Steve Jobs Introduces the first Macintosh, January 1984
Part 1 of two related posts.
Here’s a video of Steve Jobs introducing the very first Mac, taken by Scott Knaster, who wrote software documentation for Apple.
If you’re under 35 or so, it may be hard to see what all the cheering was about—especially when you realize the audience was drawn from the smartest and most tech-savvy people in the country. After all, it’s a black-and-white computer with a terrible speech synthesizer and a 9-inch screen, running off a floppy disk, for goodness sake.
But compared to what else was out there, it was like going from a hand-crank-to-start Model T Ford to, let’s say, a Prius. There were no PCs in the under $8000 range that could do half of what the Mac did effortlessly, at a price under $3000. None that could:
- Be controlled with a mouse instead of typing arcane instructions
- Display type on the screen in multiple fonts, sizes, and styles, including handwriting-like script fonts
- Create pictures using painting tools instead of massive amounts of computer code
- Play chess on a realistic-looking 3D board, using the mouse to move pieces
- Synthesize speech this clearly and easily
- Have all the pieces in one relatively lightweight box, be carried around in a bag, and still have a screen big enough to work (there were portable computers back then, like the Kaypro and Osborne—but the Kaypro was big and awkward and had sharp metal edges, and the Osborne’s 5″ screen was kind of like using something the size of an iPhone but weighed 24.5 pounds and had screen quality like an old non-cable black-and-white TV screen
Along with the “insanely great” slogan, Apple also called the Mac “the computer for the rest of us.” And it was! I had actually begun shopping for my first computer in late 1983. Frankly, although I recognized that I needed a computer and it would make writing my second book a lot easier, I was intimidated. I didn’t want to have to learn code, didn’t want to struggle with awkward and unintuitive commands. I had used computerized typesetting equipment on one of my newspaper jobs, and it wasn’t fun.
So I took my time researching. I looked at the Kaypro, Osborne, Morrow, Commodore 64 (which had the worst word processing software I’ve ever seen) and various others, and by March, 1984, I was pretty much set to buy an Apple II, but not excited about the learning curve, or about not knowing how the page would look until I hit print. But my dealer, who was a friend, told me, “wait a month, we’ve got something really cool coming.” When the Mac was released to the general public in my area in April 1984, I bought one of the very first ones.
In Part 2 of this series, “How the First Mac Gave Me a Monopoly Marketing Advantage for 10 Years,” I draw marketing lessons from what that first Mac allowed me to do that none of my competitors were doing.