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24 January 1984: Apple launches the first Macintosh

This week we look back on the birth of a brand which was to make history.



A story of men… and apples. It all began with the legendary Apple company, created on the 1st of April 1976, in the garage of his childhood home in Los Altos, California, by a certain Steve Jobs in company with his two friends Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne. By the following year, the three buddies had struck it rich with the triumphant launch of the Apple II, the world’s first mass-produced personal computer. Far from resting on its laurels, and to pip any rivals to the post, Apple decided to find a successor for it.

This was where Jef Raskin came in. While the Apple II remained relatively limited to a world of professionals and initiates, Raskin was an employee who dreamed of creating a family computer that was both easy to use and affordable. He was given the go-ahead by his management in September 1979 to set up a team to work on this project which was given the name Macintosh, which was simply Raskin’s favorite variety of apples! 



In late 1980, however, the rot set in. It was at this time that Michael Scott, Apple’ CEO, took Steve Jobs, its founder, off the Lisa project on which he was working. Stung by this, Jobs then took an interest in the work of Jef Raskin and his team, seeing this as an opportunity to get his revenge. The only problem was that the two men came into conflict on several points, particularly the question of the mouse, which Raskin did not want. Steve Jobs got his way, and it was at this point that this revolutionary accessory first appeared at Apple. Following this battle of egos, Jef Raskin left Apple in March 1982. This explains why, when it finally came out two years later, on the 24th of January 1984, the Macintosh, as this computer was now officially called, no longer bore much resemblance to the one its initiator had imagined.



From the moment it came out, however, it marked a minor revolution. Everything was done to attract family buyers. Supplied with a keyboard and a mouse, its beige casing incorporated a 9-inch screen in addition to the CPU. Its launch was preceded, on the 22nd of January, by the broadcasting on CBS, during the final of the Super Bowl, of a now legendary commercial entitled 1984 and directed by the great Ridley Scott in person. The specialist press considered it to be nothing less than the best commercial ever produced. Based on George Orwell’s masterpiece and visually impressive, it also marked the history of advertising by not showing the product and not explaining what it consisted of.

The initial price of what was quickly to become known as the Mac was 2,495 dollars, a modest investment for a product which provided graphic performances worthy of devices which at that time cost four times as much. While it was praised for ease of use, its graphic interface and its price, it was however criticized for its lack of random-access memory, its low upgradability and its incompatibility with other systems which limited the amount of software used on it. Thus, while it was initially successful, sales soon fell off and led to the rapid launching of its successor, the Macintosh 512K. It was at this point that this first model was therefore renamed the Macintosh 128K, because of its 128 kilobytes of built-in RAM. No matter: the legend was already in the making!


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- 30 January (1880): opening of the first railway on ice over the Saint Lawrence River
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