Those of us of a certain age remember the stylistic “1984” Super Bowl commercial the company used to draw attention to the launch of its new computer. It’s easy to forget how revolutionary that first Mac was. Before then, computer were controlled through command lines and text, making them somewhat exclusive and raising a significant hurdle for the average user to get over. You turned the computer on and were greeted with a blinking cursor. (You either knew what to do with it or you didn’t.)
There was no figuring your way through that — you were either a member of the computing club or you weren’t. The Macintosh was the first machine to use a graphical user interface (GUI) – small, images that represented data and functionality that could be accessed through the machine. The GUI is such a ubiquitous part of the modern world these day (used on our phones, our televisions and even our gas pumps) that it’s hard to imagine going through a day without it. But it was that original Mac that first introduced it to the world.
The other feature the first Mac brought to the public was the mouse — little plastic thingee connected to the keyboard you could use to move across the screen, rearrange items and activate those little pictures to get the machine to do your bidding. Although the mouse was part of Apple’s Lisa computer, it was the Mac that made it the tool that it is today. The mouse was, in many ways, one of the two or three most important hardware innovations that made the personal computing revolutions possible. It gave users the ability to break out of the linear navigation schemes computers had required to that point, and was key to making tapping in to the power of the machine more intuitive and accessible to the average person.
Apple has a very good piece on their website about the 30 years of Macintosh. It is a very interesting look at the evolution of the devices that have become so much a part of our everyday lives. Check out the Mac 30 content here.