Apple Marks Mac's 30th Anniversary as Observers Look to the Future

Thirty years ago Jan. 24, Steve Jobs, in a black suit and green bow tie, introduced Apple's first Macintosh. The rest is history.

Apple is celebrating the day 30 years ago that the first Macintosh said hello to the world.

"It was approachable and friendly, starting with the smiley face that greeted you," Apple wrote on its site, to celebrate the anniversary. "There were folders that looked like file folders and a trash can for throwing things away. And with the click of a mouse, you could suddenly do the unimaginable. You could move things around on the screen, change the way they looked, combine words with images and sounds, and create like never before."

The Macintosh put the innovations of Apple's Lisa personal computer—which had a mouse and was the first personal computer with a graphical user interface (GUI), or more plainly, a screen that showed icons and images and not just text—and put them into a smaller box than most desktop computers of the day with a price tag of $2,495.

"Macintosh has four-voice sound and speech built-in," Steve Jobs, dressed in a black suit and green bow tie, slowly told his audience at the launch event, so the reality of those details might fully sink in.

"It communicates with you on a high-definition, super-crisp, bit-map, 9-inch black and white screen," Jobs continued, "which has over twice the number of dots on its screen of any current-generation personal computer. You have to see this display to believe it. It's incredible."

When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, a line was drawn in the sand that day between everything that came before and after it. Was the same true of the Macintosh's introduction?

"Was it innovative? Absolutely. Did the market take notice? Absolutely. But it took some time for the technology to make its way into users' lives," said Van Baker, a research vice president with Gartner.

"Really, I think the 1984 ad had more of an impact than the product did," said Roger Kay, principal analyst with Endpoint Technologies, referring to a commercial Apple aired during the 1984 Super Bowl, referencing the George Orwell book.

In the commercial, ranks of zombielike figures with gray uniforms and shaved heads marches with dead eyes toward a dictatorial talking head on a huge auditorium screen. In a simultaneous cut-in scene—a woman carrying a sledgehammer, wearing a tight-fitting track shorts and tank-top combination that today looks like a Hooters uniform, races away from pursuing guards. When she reaches the auditorium where the zombies are all staring blankly at the talking head, she heaves the hammer at the screen like an Olympic competitor, shattering the display.

"On January 24, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh, and you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984,'" says a voice-over as the words scroll up the screen.

Kay admits that such celebrations of Apple are always a little spoiled for him by the fact that Apple stole the mouse from Xerox PARC.