Apple’s Mac at 30: Apple celebrates a major milestone

The Macintosh computer was first unveiled on Jan. 24, 1984, to a cheering audience. NowThisNews looks back on the announcement. (NowThisNews)

The world watched the Mac burst onto the scene 30 years ago today, and Apple is taking the opportunity to celebrate its history with a nostalgic video on its Web site. In just under three minutes, the tech giant whirls through the Mac’s history, featuring interviews with notable artists such as composer Hans Zimmer, musician Moby, and shoe designer Tinker Hatfield that emphasize how the Mac has affected the work of creative professionals.

From a company as image- and message-conscious as Apple, it’s likely no coincidence that those creative professionals are exactly the target audience for the newest Mac Pro. But, cynicism aside, it’s nice to take time to note how different the Mac really was from the computers that came before it — particularly for a generation of young adults who have grown up with the iconic Apple desktops already in their classrooms.

Designer and computer scientist John Maeda notes in the interview that the Mac was completely unlike anything that had come on to the scene before and that the computer on his desk got a lot of attention from his students in 1984.

“What is that?” he remembers his students saying. “It’s got pictures on it.”

In a world where we can take pictures with computers that fit in our pockets, then resize, crop, recolor and share them in the next breath, it’s hard to imagine that it wasn’t so long ago that just seeing a picture on a computer screen was a remarkable thing.

There’s no mention of Apple’s late co-founder, Steve Jobs, in the video (as Time’s Harry McCracken notes, Jobs actually recoiled at the thought of celebrating the Mac’s 25th anniversary). But, from start to finish, the short film certainly champions Jobs’s vision of Apple as company sitting at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts.

The company has also made Mac timeline, showcasing one creative professional and one Mac model for every year between 1984 and 2013; 2014 features a write-up of the Mac Pro. Apple fans are also asked to take a brief survey on the first Mac model they ever used and what they used it for. As of Friday morning, the poll showed that most people used the Mac for education or teaching in its earliest days, while “Internet & Email” pops up in 1989 and grows to become the dominant use by about 1998.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook will speak in a primetime Friday interview on ABC’s World News about the Mac’s 30th anniversary and the company’s future. Apple reports earnings next week, and while analysts expect the company to have sold a lot of gadgets over the holidays, pundits still question what Apple’s next big breakthrough will be.

Not that Apple fans should be holding their breath for any clues.

“We believe, fundamentally, that people love surprises,” Cook told ABC’s Davie Muir.

In an excerpt from the interview posted by ABC News, Cook joked that Apple is developing a ring as its entry into the wearable market, as he deflected questions about Apple’s next products — including reports that the firm is planning two phones with bigger screens for the next product cycle.

Follow The Post’s new tech blog, The Switch, where technology and policy connect.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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