Mac turns 20

The Mac turns 20 this year. We trace the history of the machine that launched with one of the most famous advertising campaigns.

January 1984: Apple launches the Macintosh with one of the most famous advertising campaigns ever, featuring a Superbowl advertisement directed by Ridley Scott. Scott’s ad depicted a young woman destroying a screen where an Orwellian figure rants and raves. Kaboom, freedom for the huddled masses. Cue voiceover: “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”

Steve Jobs’ unveiling of the new computer was no less dramatic. With a flourish, he revealed “the computer for the rest of us”. “Hello,” the screen read. Then the machine spoke: “It sure is great to get out of that bag.”

The new Mac features an 8MHz processor and 128kb of RAM.

January 1984: Microsoft simultaneously releases the first third-party app for Mac: Microsoft Word 1.0.

July 1985: Aldus PageMaker is released. Together, PageMaker, the Mac and Adobe’s PostScript page description language were the essential tools of the desktop publishing revolution.

September 1985: Unhappy at being sidelined by the board and CEO John Sculley, Jobs leaves Apple and founds NeXT Computer.

March 1987: The first colour Mac, the Macintosh II, is released.

September 1989: The Macintosh Portable is announced. It was a bit premature — slow, heavy, and $US6500.

October 1991: Three truly portable computers are announced — the Powerbook 100, 140 and 170. This time they are received enthusiastically.

March 1994: New Macs ship with PowerPC RISC processors. Legacy 680x0 software is supported through a hardware emulator — a successful migration strategy that is widely admired.

September 1994: CEO Gil Amelio announces that Apple will license Mac OS to hardware manufacturers. Too little, too late.

December 1996: Searching for an existing OS to build the new Mac OS upon, Apple spurns Be and instead buys NeXT for $US430 million. Jobs returns to Apple as a consultant.

July 1997: Apple’s board removes Amelio and offers Jobs the position. Taking the title “interim CEO”, Jobs halts the licensing programme, stops many projects, cans the Newton handheld and stacks senior positions with former NeXT staff.

May 1998: Jobs releases the iMac, an all-in-one machine notable for not being beige. With a nod to the release of the original Mac, the iMac screen displays the words “Hello, again”.

March 2001: Mac OS X released. Version 1.0 had its problems — it was slow and missing some features — but Apple finally showed it could ship a modern operating system. Subsequent versions improved greatly.

January 2002: Flat-panel iMac released.

May 2002: The Xserve, Apple’s first ever rack-mount server, is released.

January 2004: At Macworld San Francisco Steve Jobs looks back at 20 years of Macintosh. The fastest Mac available now packs two 2GHz chips and up to 8GB of RAM.

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