Tech News on G4

Turning Back the Clock – The Macintosh at 25

Jan 29, 2009

By Greg Gazin - Apple Gazin’ - G4 Canada

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“On January 24, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh and you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.” Those are the famous words used in the commercial played during Super Bowl XVIII that introduced Macintosh to the world.

The Macintosh at 25

There have been so many Macintosh models since that day 25 years ago, some of us remember it so vividly, others may not even have been born at that time. So let’s have a quick look back.

The first Macintosh computer didn’t look like any other computer – of course that could have been said about many of the Macs to follow. In fact, at that time many felt that the Mac wasn’t a real computer but rather a toy.

Although it weighed 16.5 lbs, the Mac was considered a portable computer – it even came with a handle. When Apple CEO Steve Jobs, wearing a tuxedo and a bow-tie - a far cry from the turtle-neck and jeans he wear today, opened his keynote to demo the Mac for the very first time, he said, “All of the images you will see on the big screen will be generated by what’s in that bag.”

VIDEO 1  Steve Jobs Demos the Apple Macintosh in 1984


An while this may not be impressive by today’s standards, turn the clock back a quarter century and it will seem light years ahead of its time.

The Original 128K Mac

Often referred as the Mac 128K, the original computer was simply called Macintosh. It wasn’t until the Mac 512K was released that there was a need to differentiate the models.
The first Mac was an all-in-one computer and its uniqueness ensured that it was unmistakably an Apple Macintosh. It had a built-in 9” monochrome display had a mere 128K of RAM memory. That’s 0.125 MB, miniscule to the standard 2GB shipped on current models. It ran on an 8MHz 68000 Motorola processor. It had no math co-processor, floating point unit, cache or any expansion slots. It had no built-in hard drive, but it did ship with a 400k (0.4MB) 3.5” floppy disk drive. It did however have a speaker, serial (mouse) port, modem and printer port. You could purchase an optional external 400K floppy drive and eventually an external 20MB serial hard drive.


Graphical User Interface

The Macintosh at 25Another thing it had, that we take for granted today is the graphical user interface. Until then, everything was more or less done through command line entry – text commands in a single line.  The Windows Operating System was still over a year away.

It was revolutionary. The unit did come with a keyboard- albeit one without a numerical keypad, but it did come with a single-button mouse, something which is virtually a given today.  Little did we know at that time that this little 128K machine would change the face of computing, forever.  For once you didn’t have to be a programmer or have a computer degree to operate a computer. You didn’t have to remember codes or control characters to type a letter or be a designer to draw a chart.

Long before CDs, DVDs and USB memory sticks, the Mac shipped with a floppy that held the Operating System – Mac OS 1.0.  To boot the computer simply turn on the power and insert the floppy disk into the drive. The drive would buzz and hum a tune-like sound and eventually you would see “Welcome to Macintosh”, appear on the screen.

Also in the box, was a guided tour disk and a cassette tape (cassette player not included) that was to be used in conjunction with the guided tour disk. The Macintosh was also bundled with 2 applications – MacWrite, a word processor and MacPaint – a graphics and drawing program.


What truly amazes me is that applications were designed to fit on a single floppy – and in fact even more so, the computer’s entire operating system was contained in a little less that 250k.

Autographed Case

One unique feature of the Macintosh was the inside of the case. If you could manage to find a case-cracker and a T15 Torx screwdriver, to open up the case and remove the back cover, you’ll see the signatures of the entire Macintosh team, including Jobs, molded into the back cover.

The Macintosh at 25

The Macintosh at 25

Originally priced at US$2495, the 128K Mac was discontinued in October 1985. And while you may not hear his name too often, credit for the original concept of the Macintosh goes to a Computer Science professor Jef Raskin, who according to Wikipedia, was Apple Computer employee #31.


Apple 1984 Original Commercial


Greg’s first Macintosh was a MacPlus purchased in 1986. It came with 1MB Ram and an 800K floppy drive.


Greg Gazin can be reached at  gadgetguy “at” telus “dot” net


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