Original Apple Macintosh launched on this day in 1984

Today, January 24, 2011 marks a birthday of sorts, and we genealogists are fond of birthdays. It’s the birthday of the original Apple Macintosh, the Mactinosh 128K. It launched on January 24, 1984.

As Wikipedia points out, this marked the first successful launch of a personal computer with a graphical user interface (UI) and a mouse. Prior to this, personal computers, including the Commodore 64, the TI-99/4A, even the IBM PC Jr (Which launched a few months later than the first Macs) were all command-line based.

Some Numbers:
Price in 1984: $2,495
Price adjusted for inflation: Roughly $5,000
CPU: 8MHz Motorola 68000
Memory: 128KB
Storage: 400KB single-sided Floppy
Display: 9-inch 512×342 black & white CRT
Printer: Apple ImageWriter
Software – OS: System 0.97 and Finder
Software – Other: MacPaint, MacWrite

It even came with an audio cassette tape to guide you through using a mouse, since the vast majority of buyers would have had no experience using a mouse or graphical interface.

Just a few days before launch of the first Macintosh, quite a few people saw the infamous Ridley Scott-directed 1984 Commercial. According to Wikipedia, there are two interprations of the commercial:

Adelia Cellini states in a 2004 article for Macworld, “The Story Behind Apple’s ‘1984’ TV Commercial”:

Let’s see – an all-powerful entity blathering on about Unification of Thoughts to an army of soulless drones, only to be brought down by a plucky, Apple-esque underdog. So Big Brother, the villain from Apple’s ‘1984’ Mac ad, represented IBM, right? According to the ad’s creators, that’s not exactly the case. The original concept was to show the fight for the control of computer technology as a struggle of the few against the many, says TBWA/Chiat/Day’s Lee Clow. Apple wanted the Mac to symbolize the idea of empowerment, with the ad showcasing the Mac as a tool for combating conformity and asserting originality. What better way to do that than have a striking blonde athlete take a sledghammer to the face of that ultimate symbol of conformity, Big Brother?

However, in his 1983 Apple keynote address, Steve Jobs made the following comment before showcasing a preview of the commercial to a select audience:

It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers initially welcoming IBM with open arms now fear an IBM dominated and controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right?

The Macintosh team was led by Steve Jobs, and less than a year and a half after the launch of the Macintosh 128K, he would be forced out of Apple, and would not return until the end of 1996, taking over CEO duties in 1997. And the rest is history.

Images of the party hat and Macintosh: Wikimedia Commons

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