Thirty years ago, computers were perceived as cold and impersonal machines that were difficult to use; only scientists or computer experts would be able to figure out and use the computer’s many buttons and functions. It wasn’t until the Macintosh came along on Jan. 24, 1984 – 29 years ago today – that people finally understood the potential of computers to be creative tools for productivity and entertainment.
Apple reinvented personal computing by introducing a product that was portable, cheap, and most of all, user-friendly. Computers had never been any of these things until Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh.
The Mac’s public debut was momentous: Jobs, who had a knack for building excitement during his presentations, introduced the Macintosh to the theme of “Chariots of Fire,” and even allowed the computer’s speaker system to introduce itself.
“Hello, I’m Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag,” the computer said to enormous applause and cheers. “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!’”
With a simple graphical user interface, easy document creation, beautiful color animations and dozens of new font types, the Macintosh ushered in a new era of computing that focused more on the end user experience, rather than just the computer’s capabilities. By popularizing the GUI, Macintosh paved the way for increased competition in the personal computing industry, particularly with Microsoft and Windows, which mimicked the original GUI on the first Macintosh until the recent debut of Windows 8.
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"The ease of use that the Mac introduced made it possible for millions of people to use the next and more important development: a multitude of applications,” said Jef Raskin, the original project leader on the Macintosh before Jobs took his position.
The Mac was an incredibly important milestone, not just for Steve Jobs and Apple, but the entire computer industry, and the entire world. Personal computers have changed the way we work: They’ve made us more efficient, more productive and more imaginative, but none of it would’ve been possible without the Mac.
Check out Steve Jobs’ full keynote address for the Macintosh below.