In addition to everything else, the first Macintosh was funny. On January 24th, 1984, 30 years ago today, Steve Jobs first revealed the computer he’d been talking about so much onstage at the Flint Center at DeAnza College in Cupertino, and he let it speak for itself.
27-year-old Jobs was all but unrecognizable from the turtleneck-wearing, polished presenter he would become. With long black hair, a gray suit that appears too large, and a green bow tie, he looks like a hippie dressed up for a relative’s wedding. As he unzips an odd, cooler-sized bag and pulls out a Macintosh with one hand, he appears less confident than relieved. Even moments before he took the stage, then-CEO John Sculleytold CNET, Jobs was panicked: “I’m scared shitless,” he told Sculley. “This is the most important moment of my life.”
But as the word “MACINTOSH” scrolled slowly across its 9-inch screen, as Jobs stood smiling while the Chariots of Fire theme song accompanied pictures of a calculator and a primitive drawing application, as the crowd of Apple investors went suitably insane, Jobs just smiled and began to talk more about the boxy beige computer he believed would change everything.
Now, with the benefit of 30 years’ hindsight, Jobs may have been right. Macs no longer cost $2,495; they no longer weigh 22 pounds; and changing font sizes isn’t exactly noteworthy anymore. But Apple’s vision for how a computer should work, and more importantly how it should fit into our lives, hasn’t changed a bit in the last 30 years. The first Mac ads told us to “try the computer you already know how to use,” and though that promise lives on mosty intact in iOS, Apple’s never stopped making computers for real people.
When Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh in 1984, he wasn’t just introducing a computer. He was introducing an ethos, a promise to users. He was introducing Apple. Which he’d do over and over again for much of the next three decades.