Flashback to 1984. Ms. Pac-Man had struck a blow for women’s rights and a young Joe Piscopo taught us all how to laugh. A young, cocksure Steve Jobs stepped into the spotlight to introduce a machine destined to revolutionize the personal computer. The Macintosh (128k) was born and home computing was never the same again.
Flash forward to 2012—the Macintosh and Apple brands have become such a ubiquitous part of our lives and culture that it’s hard to imagine just how “mind blowing” the Mac was back then.
The mouse pointer had been around since the 1960s, but the Mac brought the mouse out from relative obscurity and into the mainstream. Whereas early home computers relied heavily on text-based UIs and command prompts, the Mac’s graphical UI was a perfect match for the mouse. Rather than memorizing long, complicated commands, the mouse blew minds by allowing you to interact with the computer by simply pointing and clicking.
Until the Macintosh, unless you had an incredibly rare and expensive machine, the world of computing was a very bland text-based experience. The Mac changed everything with its affordable graphical user interface. It’s hard to overstate just how revolutionary this shift was at the time. Nearly all the conventions of modern GUIs in home computing like “desktops,” “trash bins” and file “folders” owe their roots to that first mind-blowing Macintosh’s GUI.
What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) Word Processing and Printing
Before the Macintosh changed the game with its GUI, word processing and document production on home computers was a much more abstract affair. All the characteristics of your document had to be coded on the page with markup language more reminiscent of today’s HTML than what you would imagine from a modern word processor. MacWrite and MacDraw blew minds by allowing users to actually see what their documents would actually look like on-screen as you were working on them.
The Idea that a computer can be used for non-serious games and home applications
Home computing has infiltrated so many aspects of our day-to-day lives that it’s hard to believe there was a time when computers were considered so important that they were to be reserved only the most serious of uses like business and research. The Macintosh blew minds by daring to make computing fun for the masses. Its compliment of fun, useful programs, flashy graphics and a simple to understand UI, took the stuffy, business-only, no-fun model of early home computing and shattered it—ushering in home computing as we know it today.
In early home computers, design and style were afterthoughts to function. To put it kindly, most early machines were clunky, ugly, space hogs. The Macintosh changed everything with a sleek, compact, design that seemed years ahead of the competition. The Mac wasn’t just some ugly pile of components to hide away in some office cubicle or back room—the Mac was an attention getter, status symbol, and so much more.