Happy birthday, Mac! Remembering the original personal computer, 30 years later

apple macintosh turns 30 mac bday 30th anniversary of the 1984 2014

In the latter part of 1977, Ken Olsen, president of the then-powerful Digital Equipment Corporation, dismissed the idea of the PC, saying “there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” As crazy as that statement seems today, it was not unreasonable at the time. Early attempts at home computers often proved crude, unreliable and difficult to use. They also cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Then, on January 24, 1984, Apple released the Macintosh.

While most competitors relied on a command line operating system, like MS-DOS, the Mac used a ground-breaking graphical interface called Mac OS. Though many companies, including Apple, had tried GUIs before, they were either immature or paired with extravagantly expensive hardware. Though the original Mac’s price of $2,495 (over $5,000 when adjusted for inflation) seems prohibitive by modern standards, it was a bargain compared to other GUI computers like the Xerox Star, which started at $16,000 in 1981, and the Apple Lisa, which released at $9,995 in 1983.

The relatively inexpensive Mac’s impressive graphics made it the darling of desktop publishers and digital artists, a role that the brand retains to this day. Indeed, while both the hardware and software has changed significantly over the years, the Mac’s position in the market has barely budged. Apple released the Mac as a premium, but still obtainable, computer with an intuitive interface and adequately powerful hardware, and modern Macs boast the same traits.

Steve Jobs 1984Apple’s release of the Macintosh was also a declaration of war on IBM, a company that Steve Jobs despised, declaring in a 1985 Playboy interview that, if “IBM wins, my personal feeling is that we are going to enter a computer Dark Ages for about twenty years.” Initially, the Mac seemed as if it could truly threaten Big Blue, and Apple sold the computers as quickly as they were built. But internal troubles soon saw the ousting of Jobs, and the quality of later Macs declined with a slow, but sure, devolution of the original’s simplicity. Apple never came close to removing “IBM compatible” as the dominant standard; that would be accomplished, later, by Microsoft and Intel.

While the Mac did not directly conquer IBM, it did set in motion a number of advances that would become an important part of modern GUI operating systems. Concepts such as icons, scroll bars and windows, though not necessarily invented by Apple, were popularized by the Mac’s success and adopted by competitors – including Windows.

IBM failed to keep up with the advances made by GUI operating systems and though  Big Blue did eventually offer its own with a 1988 update to OS/2, the operating system’s high price and compatibility issues sunk its chances. Apple planted the seeds of IBM’s downfall; it just didn’t reap the rewards.

Today, the Mac remains an underdog, albeit one with a powerful heritage. Early rumors that it might be abandoned in favor of iOS never panned out and, so far, there’s no indication that Apple intends to axe its PC line. While the operating system may change, it’s hard to imagine the company ever walking away from the Macintosh brand, a name that’s over a decade older than the industry’s second senior citizen which, ironically, is IBM’s ThinkPad.

Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Computing

Here's why 64-bit (not 32-bit) dominates modern computing

Today's computing world isn't the same as it once was. With 64-bit processors and operating systems replacing the older 32-bit designs, we look at what 32-bit vs. 64-bit really means for you.
Home Theater

Kill your cable and switch to streaming with our painless guide

If you're going to quit cable or satellite for a streaming TV solution, you're going to want to get it right the first time. We've outlined exactly how to get started, step by step. Follow our lead, and you'll never look back.
Computing

If you've lost a software key, these handy tools can find it for you

Missing product keys getting you down? We've chosen some of the best software license and product key finders in existence, so you can locate and document your precious keys on your Windows or MacOS machine.
Computing

Need a monitor for professional photo-editing? These are the very best

Looking for the best monitor for photo editing? You'll need to factor in brightness, color accuracy, color gamut support and more. Fortunately, we've rounded up the best ones for you, to help you make an educated purchase.
Computing

HDR monitors are beginning to have an impact. Here are the best you can buy

HDR isn't the most common of PC monitor features and is often charged at a premium, but the list of available options is growing. These are the best HDR monitors you can buy right now.
Computing

Canada’s winters inspired a startup to warm homes with cryptomining heat waste

Cryptomining may be the key to untold riches and the future of currency, but it’s also an environmental nightmare. Heatmine, thinks it has the answer, but it could mean bolting a mining rig onto every home and business in the country.
Computing

You’ll soon be able to scribble all over PDFs on your Chromebook

Chrome OS users may soon be able to doodle all over their PDF documents with the possible addition of a new feature in Chrome OS' PDF viewer. The annotation feature is expected to allow users to hand draw or write over their documents.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Prices drop, but our favorite stays the same

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in the virtual reality arena, but most people can only afford one. Our comparison tells you which is best when you pit the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.
Computing

Microsoft’s Windows 95 throwback was just an ugly sweater giveaway

Microsoft's "softwear" announcement wasn't what we had hoped for. Thursday's announcement was not the new line of wearable tech or SkiFree monster sweater we wished for. But it did deliver the 90s nostalgia we wanted.
Home Theater

Confused about LED vs. LCD TVs? Here's everything you need to know

Our LED vs. LCD TV buying guide explains why these two common types of displays are fundamentally connected, how they differ, what to look for in buying an LED TV, and what's on the horizon for TVs.
Deals

The best MacBook deals for December 2018

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Computing

How to connect AirPods to your MacBook

If you have new AirPods, you may be looking forward to pairing them with your MacBook. Our guide will show you exactly how to connect AirPods to MacBook, what to do if they are already paired with a device, and more.
Computing

Hitting ‘Check for updates’ in Windows 10 opts you into beta releases

Users who are careful about keeping their system updated should watch out -- Microsoft revealed this week that clicking the Check for updates button in Windows can opt you in to testing beta code.