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Today the Mac Turns 36 Years Old. Here’s Why It Still Matters Today

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For most people, the story of the Macintosh begins with the famous Super Bowl ad directed by Ridley Scott. In reality, the story started long before that (5 years before, to be exact), but it wasn’t until a few days later that the world would meet the first mass-market truly ‘personal’ computer. The Macintosh included a graphical user interface (GUI), a mouse for navigation, and a built-in display, all of which were revolutionary at the time. 

Today marks 36 years from the day the original Mac was introduced by Steve Jobs. In the first of what would become Job’s signature product launch keynotes, Apple showed off its new computer. Oh, and Jobs wore a bow-tie while pulling off a canvas bag to reveal the first Macintosh.

That Mac featured an 8MHz Motorola 68000 processor, a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive, a 9-inch black and white display, and 128K of RAM. It also carried a price tag of $2,495, which is roughly $6,000 in today’s dollars. It kind of makes the newest Mac Pro seem affordable in comparison. 

It’s hard to imagine today how monumental the Macintosh was at the time, but in addition to the computer itself, Apple’s launch was something completely new. The company turned the tech product launch into a media event, borrowing a page from its CEO at the time, John Sculley’s, former company, Pepsi. 

It worked. The Mac was the most popular personal computer in its first year, outselling Apple’s own Lisa, as well as the IBM PCjr. It sold almost 250,000 units that first year, but its long term success was hampered by the lack of applications that took advantage of its GUI. In fact, despite promising more than 70 software titles, there were generally fewer than a dozen widely-available applications. 

The Mac has come a long way since 1984, and has taken on a variety of shapes and forms. From the original Macintosh 128K, to the iMac, to the PowerBook and MacBook Pro, Apple has consistently set the direction for the industry and every other manufacturer. 

While Apple’s most recent financial success is largely attributed to the iPhone, it’s worth remembering that the introduction of the Mac was the moment that Apple first broke into the mind of the public. It generated a loyal fanbase that has grown over the last 36 years, reaching cult-like status in many ways.

And today, it remains a symbol of the ethos and design innovation that has become Apple’s signature. 

That seems like a pretty big success after all. 

Published on: Jan 24, 2020

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

Source: Inc.com