A sidebar to the Apple Macintosh preview published in Byte, issue 2/1984, pp. 34-35.

Going for the World Market

Having learned from past experience, Apple designed the Macintosh so that it could easily be modified for all markets outside the United States. The following examples show how pervasive nation- or language-specific aspects of a computer design are and how Apple has minimized the changes needed.

  • Except for the word “Apple” on the front panel, the Macintosh has no English labels anywhere on the product or in the ROM. Each plug is labeled with a picture that identifies its function.

  • The video-display rate of 60.15 Hz is generated internally instead of being derived from the line current. This allows the Mac to be used without modification in countries that have 50 Hz line current.

  • Macintosh software has been designed so that all text messages, message layouts, and icons can be stored in a resource file, separate from the program itself. A designer can use a resource-editor program to change text (for example, to another language), icons, message layout, and the formats of time, dates, numbers, and currency. With this method, the program itself does not have to be changed and recompiled to make these changes.

  • The keys on the keyboard are defined by the software, thus allowing Apple to change the keyboard easily to accommodate the special characters needed by some languages. In addition, Apple has designed the Mac so that two keyboards (differing in only one key) can be used for all versions of the product; Apple customizes a keyboard for a given language by printing the necessary legends into the plastic keys. In addition, any Mac keyboard can produce the full Macintosh character set; the only advantage to having the keyboard for a certain language is that the keyboard layout will be more appropriate for that language.

With these innovations, the most time-consuming part of modifying the Macintosh for another country is translating and printing the documentation. Apple reports that it will be shipping the Macintosh to several foreign countries “within several months of the Mac’s introduction.” (Companies never seem to meet such deadlines, so expect foreign versions to be shipped before the end of 1984.)

Page added on 20th January 2004.

Copyright © 2002-2005 Marcin Wichary