By Robert Horvat

In the middle of 1984, I was getting a tour of my new high school that I would be attending in ’85. It was there that I first got a glimpse of the now famous Macintosh ’84 128K computer. If my memory serves me correctly, the school had just rolled out a school-wide program focused on computer science. I was only but one of hundreds of students who didn’t know how to use one, but was very willing to learn Although I didn’t have the foresight to see that computing was the future, I became an eager participant in ’85. The first thing that surprised to me was the ease of its start up, approximately some twenty seconds for booting. Next, I noticed how friendly the simple graphic user interface allowed us to interact and access folders. Wow, I thought! There is even a trash bin to throw things in and a moveable mouse, which made the task of using it far easier. Suddenly everything it seemed was only a click away. Desktop publishing, in particular, became a hobby of many aspiring students and teachers alike.

The impact of technology on people’s lives came largely into play during the Second World War. Significantly, it was led by the development of the jet engine, the atomic bomb and computers. The computer industry itself, went through dramatic changes in the 1950’s, with IBM leading the way. Early computers were large, very expensive and often linked to state or military purposes. However, by the 1980’s, computers became smaller, cheaper and more likely to be used by individuals. Most western governments around the world, by then too, had given up trying to control the industry. This led to smaller, more innovative companies, like Apple, to utilize the vacuum created by governments, to develop and sell computers for individuals.

The late 70’s produced the first prototypes of personal computers. Apple, in particular, were at the forefront of this development. It had even dented the dominance of IBM surprisingly. Apple too, also had its fair share of setbacks, but on January 24, 1984, Apple and Steve Jobs’s wonder machine had truly arrived. Steve Jobs likened the original Macintosh – “as remarkable as the telephone.” It was marketed as a technological marvel that would now belong to everyone, not just ‘big brother’. If not, for its ground-breaking release during the ’84 Superbowl, one has to speculate whether it might have ended up in a rubbish heap rather than in the Computer History Museum in California. It is worth noting that the sixty seconds television commercial that launched the ’84 Mac to America and the world, directed by Ridley Scott, is considered an advertising ‘masterpiece’. The Mac itself was hailed as arguably one of the first successful personal computers produced with a great design and straightforward capabilities. It found success amongst private individuals, business and educators.

I am no tech head, but even I know that by today’s standards, the original Mac would be considered a dinosaur. After a short life span, the revolutionary Mac would give way to improvements and changes. These changes were essential to keeping Apple in the game against giants like IBM and later Compaq.

By the way, writing this article was achieved by using my iMac, which like the original 128K Macintosh, is an all-in-one PC. To think that the original mac had those capabilities, although somewhat limited, thirty years ago is mind blowing.

The image of the Macintosh 128 is by Wikimedia Commons user “Grm wnr” and is used under Creative Commons 3.0 (Attribution) license.