Few computers changed the course of computing history like Apple’s diminutive Macintosh circa 1984.
What were the reviews like back then? How does the original Mac compare to today’s iMac?
Lawrence Magid, then writing for the Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1984, gushed praise for Apple’s new computer in a lengthy review of the original Mac.
Mac360’s Tera Jean Patricks bought one of the original Macs, as did our trusty sys admin, Ron McElfresh. I wasn’t old enough to purchase such an exotic toy back in those days.
It was just days ago when Mac360 questioned a survey’s results that said Mac users are older than PC users. Here we are blasting back to the past with memories of Mac Genesis.
Magid’s original article is full of wonderfully gushing and praiseworthy quotes.
As anyone will tell you, it’s what you can get the computer to do that’s important, and the early days of the Mac pointed out the need for a suite of applications to make the computer perform. It’s not just the OS, right? Can you say, “BeOS?”
What’s quite striking about the review of the original 1984 Mac is how little and how much has changed since then. Magid was all ga ga over MacPaint and MacWord, both of which, when compared to today’s Mac tools, were all about eye candy.
The visual focus was on the Mac’s tiny screen, the mouse pointer, and proportional fonts. What struck me right away was the price tag. Think about it. The original Mac cost buyers $2,495. No color. No hard drive. No iLife ‘84.
Apple’s original Mac printer was the $495 ImageWriter—pure dot matrix. If you don’t know what that is, ask some of the older Mac crowd.
There’s more. Remember, there was a time when Apple dominated, or, at the very least, was a major player in the personal computer industry. Magid points out that their reign ended in 1981 with the introduction of the IBM PC.
So, the Mac never dominated the market for personal computers. Never. As in “ever.” Why not? As far as 1984 was concerned, the Mac was not a success. Steve Jobs left Apple because of disappointing Mac sales. For years, the Apple II was the company’s bread and butter machine.
But the future had been sown, and the Mac’s graphical user interface was the future. What about software for the Mac? Magid nailed the problem in his review.
I mentioned the original Mac’s price. At $2,495 it was no bargain, though much cheaper than the original Lisa’s $10,000 price tag. Steve Jobs had no problem asking the public to cough up big dollars for Apple’s dream machines.
Today, $2,495 gets you the most honkin’ 24-inch iMac loaded with software, a super computer compared to anything on the market back then.
One final note from Magid’s view of the Mac’s world back in 1984:
The Mac didn’t get off to a delicious start, Apple didn’t take a bite out of IBM’s sales back then, but IBM doesn’t make personal computers anymore.
Where were you when Apple launched the Mac in 1984? What was your first Mac and when? As always, share with other Mac360 readers in the Comments section below.