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38 Years of Apple Macintosh

Apple Macs and Macbooks are so commonplace now that it feels like they’ve been around forever. However, they are relatively new, with today marking Macintosh’s 38th birthday. 

The original Macintosh, known as the Macintosh 128k (pictured above), was the first mass-market all-in-one desktop personal computer to feature a graphical user interface, built-in screen and mouse. 

How it all started

The Macintosh project started in the late 1970s with Jeff Raskin. He was an Apple employee who wanted to create a low cost and easy to use computer for the average consumer. He initially wanted to name the computer McIntosh, after his favourite type of apple, but couldn’t for legal reasons. In 1979, Raskin was authorised to start hiring for the project. Over the years, he put together a large development team that designed and built the original Macintosh hardware and software. This design caught the eye of the co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs. He focused his attention on the project after realising its marketability and due to a personality conflict, Raskin actually left the Macintosh project in 1981. The final Macintosh design is said to be more akin to Jobs’ ideas than Raskin’s. 

One of the unique features at the time was that the Mac was based on a vertical integration model. This means that Apple creates and pre-installs its own operating system and facilitates all aspects of its hardware. This was initially called System Software, but was later renamed to Mac OS. This was different to its competition at the time, IBM PCs, which had multiple sellers creating hardware intended to run another company’s operating system. 

What went wrong?

The final cost of the Macintosh 128k was far from affordable at $2495. One of the main reasons why the price was so high was because of the expansive marketing budget. In November 1984, for a special edition of Newsweek, Apple spent over $2.5 million to buy all 39 of the issue’s advertising pages. They also did a ‘Test Drive a Macintosh’ promo, which allowed potential buyers with a credit card to take home a Macintosh for 24 hours and later return it to a dealer. 200,000 people participated, but dealers didn’t approve of it. There was an insufficient supply for the demand, and many of the computers were returned in such bad shape that they couldn’t be sold anymore. This caused the then CEO John Sculley to raise the price from $1995 to $2495. Apple of 1984 did create one of their most famous adverts though, which aired during the Super Bowl, two days before the Macintosh launch. 

Even though the first Macintosh computer was basically a flop, it paved the way for Apple to have a market value today of $3 trillion! The reason the Macintosh wasn’t a hit was down to it not being affordable and not completely workable. Job’s himself blamed the price, stating that it was “the main reason the Macintosh sales slowed down and Microsoft got to dominate the market”. There were other problems too though. It was a relatively slow computer with only 128k memory. It lacked an internal hard drive and, astonishingly, didn’t have a fan, which gave it the nickname ‘the beige toaster’. Despite this, there was enough right with it that spurred on even more development and change, that enabled the original model to succeed in changing computing for the world. The Macintosh that launched in 1984 looked nothing like today’s machines. It was clunky, with a small monochrome monitor and blocky graphics. The crucial thing though, is that it looked nothing like computers of its time. It was revolutionary in its own roundabout way. 


“Macintosh by Apple – complete history of Mac computers”. Jan 2021

“Apple becomes the first company worth $3 trillion”. Savitz, E. Jan 2022

“A personal account of Apple’s Macintosh launch – 36 years ago”. Bajarin, T. Jan 2020

“Apple launched Macintosh on January 24 1984 and changed the world – eventually”. Gallagher W, Jan 2020

“How Steve Jobs’ Macintosh failed and still changed computing”. O’Brien, C. Jan 2014

  • Written by Mikita Maru, January 24 2022