Thirty years ago today Apple introduced the Macintosh, and according to Anick Jesdanun, it’s still an influence in our lives.
Computers at the time typically required people to type in commands. Once the Mac came out 30 years ago Friday, people could instead navigate with a graphical user interface. Available options were organized into menus. People clicked icons to run programs and dragged and dropped files to move them.
The Mac introduced real-world metaphors such as using a trash can to delete files. It brought us fonts and other tools once limited to professional printers. Most importantly, it made computing and publishing easy enough for everyday people to learn and use.
Apple sparked a revolution in computing with the Mac. In turn, that sparked a revolution in publishing as people began creating fancy newsletters, brochures and other publications from their desktops.
These concepts are so fundamental today that it’s hard to imagine a time when they existed only in research labs — primarily Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and his team got much of its inspiration from PARC, which they visited while designing the Mac.
The Mac has had “incredible influence on pretty much everybody’s lives all over the world since computers are now so ubiquitous.” says Brad Myers, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute. “Pretty much all consumer electronics are adopting all of the same kinds of interactions.”
I remember seeing my first Mac. It belonged to my brother, who showed it off on my sister’s kitchen table. I was amazed with the mouse and the graphics. After all, my first work with a computer was in 1967 with a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP 8/S which was the size of a kitchen refrigerator and ran off paper tape generated by a teletype machine. So this little wonder was like going from a Model T to a Ferrari. (“Little” is a relative term. My brother’s Mac was the size of a small beer cooler.)
Six months later I bought my first home computer. It was the Apple IIc, which sold itself as the first “notebook” computer — as long as you didn’t need a monitor. I used it until 1995, then switched to a Gateway PC with the awesome capability of a 2 gigabyte hard drive. It cost $2,500, including monitor. Now I’m using a Toshiba laptop with a 2 terabyte hard drive attached and it cost me $500. (I still have the Apple IIc in its original boxes stored in the garage. You can see it in the background of the photo in today’s Friday Catblogging below.)
There’s more computing power in my cell phone — which is just a plain phone, not a smartphone — than there was in that PDP 8/S, and I carry a 4 gig jump drive in my pocket. I paid $10 for it. I suppose your average iPad could land a man on the moon.
Technology is groovy.