1984 was the year that a transit of earth from Mars took place, US president of the time Ronald Reagan paid a visit to his ancestral home in Ballyporeen, Ireland, Beverly Lynn Burns became the first woman Boeing 747 captain in the world. Band Aid (assembled by Bob Geldof) recorded the charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in London to raise money to combat the famine in Ethiopia, Soviet submarine K-278 Komsomolets reached a record submergence depth of 1,020 meters, 1984 was a memorable year for a lot of reasons, it was also the year that Apple released the Mac.
Apple had released several machines before this such as the Apple I, II, III and the affluent LISA but it wasn’t until that decisive day in 1984 that Apple really came of age.
On that historic day on the 24th January as Steve Jobs stood nervously in front of a room full of shareholders at the Flint Center at DeAnza College in Cupertino, tension was in the air, particularly for Jobs. The launch of the Apple Macintosh had been preceded by an iconic and now famous Ripley Scott directed advertisement that made its debut during the Super Bowl just two days earlier. There was much expectation and increasing intrigue surrounding Apple’s latest incarnation, when Steve Jobs pulled the boxy beige creation out of a bag, switched it on and the robotic voice from within the Mac cranked out the words “Hello. I’m Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag,” history was made.
Screens boasting a graphical user interface, a feature very few people had seen at the time accompanied by the Chariots of Fire theme swirling through the air only further added to the furor, shareholders and investors of Apple went wild; here was something truly unique to behold. Six days later Jobs would repeat the unveiling at the monthly general meeting of the Boston Computer Society except this time it would be before the consumer themselves, not shareholders and investors.
The Interface revolution
It has to be remembered that this was at a time when using computers comprised of reeling off codes and commands in order to operate them, even the simplest tasks required memorizing the proper intonations, then executing several exacting steps. IBM was the undisputed king of the PC in businesses worldwide; that was all about to change. While not being the inventor of the graphical interface, the Apple Mac was the first to take it mainstream, make no mistake; this interface was to be one Apple’s strongest selling points, this interface coupled with the ability to control all of this with a ‘mouse’ which you could use to click on icons was something which had never been attempted with a PC before.
* An Apple Macs screen in monochrome format, revolutionary for its time
All of a sudden, in comparison to text only PC’s which were a technological nightmare except for those versed in the language required to utilize them, the world suddenly had access to something altogether more user friendly machine, a machine for the masses if you like. There were folders, windows and pull down menus, all which could be operated, not by the keyboard as was the norm until that point, but the mouse which further enhanced the mystique surrounding the product
These distinct differentiations from anything else on the market was badly needed from Apples point of view, the company had been going through a rocky phase with the recent failure of their Apple III due to technical deficiencies and the impressive but expensive LISA, ($10,000 at the time), also failing to make any significant impression on the market.
The Apple Macintosh of 1984 was a consumer friendly machine that operated on a visually driven interface which would prove not only innovative for the time but also have far reaching connotations for technology and many industries. It is incredible to think that such things we take for granted today such as newsletters, brochures and other publications were not then possible on a PC; that is until that fateful day in 1984. The Apple Mac came bundled with MacPaint and MacWrite which further broadened the possibilities for the end user.
The Mac and publishing
To say the Mac changed the face of technology isn’t an exaggeration, look around you and you will see its influence you in the guise of smartphones and tablets and many other products, in fact its influence in opening up computing to the masses from that day in 1984 is comparable to the way that touchscreens would later open up smartphones and tablets to anyone in an instantly comfortable manner.
The Mac heavily influenced many industries, none more so than the publishing industry, as a former student of design, being introduced to a Mac is something that will always live with me as it had such a profound influence on not only myself but the design industry as a whole. Suddenly you were able to create on screen compositions that previously would only have been possible by hand, budding publishers could change fonts, adjust typeface sizes and add attributes such as italics. Images could now be mixed with text, a process that previously would have required a visit to a professional printer had now been opened up to the masses, the revolution was now well under way. The first Mac ads told us to “try the computer you already know how to use”; this simple sentence was becoming more pertinent by the day.
Apple Mac’s have long been synonymous with desktop publishing, design and layout. I’d wager that even now three decades later, despite the advancements in the competition, Apple Macs will still be found in design studios and production departments in newspapers and magazines houses around the world such is their influence.
We here at 3D Issue have and continue to accommodate Mac users as well as users of all operating systems. Nowadays you can create publications on most systems but it can’t be forgotten that it was the Mac that pioneered this way of thinking. The Mac truly was a designers dream and to many it still is, sure, the devices we now have are gaining the lion’s share of the market in comparison to the desktop PC, (recent surveys have shown that PC’s are showing a steady decline in sales in comparison with their mobile counterparts), but it should never be forgotten the profound influence that the Mac had on several industries, desktop publishing and design in particular owe a lot to the Mac and its capabilities at the time.
In an interview with the Smithsonian Jobs looked back on Apples success within the desktop publishing arena when he said;
“From almost the beginning at Apple we were, for some incredibly lucky reason, fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time. The contributions we tried to make embodied values not only of technical excellence and innovation–which I think we did our share of–but innovation of a more humanistic kind. The things I’m most proud about at Apple is where the technical and the humanistic came together, as it did in publishing for example. The Macintosh basically revolutionized publishing and printing. The typographic artistry coupled with the technical understanding and excellence to implement that electronically–those two things came together and empowered people to use the computer without having to understand arcane computer commands. It was the combination of those two things that I’m the most proud of. It happened on the Apple II and it happened on the Lisa, although there were other problems with the Lisa that caused it to be a market failure; and then it happened again big time on the Macintosh.”
Who knows, if it hadn’t been for the Mac the smartphones and tablets which we all now enjoy and who themselves have enjoyed phenomenal success, may never have come to light in the form we now know them; they may simply have been devices to send emails and make calls. The Mac will forever retain a place in the history of desktop publishing, design and layout, the advancements of the time revolutionizing the industry and forever changing their future within our lives.
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