A byte from the Apple


With the Apple Macintosh completing 30 years on January 24, 2014, here’s a recap of its launch and how it became such a phenomenal success

This one is for computer history buffs. In 1976, Steve Wozniak, a young American electronics expert, designed Apple-1, a single-board computer. With best friend Steve Jobs, he started Apple Computer, Inc., and together they sold more than 200 of the boards. Apple then announced the follow-on, Apple II, a ready-to-use computer for all.

1977 dawned, and Apple II (with printed-circuit motherboard, switching power supply, keyboard, case-assembly, manual, game paddles, A/C power cord, cassette tape and computer game Breakout ) became an instant success, selling by the million. Hooked to a colour TV, Apple II produced brilliant graphics. The next one Lisa, the first PC with a graphical user interface, failed. Lisa was an improvement, with a 1-MB RAM, and a 12-inch monitor, but the golden steed of the Apple stable charged out in 1984, exactly 30 years ago.

The Macintosh was the first successful mouse-driven computer with a graphical user-interface. Apps included MacPaint, which made use of the mouse and MacWrite, which demonstrated WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) word-processing. All it needed was a single $1.5 million commercial during the 1984 Super Bowl and a $2500 price to set off a storm. Interestingly, Apple’s commercial featured the theme of destruction of Big Brother (that’s right, from George Orwell’s 1984 ) with the power of personal computing found in Macintosh.

When Steve Jobs pulled a 16-pound, 32-bit machine, with a 9-inch black-and-white screen and a pointing “mouse” device from a duffel bag in front of a rapt audience, he turned the computer from a futuristic, sci-fi gizmo into an everyday appliance.

Home computing would never be the same again. The friendly desktop — affectionately called Mac — with its click-on-icons facility, opened computing to non-geeks in the same way touchscreens have made smartphones and tablets accessible now. Mac was a quantum leap said a Silicon Valley friend, who described how thousands of “Apple faithfuls” partied at an arts centre not far from the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, to mark the birthday. “Apple-Mac was the first computer which impressed people,” he said.

As Jobs went from bowtie to turtleneck, the boxy Macintosh with a mouth-like slit below the screen for floppy disks evolved into a line that boasted slim, powerful laptops and a cylindrical Mac Pro desktop model. What would we be without the svelte iPod Mini/Shuffle, MacBook Pro, MacBook airs, and iPads?

GEETA PADMANABHAN

 

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