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The following article originated as 14 posters commemorating Macintosh’s 20th anniversary. (If you’re interested in the PDF files in print quality – 50×70 cm each – let me know.) You can find the original posters next to respective sections, as well as links for further reading on the subject.

(With thanks to Stuart Bell, Bruce Damer, Owen Linzmayer and Andrew McIntosh.)

Macintosh. Twenty years later

#1. Introduction
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On January the 24th, 1984, Apple Computer unveiled one of the most influential computers ever – the Apple Macintosh. It was revolutionary as probably the first machine in history created from scratch to be the computer for a regular “Person In The Street,” either not experienced with computers, or fed up with their sophisticated nature.

This unique approach was noticeable in every aspect of Macintosh’s design: from graphical operating system and software, mouse, keyboard and other peripherals, through visual appearance, packaging, to manuals and advertising. Even the name – the promotional brochure proudly stated “They didn’t call it the QZ190, or the Zipchip 5000. They called it Macintosh.”

The creators have largely succeeded; even at first glance Macintosh was pleasingly different from both contemporary home computers and its soon-to-be archnemesis, command prompt-driven IBM PC. In fact, the birth of Macintosh might have been one of the biggest triumphs of user-centered design in the history of computers. It introduced many previously nonexistent or unpopular notions – a machine with a personality, a computer as an appliance, closed architecture, mouse as a main input device, human-computer interaction narrowed to user friendly icon-based interface, etc.

Of course, not all of the ideas behind it were original. Macintosh borrowed from works of legendary Xerox PARC laboratory in Palo Alto, Apple’s own ill-fated Lisa, and various other inventions of the time. Still, its creators managed to supplement these with an incredible amount of innovation and creative thinking, and make a computer that was as admired, as it was desired.

Macintosh started the whole family of computers and devices that continued the tradition of innovating, taking care of the user in the first place, and – as Apple itself put it a couple of years ago – thinking different.

Next posters will try to examine various components of Macintosh, its strengths and weaknesses with regard to original plans, and its successes and failures from the perspective of 20 years. And just as Macintosh is more than just underlying technology, its history couldn’t be complete without mentioning people, ideas and culture that brought it to life.

This short journey through time might be slightly too rose-tinted and slightly too biased, but isn’t that how journeys through time usually work? And besides, for many people just a couple of minutes were enough to fall in love with a little beige box greeting them with a simple “hello.”

Further reading: Making the Macintosh Link points to external siteDigiBarn’s Macintosh 20th anniversary page Link points to external site


#2. Specifications
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We will start by describing technical specifications of the Macintosh – not only to quickly get it over with and proceed to more interesting aspects, but also because back in 1984 that was usually the only way people looked at computers.

Back then they were bought primarily by hobbyists, who were interested in megahertzs, pixels, expansion slots, “RS-this and RS-that,” and whatever else was “under the hood.” Sure enough, most of the reviews of the Macintosh included memory map, system architecture, beautiful diagrams of the motherboard as the one seen below, and information about “bits shifted out at 15.67˙MHz (322.68˙µs per 512-pixel line)” and “Zilog 8530 SCC providing synchronous and asynchronous data transmission using a self-clocking data format.” But, as we will see later, the Mac was about everything except that.

Still, it might be informative to state exactly what Macintosh did consist of. Starting with what’s invisible, it was based on a Motorola 68000 processor (found in Apple Lisa and later in first Amigas and Atari STs), running at roughly 8 MHz, and backed up with 128 kilobytes of memory. It had no hard disk, just one 3½ Sony drive (a novelty in the world dominated by bigger and less reliable five-inch floppy disks). Available was a connector for the second drive, and two high-speed serial ports. Looking from the outside, half of Mac’s small casing housed a 9” black-and-white monitor, with a resolution of 512×342. There was also a built-in speaker, mouse and detachable, 58-key keyboard.

Many technical solutions in the Macintosh smacked of genius. The integrated drive controller chip, the high speed ports, even the decision to use square pixels and black-and-white monitor (as opposed to green or amber). The whole machine was a tribute to simplicity (it had less chips than the text video card for IBM PC alone), which allowed to drop the price and increase reliability.

Today most of Mac’s innovations are taken for granted, and compared to modern computers, its specifications are just laughable. But even in 1984, despite deserved praise given to its design team, the Macintosh was critiqued for having just a single drive and a mere 128 kilobytes of memory. The first, and for better part of the year only model, was slow and underpowered enough not to be of much practical use.

That, however, was one of its just a few flaws.

Case design

#3. Case design
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Just at the first glance Macintosh looked different from other computers of its time. Its small, closed case, resembling human face, was a result of a vision shaped back in 1979 by Jef Raskin. In his memo, aptly titled “Design Considerations for an Anthropophilic Computer,” Raskin sketched his idea of a computer “that will be truly pleasant to use.” Let’s pick up some of the most interesting quotes and see how close they are to what the HCI designers are still striving to achieve 25 years later.

“There must not be a plethora of configurations. It is better to offer a variety of case colors than to have variable amounts of memory. It is better to manufacture versions in Early American, Contemporary, and Louis XIV than to have any external wires beyond a power cord. And you get ten points if you can eliminate the power cord.”

“Seeing the guts is taboo. Things in sockets is taboo. Billions of keys on the keyboard is taboo. Computerese is taboo. Large manuals, or many of them is taboo. Self-instructional programs are NOT taboo.”

“If an item does not stand on a table by itself, and if it does not have its own case, or if it does not look like a complete consumer item in and of itself, then it is taboo. For example, an auxiliary printer can be sold, but a parallel interface cannot.”

During almost five years of Macintosh’s development, its creators stood firm by those convictions. The finished computer was sold in one and only one configuration, and shipped in a single case, which could be opened only by technicians. The case had a very small footprint, no internal fan, and was actually painted beige (however, by 1985 all Macintoshes reverted to the shade of grey officially known as “platinum”).

Just as probably every other aspect of the first Mac, the closer inspection of the case showed an extraordinary attention to details. (Jerrold Manock, one of the designers, once said “That’s the kind of detail that turns an ordinary product into an artifact.”)

The power switch was located at the back, to make it harder to press by accident – but was surrounded by a smoother area, to make it easier to find. The ports were recessed to prevent users from plugging in wrong peripherals. The vents were shaped so that, for example, a child sticking a metal pen could not touch the power supply. Little foots at the bottom had embossed Apple logos on them. The underside of the handle on top had ribs for better grip (weighing 8 kilograms, Macintosh was lighter than many portables, and a transport bag could be bought separately). The texture of the plastic was carefully chosen as to prevent scratches from being visible. Even its beige colour had a hidden meaning – it was thought to age better, instead of turning orange after a couple of years like with other computers.

And, true to Raskin’s words, the only peripherals sold were a second disk drive, a printer, a numeric keypad, and a modem.

However, regretfully, to this day no Louis XIV or Early American version of a Macintosh was produced.

Further reading: History of Computer Design: Macintosh Link points to external site


#4. Keyboard
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Macintosh’s keyboard shared most of the characteristics of the computer itself. It was small, simplistic and, despite previous plans, detachable.

The 58-key input device seemed something taken straight from the home toy computer – the likes of Atari 800 XL, for example – than the professional office machine Macintosh aspired to be. It looked tiny compared to IBM PC/XT’s keyboard consisting of 83 keys, but at the same time positively clean and elegant.

In a controversial move, the designers decided to get rid of many of the keys that seemed indispensable on other computers. Gone were the function keys, the arrows, the numeric keypad, the Esc, Forward Delete and Control/Alt modifiers (although those were replaced by a “clover key” and a pair of Option keys). But, as to be expected, there was actually a method in this madness.

The function keys were always arbitrary, and as user-unfriendly as it gets (anybody ever working on dumb terminals will agree without hesitation). Even the most common association – F1 standing for “help” – comes just from people’s experience, and was never a natural connection.

The numeric keypad was there, but as an optional $99 device, “patterned after standard accountant’s calculator.” This also made perfect sense. As only a selected group of people actually finds the keypad useful, there is no need to clutter everybody’s desktop with a dozen of keys just gathering dust.

The most radical riddance, that of cursor keys, was acknowledged later as a “forcing device.” It made people use mouse instead of keyboard – and not so much users as developers, who were this way prevented from simply porting their existing text-only software to Macintosh. In effect, every piece of software had to be rewritten to comply with the rules and take advantage of Mac’s superior graphical user interface.

All this made the keyboard look much more like a typical typewriter, to the point of Caps Lock actually having mechanical up and down states instead of a LED diode indicator.

Did the Macintosh succeeded in setting up a new trend then?

Not quite. As soon as in 1986, Mac Plus keyboards included cursor keys and integrated keypad. The Fn keys followed soon, as well as extended keyboards with codenames like “Saratoga” and “Nimitz,” indicating their massive sizes. There were some exceptions (for example a notepad-like keyboard for Twentieth Anniversary Mac or iMac’s first compact keyboard, widely regarded as a failure), but they never lasted very long. And the contemporaries look almost the same as bloated PC keyboards, with their more than 100 buttons.

Maybe not all is lost, though. The function keys are slowly being phased out on both Macintosh and PC platforms, and after twenty years we are finally saying goodbye to such relicts of time, as Scroll Lock or Pause/Break keys. Additionally, the designers of new Mac keyboards resisted the urge of putting dozens of useless multimedia keys just for the sake of it. If only someone was brave enough to reinvent detachable keypads...


#5. Mouse
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The original 1984’s advertisement stated “If you can point, you can use a Macintosh. You do it at baseball games. At the counter in grocery stores. And every time you let your fingers do the walking.” This of course refers to one of the Macintosh’s most distinctive features – its one-button mouse.

The mouse came to Macintosh project straight from Lisa, and it didn’t change much in functionality and appearance. However, the Apple Lisa mouse was substantially better than its direct predecessor designed over at Xerox PARC laboratory.

Xerox’s device was more or less a prototype, used in laboratories by skilled engineers. It had three buttons (each one as important as the other) and when it got dirty, it had to be taken apart for cleaning – literally! Hovey-Kelley Design, hired by Apple, did the hard work of turning this prototype into a mouse which could be mass-produced and was simple enough to use and clean by an average user.

Interestingly enough, Jef Raskin was opposed to the mouse at first, prefering joysticks, trackballs or tablets (and having evidence that they are more efficient pointing devices). However, he was also the person advocating having just one button on the mouse. (“So it’s extremely difficult to push the wrong button,” to quote the aforementioned brochure again.)

This was and remains one of the most controversial Mac issues and not a year comes by without some Macintosh fans asking, demanding or simply wishing for even just one more button. But Apple still sticks to the original premise, and their 21st century mice went even further, with no visible button and the whole upper body of the mouse acting as one.

However, back in 1984 it wasn’t the single button that attracted most of the attention – it was the very presence of the mouse itself. Macintosh succeeded at what Xerox Alto, Xerox Star, and Apple Lisa couldn’t – popularizing the use of the mouse (along with its revolutionary GUI) and introducing the world to a device as powerful, as it was simple, and now such natural concepts as “point and click” and “drag and drop.”

Further reading: Making the Macintosh: The Macintosh Mouse Link points to external site


#6. Packaging
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Nobody usually cares much about product packaging. After all, it’s just... packaging. Something to be torn apart, thrown away, and quickly forgotten about. However, unpacking newly purchased product is user’s first contact with it. What is known as out-of-box experience can be a delight, or a disaster.

Apple strived for the former, and achieved it. There were periodic usability studies of Macintosh out-of-box experience, when the users were observed unpacking and setting up their computers. “Never before had a computer been delivered with so much attention to detail and the customer’s needs,” reminisces Bruce Horn. “Even the packaging showed amazing creativity and passion.”

The Macintosh cardboard box was pleasantly subtle. Picasso-style logo in front and “Macintosh” set in Apple’s characteristic typeface on the side. No exclamation marks, no listing of features, no crying for attention. Inside, apart from the machine itself, were three smaller boxes. Illustrated in the same vein as the big carton, one was holding the keyboard, the other the mouse. The third, made of plastic, opened up like a lunch box (with a quite appropriate drawing of an apple on a cover), revealing manual, leaflet, software disks, guide audio cassette, and yet another elegant box with power cable. Completing the set were two stickers with Apple logo on them (a tradition held to this day), and – an icing on a cake – unpacking instructions.

“Apple actually cares about this sort of thing. Which is odd. Which is rare. Which is why they deserve gushing adulation now and then. They actually put the time and energy and labor into creating a gorgeous package most people will toss anyway, and why they include a first-time welcome experience, with subtle music, with flowing lush clean graphics, one that will never be repeated, just because,” wrote Mark Morford some twenty years later.

Because Apple still cares. On the Internet, there are many galleries documenting the process of unpacking and connecting freshly bought Macintoshes. In fact, some iMac users have been known to... hold unpacking ceremonies for friends and family. One of them wrote “the packaging made me feel I made a worthwhile investment in the company.”

Does that all seem a little bit strange? Perhaps it does, but it must be a good thing if it makes users happy...

Further reading: “Lick me, I’m a Macintosh” article reprint Link points to external site


#7. Documentation
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Sandy Miranda, one of Apple’s technical writers, said in a recent interview: “...somebody showed me an Apple manual, the very first one, I think it was Basic. And it was Jef Raskin’s first book for Apple, and in there on page ten or something it said, ‘If you can understand this page, you are a mutant, and you will go far in the computer world.’ And when I saw that, I said, ‘I’m going to work at this company and I’m going to write books with whoever did this because I love this.’ And that’s why I did. I just called them up and said, ‘I want to come down and interview because I love what this guy said, who is this person?’”

Jef Raskin, the true father of Macintosh, joined Apple as its publications manager in 1977. As probably no one else, he understood the importance of technical documentation and the necessity of writing it not post factum, but as hardware and software developed. From 1979 to 1980, he has written or collected over 400 pages of essays, specifications and speculations, and put them in “The Book of Macintosh.” This collection became a helpful reference explaining the philosophy and inner workings of company’s most important creation.

After Raskin’s departure from Apple, the documentation was passed to Chris Espinosa, Apple Employee #8, who worked on the legendary Apple II manual. Espinosa carried Raskin’s torch, working with programmers, hardware designers and graphic designers for the best possible effect.

The documentation was to be as professional and as high-quality as possible, and the team definitely delivered. “It was lavish, it was very, very nice,” commented Espinosa years later. The finished Macintosh manual was spiral bound, and had 164 pages divided into three sections: tutorial, “cookbook” (recipes for doing specific tasks) and reference. The whole thing was profusely illustrated with professional photographs.

Sadly, due to Macintosh’s ease of use, the users rarely looked at it, but Apple continued the tradition of accompanying each of their products with excellent leaflets, booklets or manuals.

Further reading: Making the Macintosh: Technical Writing and the Macintosh Link points to external site

User interface

#8. User interface
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Contrary to popular belief, Macintosh wasn’t first to have commercial Graphical User Interface based on nowadays omnipresent windows, icons and menus – it was preceded by both Xerox Star in 1981, and Apple Lisa in 1983. However, Macintosh was the first to popularize such interface, and it was directly responsible for the following outbreak of GUIs.

After decades of living in a world of mouse-driven interfaces, it might be hard to imagine what a revolution they were. “No more guessing what the computer wants. No more memorizing long commands with names only a programmer could love.” Pointing instead of typing. Doing instead of describing. Seeing instead of imagining.

Of course, the first System (later renamed to Mac OS) was extremely limited – after all, it occupied only half of 400 KB disk. Due to hardware restrictions, it was crippled even more than Lisa’s GUI released a year earlier. It lacked not only multitasking, but even simple task switching – only a couple of “desk accessories” (such as calculator and clock) could be run concurrently. The contents of the trash can were deleted with each reboot, and many operations required a lot of disk swapping. However, it managed to familiarize general public with such ideas as clicking, double-clicking, copy and paste, drag and drop, WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), direct manipulation and desktop metaphor. They are second nature to most of us today, but we owe them to Macintosh.

Looking at its virtual desktop, we will see that not that much really changed during the last twenty years. We still have a trash can, we still drag icons to copy or move documents, we still use menus, we still resize the windows the same way.

Many specialists consider this is a mistake. After all, Mac’s GUI was created when the average user had handful of files on handful of floppy disk. Nowadays everyone accesses millions of files on thousands of computers and the “every file as concrete object” vision starts to cause more and more trouble.

We have yet to see what the next revolution in human-computer interaction will be and who will ignite it. In the meanwhile, graphical user interfaces still evolve and it is very likely that the Macintosh-like interaction will continue to grace our screens for years to come.

Further reading: System 1.0 Headquarters Link points to external siteGUIdebook: Mac OS Link points to external site


#9. Applications
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While pages could be filled describing the ideas behind Mac user interface, it is hard to write about early Macintosh software, because... there simply was none.

And that’s not so big an exaggeration as you might think. Despite Apple claiming that it learned from the failure of Lisa (lack of applications was one of its culprits), it took months for the software companies to start releasing applications. The situation was so grim and the wait so lengthy, that Personal Computing magazine put a big “Macintosh Software: Is The Wait Over?” on its cover. But it was in December 1984, and for the preceding year the Macintosh users were stuck with only a handful of programs – most from Apple itself.

Actually, in January 1984, only two applications were available: MacPaint and MacWrite – and both were bundled with the computer. Shortly thereafter, a nifty spreadsheet called Multiplan was released by no one else, but... Microsoft. Bill Gates actually appeared in Macintosh ads himself, saying that “the next generation of interesting software will be made on a Macintosh, not an IBM PC.” Back then Microsoft’s little Interface Manager was still in development, and who would’ve suspected that years later it will conquer the world as Windows?

But operating system wars aside, the very choice of those three applications perfectly characterized the way of thinking behind Macintosh. It was not the software aimed at hobbyists. Or programmers. Or engineers. This was the software for regular people, who wanted to write a letter to a friend, draw a picture or calculate home budget. One magazine stated that “the Macintosh is the only machine in recent history to be offered without a programming language” – this might be natural these days, but back in 1984 was considered a very bold move.

Fortunately, soon enough more programs started appearing. Among those, two probably most important – Aldus PageMaker, which started the DTP revolution, and Adobe Photoshop, to this date the number one graphic package.

Apple itself also continued writing software, never losing the user-oriented approach. Its recent iSync, iCal or the iLife application suite were considered milestones in user-friendliness. And quite recently the history seemed to come full circle. In a strange twist of fate and a rather unprecedented move, Apple released its iTunes application to use under... Microsoft Windows.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Apple without arrogantly touting it “the best Windows app ever.”

Further reading: “Software for the Mac” sidebar to 1984’s article

Corporate culture

#10. Corporate culture
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“Q. How many Macintosh Division employees do you need to change a lightbulb? A. One. He holds the bulb up and lets the universe revolve around him.”

1984’s Apple was not your regular company. In fact, it probably was everything but that. Whole books have been written about Apple’s unique corporate culture, which you could either love or hate, but nothing in between. (The same can probably be said about most things Apple, starting with Macintosh and ending with charismatic Steve Jobs himself.)

Even the company logo was different. A simple shape of an apple, with a bite taken out of the side, had nothing to do with computers. As a one-time President of Apple Products, Jean-Louis Gassée said, “You couldn’t dream of a more appropriate logo: lust, knowledge, hope, and anarchy.”

The very same characteristics could be attributed to people inventing the Macintosh. And if you looked more closely at them, you would find more traits of artists working on the most important creation of their lives, than those of regular engineers (the only difference might be the famous quote: “real artists ship.”) Would anyone else than artists consider putting their signatures on the inside of the Macintosh, especially if nobody was ever to see them? And it wasn’t only the creators. One article from 1984 advised “cleaning the Macintosh’s exterior with a soft sable paintbrush, which you can buy at any art store.”

Other famous Apple saying was “it’s better to be a pirate than to join The Navy.” It was emphasized by an actual pirate flag waving in front of Macintosh Division building, and symbolized the fresh, provocative, groundbreaking way of thinking the whole company was soaking with. This approach was probably best presented in 1998’s excellent “Think different” campaign.

That way of thinking extended to Mac fans as well. (Not without Apple’s help, as it hired many people on the position of... evangelists.) Macintosh has probably the most loyal and devoted fanbase of all computers – sometimes bordering on fanatic, but usually just immensely proud of using the best computer there is.

One can’t really blame them. Even if many of the fans say that the Apple Computer of 2004 has little in common with that of 1984, it can’t be denied that the Cupertino-based company never stopped pushing the envelope. Nor treating their computers as works of art, and not simply products.

After Steve Jobs went backstage on that memorable January of 1984, he said “this is the single proudest, happiest moment of my life...” One doesn’t say something like that after premiering a product. One says it after launching a revolution.


#11. People
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Macintosh would not be what it was, and probably would not even see the light of day, if not for the group of extraordinary people who put a great amount of effort to make it happen.

We know these people thanks to Apple. While usually hardware designers and software engineers received little public attention during marketing campaigns, the creators of Macintosh were treated like movie stars. They appeared on posters and were interviewed by many magazines (even by the Rolling Stone itself).

Maybe it was yet another way of putting a more humane face onto Macintosh, and maybe also a form of acknowledgement to the creators for their hard work and dedication. (The members of the Macintosh team were reported to walk around Apple campus with T-shirts that read “90 HRS/WK AND LOVING IT.”)

Among these people were such recognizable names, as Bill Atkinson (programmer of QuickDraw, a revolutionary graphic engine, and MacPaint), Bruce Horn and Steve Capps (creators of Macintosh user interface), George Crow (responsible for analog board, video and power supply), Chris Espinosa (supervisor of technical documentation), Andy Hertzfeld (software engineer), Joanna Hoffman (marketing supervisor), Susan Kare (graphic designer), Larry Kenyon (driver programmer), Jerrold C. Manock (case designer) and Burrell Smith (hardware designer, creator of Mac’s digital board).

Sadly, the true creator of Macintosh, professor turned technical writer turned visionary – Jef Raskin – was absent. Raskin felt victim to one of Apple’s many “power plays” and was basically forced to leave the company in 1982, after Steve Jobs took over the Mac division.

With time, many of the abovementioned people followed, moving to other Silicon Valley companies or starting their own. It has been said that apart from Macintosh, Apple’s greatest contribution to the computer industry was its talented engineers, who carried the torch to other firms. Steve Jobs predicted it well, saying, just before Macintosh’s introduction, “Going out of the eighties, you know there won’t be a Mac group. Burrell will be off in Oregon playing his guitar. Andy will be writing the next great American novel. Who knows what. But we’ll be scattered all over the globe doing other amazing stuff.”

Further reading: Interview with Macintosh Design Team from 1984Interview with Jef Raskin, Bud Tribble and Brian Howard


#12. Marketing
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Most of the Americans first got to know Macintosh from the famous “1984” clip, considered by many people the greatest commercial ever made. The advertisement, prepared by Chiat/Day agency and directed by Ridley Scott himself, borrowed from the rather well-known George Orwell’s novel much more than just the title.

The 60-second clip showed an army of mindless drones, obediently listening to Big Brother’s monologue. Then a woman wearing a T-shirt with Mac logo appeared, liberating them by smashing the screen with a big sledgehammer. For most of the people, it was quite obvious that Big Brother stood for IBM and that the drones represented PC users, finally freed from the tyranny of their big and unfriendly computers.

The advertisement was aired only once, just before Macintosh’s premiere, during America’s most expensive commercial time – Super Bowl football finale. However, it generated so much stir and controversy, that many news magazines added free publicity by showing it in its entirety.

But it was just one piece of the puzle. In addition to spanning one of the most memorable TV ads ever, the Macintosh launch is also universally acknowledged as a landmark in press relations and “event marketing.” The latter means generating as much media publicity and public excitement about one event, as possible. Never before, and rarely after, it has been done as good, as in the case of the Macintosh.

Another interesting point of the campaign launched by “1984” was buying out all the advertising pages in one of the issues of Newsweek and exchanging them for a colourful, 16-page brochure introducing the Macintosh. (John Sculley commented that “it’s unclear whether Apple has an advertising insert in Newsweek or whether Newsweek has an insert in an Apple brochure.”)

However, the big campaign also had its big downside. To pay for the promotion costs, the price of the computer itself was increased from $1,995 to $2,495, further burying down the original idea of affordable computer.

When a year later Apple wanted to top itself with another Super Bowl commercial, “Lemmings,” it failed miserably – the managers did not like the comparison to mindless animals jumping off the cliff.

The whole “hit and miss” approach to marketing became Apple’s recurring theme, with some great and influential campaigns interleaved with real media disasters. However, it can’t be denied that Apple was one of the first computer companies to understand the power of marketing. And all of the Apple promotional items of the last 20 years – from printed and video ads, through the Internet website, to posters, memorabilia and public relations materials – are excellent examples of sticking to corporate identity, and building a consistent image of the company and values it stands for.

Further reading: Articles: Making the Macintosh: The Macintosh Marketing Campaign Link points to external siteEssay about the “1984” ad by Sarah R. Stein Link points to external site  Video ads: Updated “1984” ad Link points to external siteApple TV ads at Redlightrunner Link points to external siteDozens of Apple TV ads at The Apple Collection Link points to external site  Printed ads: Scans of original brochure Link points to external siteScans of 1984’s Newsweek 40-page advertisement


#13. Family
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The original Macintosh spawned a whole family of computers. This poster will show thirty most important and innovative, but also the most troublesome models.

During the last twenty years, Apple has also released various peripherals and non-computer products (such as iPod, Newton, writers or AirPort) – these will not be discussed here.

Macintosh XL     January 1985
Repackaged Lisa 2, sold with MacWorks – a Macintosh emulator. Discontinued three months later.

Macintosh Plus     January 1986
Introduced two years after the original Macintosh, Plus was upgraded with 1 MB of RAM, new 800 KB floppy drive, built-in SCSI port, and a keyboard with cursor arrows and integrated keypad. During 1987 the case colour was changed from beige to platinum. Discontinued in 1990, it had the longest product life of any Macintosh.

Macintosh II     March 1987
The first modular Mac, with a separate monitor and an easy-to-open case. Supported plug and play and multiple monitors years before PCs. Could be turned on using the power key on the keyboard.

Macintosh SE     March 1987
An extension of Macintosh Plus, in a new platinum case. SE stood for Special Edition.

Macintosh IIci     September 1989
One of the most popular Macintoshes ever. First to have a built-in support for colour, and a first truly 32-bit Mac system.

Macintosh Portable     September 1989
The first portable Macintosh, with 10” active matrix screen, integrated trackball and up to ten hours of battery live. Its high price and massive weight (almost 8 kilograms) were main causes of its downfall.

Macintosh Classic     October 1990
Basically a refined Macintosh Plus in a new case. Obsolete long before its launch, Macintosh Classic only slightly redeemed itself with a historically low, sub-$1,000 price tag (hence its big popularity in schools). Included a fully working GUI in its ROM.

Quadra 700     October 1991
First of the new family of Macs, and also first to ship in a tower case (that is, a Macintosh IIcx case on its side, with the label rotated 90 degrees).

PowerBook 100     October 1991
The first, and in many ways the most innovative PowerBook of all time. One-third as heavy and as expensive as Portable. Introduced the now-standard design of keyboard in the back and pointing device (then trackball) in front.

Macintosh LC II     March 1992
Apple’s second “Volkswagen Beetle without the charm.” LC stood for Low Cost, and as such, LC II was crippled by design. Followed by much more better LC III.

PowerBook Duo 210     October 1992
The first Macintosh notebook introducing the concept of docking – that is putting a notebook into a special dock which turns it into a desktop machine. The dock usually had larger drive, more memory, and more ports.

Macintosh IIvx     October 1992
IIvx came in a metal case, and was the first Macintosh to be built with an internal CD-ROM drive in mind, further solidifying Apple’s concept of “multimedia” (introduced a year earlier).

Centris 660av     July 1993
The last representative of the short-lived Centris family, and one of the first Macs with integrated audio-video capabilities.

Macintosh TV     October 1993
A unique Macintosh with a built-in TV tuner, shipped in black case and sold only in audio-video stores. Never gathered much popularity due to high price and limited functionality (it was impossible to watch TV in a window or record it).

Power Macintosh 6100     March 1994
The first Macintosh with a PowerPC processor, replacing the venerable 680x0 family. Apple’s move to PowerPC was applauded by users and analysts as one of the most smooth platform switches in the history of computing.

PowerBook 520     May 1994
First of the new line of PowerBooks designed around the 68LC040 processor. Featured function keys and introduced the trackpad – a pointing device that became a standard in all future notebooks.

PowerBook 5300     August 1995
Probably the most problematic portable Macintosh. Its poor performance and plastic chipping from the case earned it many jokes, but nothing came close to batteries that... caught fire under some circumstances.

Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh     May 1997
An extraordinary Macintosh released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Apple’s incorporation. A very slim unit featured LCD screen, sound system by Bose (including separate soundwoofer) and a notebook-like keyboard. Available for $10,000, it arrived at buyer’s doorstep assisted with a tuxedo-clad Apple’s representative unpacking the gear and giving a short demo.

iMac     August 1998
The Macintosh for the new millennium. Came in a colourful, translucent case. Featured USB as its only means of expansion, thus adding to the popularity of the standard.

PowerMac G3     January 1999
Borrowing design traits from iMac, PowerMac G3 was the first Macintosh to support FireWire, Apple’s high-speed data port.

iBook     July 1999
The first consumer portable in five years, iBook continued iMac’s colourful and translucent style. Available in two colours – Blueberry and Tangerine – the iBook was equipped with a handle for more comfortable carrying. It also introduced AirPort, a wireless networking technology.

PowerMac G4     October 1999
The first personal computer fast enough to be considered a weapon by US army, and therefore subject to exporting restrictions. Later models added long-awaited multi-processor configurations.

PowerMac G4 Cube     July 2000
One of the most compact and interesting-looking Macintoshes. Housed in a 20×20×20 cm fanless cube, with ports at the bottom and slot DVD drive at the top. A classic case of style over substance, the Cube never sold well due to low expansion possibilities and high price.

PowerBook G4     January 2001
The first portable with a G4 processor, sporting a stylish enclosure based on Titanium, with a wide-screen 15” display.

iBook     May 2001
A new edition of iBook in a completely new, white case. The first Macintosh to include a combo DVD/CD-RW drive.

iMac     January 2002
A completely new iMac with LCD screen and a semispherical base. Later available in 17” and, recently, 20” models. Featured “SuperDrive,” capable of burning CDs and DVDs.

eMac     April 2002
Basically a 17” iMac designed for education market, but also sold to individual customers.

Xserve     May 2002
Apple’s return to the server market, Xserve had a special case designed to put in 19” server racks. Later available in bigger RAID units.

PowerBook G4 17”     January 2003
The first notebook ever with 17-inch screen, and Apple’s most powerful notebook ever. Shipped in an all-new aluminium case, and featured FireWire 800, internal BlueTooth and AirPort Extreme.

PowerMac G5     June 2003
Touted the most powerful personal computer ever, PowerMac G5 is based on IBM’s new microprocessor, and housed in an aluminium enclosure with four independent thermal zones and nine fans. 1,100 G5s were bought by Virginia Tech to create world’s third fastest supercomputer, nicknamed... Big Mac.

Further reading: Apple History Link points to external site


#14. iMac
This image can be zoomed#14. iMac
In 1998 Apple revisited and updated the ideas that stood behind the original Macintosh, and which somehow seemed to get lost over time. The end result was “the Macintosh of the Internet era” which earned a quite logical and appropriate name iMac.

iMac was advertised as the fastest and most user-friendly way to get connected to the Internet (“Step 1: plug in, step 2: get connected, step 3: there’s no step 3!”), but most of its power laid in its looks – iMac’s translucent, colourful, one-piece case was a welcome departure from legions of similarly looking gray machines. Similarly to its counterpart from 1984, most of the people could describe iMac using only one word, “cute.” Again the standard configuration had everything the user would ever need, and again it attracted many people without any previous computer experience – being probably the first machine they weren’t afraid of.

iMac quickly became the best-selling Macintosh, and in many regions of the world the best-selling computer ever. It helped Apple Computer to get out of financial trouble, and reestablish company’s position as the leader in computer hardware design.

The fruitful collaboration with designer Jonathan Ive extended to other products, such as similarly beautiful and colourful iBook and PowerMac. The iMac itself was revamped every half year, further editions bringing new colour schemes, convection cooling (no fan!), consumer-first onboard FireWire, and new mouse and keyboard.

However, the biggest change came in January 2002, when Apple announced completely new iMac with a “desk lamp” design. During the launch, Steve Jobs proclaimed that “the CRT is officially dead” and demonstrated the easily rotating and moving flat-panel screen, attached to the small base housing an entire computer. Once again, the innovative new design influenced and amazed, but both iMacs (as well as many other attempts) failed to increase Apple’s diminishing market share.

It might seem that even twenty years after its birth, Macintosh still bears the unfortunate label of a computer “for the rest of us.” But even if in today’s PC/Windows-driven world Macs might seem slightly overpriced, funny looking machines for typesetters and designers, we shouldn’t forget that ultimately it was this little beige box that made our everyday’s contact with computers a lot easier. And all that because “on a particularly bright day in Cupertino, California, some particularly bright engineers had a particularly bright idea: wouldn’t it make more sense to teach computers about people, instead of teaching people about computers?”

So, thank God for the bright days in California.

Further reading: iMac information on Apple’s official site Link points to external site

Marcin Wichary

Page added on 22nd January 2004.

Copyright © 2002-2005 Marcin Wichary
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