Editorial: Happy 20th anniversary Mac

"Though my wife still respects me, I really misuse her; I am having an affair with a random computer." -- "2000 Man," by The Rolling Stones

Well, it's not really random, and after twenty years, I think it's safe to say it's true love.

I managed to miss the first wave of personal computing in the 70s and early 80s, but the Macintosh 128 changed all that. And the Plus really galvanized the revolution -- with more than a little help from Microsoft --by adding enough power and applications to make it a "professional" computer, meaning that I could do work-for-pay on it. And say goodbye to the IBM Selectric and dumb terminal that cluttered my desktop.

Those early Macs made one "think different," whether you looked at the outside, the inside or the screen. They were portable, although you needed a strong backpack to travel hands-free. The Sony-built floppy drive was cutting edge (and a remnant of that relationship survives in another ground-breaking I/O technology, FireWire). The Motorola 68000 chips introduced personal computing to 32-bit internal registers, 24-bit memory addressing, and a 16-bit data bus, and beat the pants off anything Intel was shipping. Apple and Steve Jobs displayed the marketing sense that has driven the computer industry ever since by building, naming and bundling MacPaint, MacDraw and MacWrite -- in hindsight, iApps 1.0. All with the first consistently "lickable" interface.

Faster and more expandable machines followed, each more "insanely great" and "wicked fast" than its predecessor. For a long while, it seemed that the Mac FX was all the computer anyone would ever need. Until those Quadras, many of which still grace school desks across the country. As does HyperCard, which, outside of music production software, is probably my favorite application of all-time -- the first true Swiss Army knife of software development, which introduced programming to "the rest of us," and is the basis for what we now think of as a Web browser.

There were definitely some dark corporate days for Apple (think: Sculley, Spindler, and Amelio), with millions of dollars spent on "the next wrong thing." And we'll never know whether Apple should have licensed the OS, and if it had, how Mac history might look now. But, on the bright side, Mr. Spindler's Apple successfully managed the Mac's transition to the PowerPC chip, which enabled it to survive until it could be wed to Steve Jobs' rekindled visions and Dr. Tevanian's brilliant OS.

Which is only fitting, because brilliant people, technologies and events are a central part of Mac life and history. Jef Raskin, Alan Kay and Xerox PARC, the 1984 commercial, the first Mac says "Hello," Bill Atkinson, QuickDraw, QuickTime, Clarus the Dogcow, Bruce Horn, Susan Kare ... there are far too many to remember, let alone list. Fortunately, Owen Linzmayer's new Apple Confidential 2.0 will replace my worn copy of the Mac Bathroom Reader and let me stroll through Apple's back pages. And " Making the Macintosh " is an invaluable Web resource for archived and ancillary materials.

Happy 20th anniversary, Mac.

recommended for you

The Mac Turns 20

Read more »

Subscribe to the Best of Macworld Newsletter

Comments