January 24, 2009

Happy 25th Birthday Macintosh

The Macintosh computer, created by Apple, turns 25 on January 24.

The computer debuted in 1984, with a Superbowl ad on January 22 that showed the new face of technology.  The Superbowl ad was directed by film maker Ridley Scott.

The Macintosh brought combinations of graphical interface and the mouse that is ubiquitous today.

The original Macintosh machine had a 9 inch screen with 128k of RAM, an internal floppy drive, and came with keyboard and a single-button mouse.

Apple previously released computers with a graphical user interface (GUI), like the Apple Lisa, that cost far more than the original Macintosh.

The Macintosh sold for $2,495, which compared to other computer prices back then, was very affordable, according to Mark Hattersley, editor in chief of Macworld UK.

"It was a hugely popular machine," said Hattersley.

"It took desktop computing away from IBM and back to Apple for a good number of years," he said. "It brought the notion of the desktop graphical interface to the mass market."

The Macintosh name was taken from Jef Raskin's favorite apple.  Raskin started the project to create the Macintosh.

The form of the name had to be altered to avoid legal wrangles with another company already trading under that name.

The initial production run of the first Macintosh is said to have the signatures of the design team burned into the inside of the case.

Douglas Adams, a science-fiction author, was the first to buy one of the original Macintosh machines in the U.K.  Next inline was Stephen Fry.

He said that he no longer possesses the early machine.

He told the BBC, "Oh I wish I still had it. I remember giving it away in 1986 to a primary school in a village in Norfolk."

Years after the launch of the first Macintosh by Apple, they later launched the iMac in 1998.

It is now hard to find a working 25-year old Macintosh, according to Jason Fitzpatrick from the Center for Computing History in Haverhill.

He said that many have suffered a "bit rot," which is when the memory chips inside the machine decay, leading to a gradual loss of functionality.

The director of the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, Kevin Murrell, said it had many working Apple machines even older than the 25-year-old Mac.

He said that even new, the Macintoshes still had their quirks.  The external hard drives that were available for later versions of the computer had to be placed on the left side of the machines to avoid interference with its power supply.

Lack of a hard drive meant that anyone working with the machine had to manually save everything on a floppy disk, making saving very repetitive.

However, despite this, he said that many people had very fond memories of the time they spent with an original Macintosh.


On the Net: