January 24, 1984 was the day of the annual Apple’s shareholders meeting in the Flint Center in Cupertino. It was a day that would go down in history, a day that will forever change how people viewed personal computers. You can even read what he said online. It was the day that Steve Jobs finally introduced the revolutionary Macintosh computer.
What Transpired That Day
It was a packed room and Steve Jobs was holding sway over shareholders. He was smartly dressed in a double-breasted suit, and he warned against an IBM-dominated future while he extolled the virtues of the new Mac. It was “insanely great”, he insisted. It can even talk with its text to speech feature:
“Hello, I’m Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I’d like to share with you a maxim I thought of the first time I met an IBM mainframe. Never trust a computer you can’t lift.”
Jobs also demonstrated the breakthrough graphical user interface, which very few computer users had encountered at the time. Then the theme from Chariots of Fire blared from the speakers, and Steve Jobs smiled.
The shareholders approved of his vision.
The Mac Breakthroughs
Technically speaking, the Macintosh didn’t really start any new single piece of technology. Perhaps its most prominent feature was the mouse, but that was invented way back in 1968. Even Windows launched a mouse the year before. And the famous Mac “WIMP” interface that consisted of windows, icons, menus, and a pointer controlled by the user wasn’t all that new either.
Still, 3 crucial innovations were very obvious:
- All these exciting features, such as the mouse and the graphic user interface, were finally integrated into a single machine. The whole was truly greater than the sum of its parts that were only seen rarely.
- The GUI and the mouse weren’t optional. They were instead standard features. In fact, the first Macs didn’t even have cursor keys, so users were expected to use the mouse, which came standard.
- The GUI became the standard that other software vendors had to follow, and this resulted in a consistency that made programs easier to learn. This then resulted in an increase in software sales. This was amply demonstrated by the Mac, as their users bought about 2 more programs than average DOS users.
Although the Mac was clearly superior to the PC of the time, it was also more expensive. It was to retail for about $2,500 and in 1984 that was a LOT of money (still is!). PC users also had more options among specialized applications, and they really had a wider support system.
As a result, PCs still dominated sales in the desktop computer industry every year since 1984. Steve Jobs himself would be forced out of Apple in 1985, just a little more than a year after the Macintosh introduction.
Still, the Mac set a standard that PC designers were forced to emulate. Microsoft would come out with Windows 3.0 and then Windows 95. On that day in January 24, 1984, the world knew what computers were really capable of, and nothing was ever the same again.