ADVERTISEMENT

Apple's Mac turns 25

Hard to believe it's been 25 years since Apple's slick TV spot, which aired during the third quarter of an otherwise forgettable Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Raiders and the Washington Redskins, ushered in the era of the Macintosh. The commercial depicts a drab future for humanity (in which, for some inexplicable reason, everyone is bald) a la George Orwell's 1984, featuring rows of gray-clad people complacently listening to "Big Brother" on a telescreen until a woman dressed in bright orange shorts rushes into the room, smashing the tedium with a well-placed throw of her Olympic-style hammer. (YouTube, of course, has the clip if you care to reminisce.)

This commercial, which ran two days before Apple's Macintosh hit the market, was a harbinger of the company's larger-than-life (and highly successful, for the most part) approach to selling technology. The first Macintosh was the original all-in-one personal computer, featuring a nine-inch (22.9-centimeter) monitor, floppy disk drive and eight-megahertz Motorola 68000 microprocessor sitting in a beige plastic tower. Its price tag: $2,500.

Apple trotted out the Mac as the successor to its $10,000 "Lisa" desktop computer, introduced in 1983. Lisa more processing power and held more memory than the Mac, but it was too pricey to compete with IBM's PC (introduced in 1981) and the various IBM-compatible clones of that technology made by Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and others. The Mac was a paired down version of Lisa designed to challenge the IBM and its clones for domination of the burgeoning desktop computer market. (It lost.)

Apple's early miscues aside, the Mac was an innovative piece of equipment. It had a graphical user interface (GUI) and mouse that were both originally developed by Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) but made famous by Apple and its outspoken leader, Steve Jobs. The Mac also came with MacPaint graphics software and the MacWriter word processing program.

Despite their stylish design, rich color pallet and innovative features, Macs suffered in the late 1990s from the overwhelming success of Microsoft's Windows 95, a GUI that finally could compete with Apple's user interface and ran on PCs that cost hundreds of dollars less than the Mac. Apple's PC market share quickly shriveled to about 4 percent by 2002, author Merrill Chapman points out in his book "In Search of Stupidity," although the more recent success of its MacBook laptops and iMac PCs have lifted Apple's market share to about 8 percent of the U.S. market, MercuryNews.com reports.

Image courtesy of Grm wnr

Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.
Scientific American Dinosaurs

Get Total Access to our Digital Anthology

1,200 Articles

Order Now - Just $39! >

X

Email this Article

X