Steve Jobs' Mac turns 30

Steve Jobs' iconic creation brought home computing to non-techiesand fuelled his and Apple's rivalry with Microsoft and Bill Gates

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 12:08am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 12:08am


Decades before changing the world with iPhones and iPads, Apple transformed home computing with the Macintosh.

The user-friendly desktop machine referred to as the "Mac" and the ability to control it by clicking on icons with a mouse, opened computing to non-geeks in the way that touchscreens later allowed almost anyone to get instantly comfortable with smartphones or tablets. The Macintosh computer, introduced 30 years ago today, was at the core of a legendary rivalry between late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Microsoft mastermind Bill Gates.

Thousands of Apple faithful are expected for a birthday party this weekend in a performing arts centre in Silicon Valley, not far from the company's headquarters in the city of Cupertino.

"The Mac was a quantum leap forward," said early Apple employee Randy Wigginton.

"We didn't invent everything, but we did make everything very accessible and smooth. It was the first computer people would play with and say: 'That's cool'."

Prior to the January 24, 1984, unveiling of the Mac with its "graphical user interface", computers were workplace machines commanded with text typed in what seemed like a foreign language to most.

Credit for inventing the computer mouse in the 1960s went to Stanford Research Institute's Doug Engelbart, who died last year at 88.

"The Mac's impact was to bring the graphical user interface to 'the rest of us,' as Apple used to say", said Dag Spicer, chief content officer of the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley. "The Mac GUI was picked up by Microsoft, who named it Windows," he said.

The man remembered today as a marketing magician was a terrified 27-year-old when he stepped on stage to unveil the Mac, then-chief executive John Sculley said of Jobs in a post at the tech news website CNET. "He rehearsed over and over every gesture, word and facial expression," Sculley said. "Yet, when he was out there on stage, he made it all look so spontaneous."

Apple spotlighted the Mac's arrival with a TV commercial portraying it as a blow struck against an Orwellian computer culture.

The original vision of launching a Macintosh with 64 kilobytes of Ram and a US$1,000 price gave way to introducing one with 128 kilobytes of Ram at US$2,500.

"Steve was crazy about details," Wigginton said. "He wanted everything to be just right."