Macintosh Turns 30


Macintosh turns 30 today, and it’s incredible to consider the Mac as anything other than the incredibly streamlined sort of device that has become popular today.  In fact, when the Mac first came out, an incredibly geeky Steve Jobs, wearing an offbeat sort of bow tie, pulled a computer out of a duffel bag that weighed about 16 pounds and boasted a whopping 32-bits.  Kids today might scoff, particularly as they look at the iPads and iPhones they are carrying around, but Jobs pulled off the unthinkable for computers back on January 24, 1984 – he introduced what was then an incredibly innovative piece of technology that even “talked” to the audience in attendance.

The original Mac wasn’t exactly a raging success.  By the end of its third month, only 50,000 units had sold, but it was enough to establish Jobs as a computer wunderkind willing to try new things.  This was the computer that helped bring into popularity the mouse, which is now a standard piece of equipment with any computer, and the graphical user interface that Apple has become known for.

As Macintosh turns 30, it’s hard to conceive how the “beige toaster” – so named because the Macintosh lacked a fan to cool the inner components – helped Apple develop into the technical juggernaut it is today, but even in those early stages, Jobs’ sense of showmanship was easy to recognize.  The Mac of yesteryear was clearly designed with the portability of the 21st century in mind; compared to its competition, the IBM PC, the Macintosh was incredibly portable, somewhat easy to throw into a backpack and take with you anywhere you needed.  It was no laptop, to be sure, but it was an incredible technological innovation.

It’s interesting to crunch some numbers about how much – and really, how little – has changed about the first Macintosh compared to the MacBook Pro of today’s standards.  Today’s Macintosh has 2/3 of the weight of the 128K Mac, 500 times the processing power of the original, 100,000 times the amount of RAM, and the ticket price has only increased about 20 per cent.  Those are incredible numbers, considering the huge evolution that Macintosh has undergone over the last 30 years.

Even the text to voice capability that the original Macintosh was years ahead of its time.  While the voice one heard from the Macintosh then was very primitive and highly digitized, there’s no mistake that those crude beginnings became what iPhone and iPad users know as the Siri of today.  Many of the iPad and iPhone users of the 21st century were not even thought of, and many of them may look at the original Macintosh and wonder what such a device was used for back then.  When one looks at what Macintosh computers were like back in 1984 and consider the MacBook, the iPad or even the iPhone, it’s clear just how much has changed since then.

Macintosh may be turning 30, but it’s also clear that Apple as a company has many more evolutionary changes ahead of itself.  Fans are waiting with rabid anticipation for the upcoming iPhone 6, and there is sure to be evolutionary changes afoot with the MacBook and the iMac.  The Macintosh has clearly got a few more tricks up its ever-changing sleeve.

By Christina St-Jean


Los Angeles Times



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