ways, especially in its impact on the way people use computers through a graphical user interface and introduced an easier to use way to work with personal computers.
Keep in mind that back in the day, Microsoft’s text-based DOS was how people ran their PCs and had a serious learning curve for those who used them.
Mac’s launch at DeAnza College auditorium in Cupertino was preceded by Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl advertisement.
This ad was so mysterious that by the time Steve Jobs took the stage to introduce the Mac, there was already huge international interest in what Apple would launch at this event.
It’s not easy to explain how electric the atmosphere and excitement in this auditorium was when the Mac was launched. Part of that came from the mystery of what Apple would reveal. Apple kept this project so secret that most of the event attendees had no idea what Jobs would reveal.
When Jobs removed the fabric cover from the Mac to reveal it, the audience heard a gasp. Then when the Mac spoke and said “Hello,” the applause was thunderous. Steve Jobs took advantage of the attention he and the Mac were receiving from an audience consisting of Apple shareholders, Apple employees involved in Project Mac, and members of the media.
In 1984, there were only about 30 full-time analysts in the tech industry, and many of them were on the east coast. Thus, only five industry analysts, all from the Bay Area and eligible for exclusive invitations, attended this event. Also, at that time, we didn’t have live video of the event and Apple couldn’t stream the event. Thus, news of the Mac launch reached the world mostly through media releases via the press service and a few local TV stations which recorded the event and broadcast it on their evening news broadcasts. .
While there was a real buzz around the Mac after its launch, it didn’t perform well in its first year on the market. But Mac’s fortunes took a critical turn in January 1985 when Aldus’ Pagemaker debuted for Mac, with Mac Publisher and Ready, Set, Go, at MacWorld. All three were desktop publishing programs and became the first true apps to make the most of what the Mac was capable of.
I would be remiss if I did not also mention that Microsoft’s decision to write applications for Macs, and Lotus’s Mitch Kapor, pledging to release Lotus 1,2,3 for Mac in late 1985, contributed to the success of Mac in consumer affairs. But it was Apple’s push into desktop publishing that really got the Mac noticed.
Two previous decisions by Steve Jobs in the summer of 1983 made Apple’s DTP game even more valuable. That year, Adobe CEO John Warnock showed Jobs essential software called PostScript Page Description Language, which offered a computer publishing language and uniform fonts. Warnock lobbied Jobs to include it in future products. John Warnock showed me PostScript around the same time, and since I knew very little about the publishing process, I admit I had a hard time understanding why PostScript would be valuable.
A year earlier, Steve Jobs was shown a new Canon laser printer engine small enough to fit on a desk. Back then, most laser printers were the size of a small closet and cost well over $ 50,000. Jobs was fascinated by this laser engine, and his engineers began working on what would become the world’s first desktop laser printer, called the LaserWriter. It would cost around $ 7,500 when it was introduced in early 1985, around the same time Pagemaker hit the market.
The Mac, Apple’s LaserWriter, and major endorsement from Apple and Aldus’s Pagemaker software spawned the desktop publishing revolution. He put the Mac on the map in graphic arts departments, engineering divisions, marketing departments and those who created newsletters, promotional material, etc. as small businesses.
Apple had used a similar strategy to make the Apple II more successful when they approved VisiCalc for the Apple II and started promoting the idea of Apple providing hardware and software as a solution to potential customers. .
I had the privilege of working with Apple on the DTP marketing strategy at the time and was extremely surprised at how quickly this concept took off and how important the Mac was to so many people so quickly. Over the years, I’ve heard dozens of stories from people about how the Mac and DTP changed the course of their professional lives and prepared them for the success they still experience today.
Although Jobs claimed that the Mac was going to change the world, one could argue that it changed the world for a lot of people, especially those in the world of publishing, engineering and graphics. It also had a huge impact on the Hollywood and TV industries by introducing them to PC-based tools to create everything from storyboards to special effects.
But perhaps the wider impact of Mac was that it introduced graphical user interfaces, mice, and touchpads for navigation and multimedia computing to the computing world. It took us out of the dark age of DOS into the brighter era of easy-to-use computing that ultimately brought personal computing to the masses.
The Mac was also important to Apple in that Apple mounted the back of the Mac to help them keep them alive long enough for them to present the iPhone, which is indeed the only product Apple introduced. who “changed” the world.
While the iPhone is considered the most world-changing Apple product, don’t be fooled that it was this Mac and its success that set Apple apart. And that paved the way for Steve Jobs and his teams to finally bring us the iPhone and put them on the path to becoming a $ 1.3 trillion company.