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Apple Produces Gorgeous Site for the Mac’s 30th Anniversary

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh on 24 January 2014, Apple unveiled a museum-quality interactive Web site that I hope will remain available indefinitely. You’re greeted with a 3-minute Mac 30 video with brief sound bites from designers, artists, musicians, teachers, and scientists whose lives were changed by the Macintosh. The video is everything you’d expect from Apple in terms of content and top-notch production values, but it’s only the intro to an even more interesting site.

Organized as a timeline, the Mac 30 site breaks down the history of the Macintosh year by year, introducing you to someone who was drawn to the Mac in that timeframe and used it as a tool to enhance human creativity. Each year of the timeline also describes a particular model of the Mac that was released or, later on when Macs ceased to have unique names, updated in that year.

Equally as interesting as the biographies and the rundown of a particular Mac model is a visualization of what people say they did with that particular model. The usage data requires some interpretation, because it comes from another part of the site that asks what your first Mac was, and what you did with it. For instance, Tonya’s and my first Mac was a Macintosh SE, and the tasks we used it for as undergraduates at Cornell University in the late 1980s are very different from how we’ve used our Macs in subsequent years. Sadly, the SE/30, my favorite Mac ever (see “The Mac Turns 25: Best Mac Ever? ,” 26 January 2009), is seemingly missing from the list (or perhaps just badly labeled, since the SE appears twice).

The choice of the featured Macs is a little surprising in places, including such oddities as the Macintosh TV in 1993 and the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh in 1997 (thanks to Mactracker for confirming for me that it celebrated Apple’s 20th anniversary, not the Mac’s). It’s hard to imagine the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh being anyone’s first Mac, given its near-$10,000 initial price.

The Mac 30 site also features a slider-driven visualization of how people have used Macs over time (again, with each data point being how that person used his or her first Mac), and while it’s interesting to see the size of different circles change over time, I’d love to see the data graphed differently so we could better understand the changes. Although I selected “Internet & Email” for our SE in 1987, thanks to what we did at Cornell, that category doesn’t gain a solid spot in the overview of all data until 1989 and achieves its eventual category-leading position only in 1998, but that’s a bit hard to tease out. Tellingly, “Business & Finance” makes the leaderboard in 1984, is the dominant category in 1985, falls off in 1986 and 1987, and makes a brief return in 1988 before disappearing for good.

I presume that data is continuing to flow into the system, so hopefully the information it’s presenting will represent what was true in each year with ever-increasing accuracy. A revisit will be in order in a week or so.

Finally, there’s also an Easter Egg of sorts in the site. As iOS developer Greg Barbosa discovered, Apple created a special font containing icons of numerous Mac models. It uses a special private area for the characters, so you can’t just type the icons from the keyboard. Instead, once you install it in Font Book, you can copy and paste individual icons out.


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Comments about Apple Produces Gorgeous Site for the Mac’s 30th Anniversary
(Comments are closed.)

Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2014-01-24 11:36
I imagine that TextExpander would be helpful for using that special font of Mac icons!
David Emery  2014-01-24 15:37
Well, I was disappointed they didn't highlight some of the creative software people, and the fact that 'mundane people' can use the Mac (as I've been doing as a software/systems engineer for the last 28 years.) And that woman should just take off the stupid hat!
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2014-01-24 15:47
Well, there was the Mathematica guy, and the Myst brothers, and the Photoshop brothers... So there were a few developers.

I was thinking about the fact that there were no "mundane" users too - it might have been fun to have someone who just used basic software for years and years, just like the rest of us.
George Stamas  2014-01-24 20:18
By definition there are no "mundane" Mac users.
tlwachob  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2014-01-24 17:39
The lack of usage data for the PowerBook 1400 must be a site glitch. The 1400 was my first Mac, which I entered on the "First Mac" page, but the data didn't show up on the page for 1996.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2014-01-27 07:19
Looks like they've fixed it now!
Tom Gewecke  2014-01-27 07:27
I woudn't call the Special Font "strange". If you could just type in the icons from the US layout it would violate the standards for how Unicode systems like OS X are supposed to work. It should display in any app where you can set the font, manually or via css or other markup, to mac-icon-standard.
Tommy Weir  2014-01-27 08:50
It's a lovely site. And nice to have an option to put in your first Mac and what you did with it and where. I hope there's an outcome to that data-gathering.

Mine was an SE, 27 years ago.

I was the proud (and evangelical) owner of an Amiga 2000HD at the time. And they got a Mac in work, I had to design a book, a catalogue for an art exhibit I had curated. There was nothing on the Amiga but there were two applications, Quark and Photoshop on this SE. You had to book time in the evenings to get access to the Mac so it meant staying late... and late I stayed. :-) I spent about a month exploring it and producing the catalogue, impressed by the quality experience I'd had, there was no going back.
Dave Heap  2014-01-27 17:08
I must be missing something. but once having installed it, how do I "copy and paste individual icons out". I've looked at Special Characters, to no avail.

I feel a bit stupid. I must be missing something obvious.
juandesant  2014-01-28 04:56
I also thought you had to make it through the Special Characters palette, but instead is from the Font Book sampler itself. You can use Preview -> Sample and a large size for best results.

If you want, you can drag and drop to the Special Characters palette, and there use the Add to favorites.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2014-01-28 07:15
Once you can view the font in Font Book, just select the desired icon/character and then use copy and paste like normal (Command-C, switch to a document, and Command-V).
janesprando  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2014-01-27 21:29
I'd rather that Apple honor the 30th Anniversary with a SALE instead of a great web site!
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2014-01-28 02:42
Like a lot of Apple products these days, this web site is strong on style and weak on usability. Navigation is a maze, not to say a pain in the but*. The videos are the most accessible part of the site. For the rest, you need to set aside a large chunk of time to figure out and explore it. No doubt that's the point, but I suspect that few besides the most dedicated Apple fans will take the time to do so.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2014-01-28 07:20
You know, I didn't quite put my nagging thought about this together until your comment, but what I just realized is happening is that the site is designed for use on an iPad. It scales down pretty well on the iPhone, and it scales up nicely on the Mac, but the iPad is clearly the target, both in terms of size and the reliance on a touch interface rather than a mouse interface.