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Celebrating the Mac’s 40th Anniversary across the Web

January 24, 2024, was the 40th anniversary of the Macintosh, and publications around the Web posted remembrances of Macs past. After Nello Lucchesi got the ball rolling on TidBITS Talk by mentioning the live Insanely Great event with Mac luminaries at the Computer History Museum, some of us contributed links to other articles. If you’re interested in clicking your way down memory lane, check them out.

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Comments About Celebrating the Mac’s 40th Anniversary across the Web

Notable Replies

  1. Here’s a post on this topic from Seth Godin. Normally, I tend to think what he says is pretty insightful, but I think in this case, he’s missing the point that Apple has continued to want to change the culture—and succeeded with the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch—but it gets harder and harder to do so all the time. I may have my doubts about the Vision Pro, but it’s definitely an attempt to change the world, even if the hardware won’t be to the level that Apple really wants for years to come.

  2. It’s a live video on YouTube, so you’ll be able to watch it. The link leads to a free registration form. I don’t know if you’ll need to sign in to watch, but it wouldn’t hurt to register if you’re interested.

  3. The Steve Jobs Archive sent this email, which, oddly, I can’t find on its website.

    ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌
    Steve Jobs in Susan Kare’s office cubicle, 1984. Photograph by Norman Seeff.612xauto

    40 years of the Macintosh

    When photographer Norman Seeff arrived at Apple’s offices in January 1984, he didn’t know what to expect. An editor at Rolling Stone had told him only that this was a “weird company” full of hippies making computers. Now Seeff, along with reporter Steven Levy, was covering these “whiz kids” as they prepared to launch their latest product—a new machine called Macintosh.

    The atmosphere inside the office was a world away from the power suits and perms typical of 1980s corporate America. An expensive Bӧsendorfer grand piano sat in the lobby; employees often played it during breaks. Nearby stood a first-generation Sony CD player hooked up to a gigantic pair of speakers. There were scooters. Pets. Babies. Everyone wore jeans; some even had bare feet.

    “It looked like a commune,” says Seeff. “It was so alive.”

    The staff had good reason to feel exuberant. The Macintosh aimed to be the first mass-market personal computer that was truly user-friendly. From seeds planted by others, including former Apple manager Jef Raskin and researchers at Xerox PARC and the Stanford Research Institute, this young team had worked around the clock to create a computer that was simple and sophisticated, designed to encourage creativity as much as to enhance productivity. Now they were just days away from launch.

    Among the group’s one hundred staff, Seeff saw the small software team joking around in front of the colorful cubicle of designer Susan Kare. He grabbed his Nikon camera and started shooting rapid-fire. The team played along and then—hands on shoulders and knees on backs—assembled themselves into a human pyramid.

    “I’m the lightest one, so I ended up on top,” says Rony Sebok, who had joined the Macintosh the previous summer as a software engineer. “It wasn’t a childish group: this was a bunch of mature people, even though we were young. But it was playful.”

    Seeff snapped away.

    Eleven members of the Macintosh software team (and one baby) arranged in a human pyramid, 1984. Photograph by Norman Seeff.612xauto
    Top to bottom, from left: Rony Sebok, Susan Kare, Andy Hertzfeld, Bill Atkinson, Owen Densmore, Jerome Coonen, Bruce Horn, Steve Capps, Larry Kenyon, Donn Denman, Tracie Kenyon, and Patti Kenyon.

    On top of the pile next to Sebok was Kare, dressed in a gray sweatshirt and jeans: she had designed the system’s fonts and icons, and her smiling Mac logo made the machine feel almost human. There was Bill Atkinson at the center, with his striped sweater, glasses, and mustache: his graphics software was key to making the Macintosh so easy to use. Next to him in a bright red T-shirt was Andy Hertzfeld, a primary architect of its brave new operating system. The pyramid seemed a perfect encapsulation of the wider Macintosh team: talented individuals combining to build something stronger than any of them could make alone.

    The group continued goofing around until the pyramid collapsed, everyone laughing.

    Steve Jobs, who had managed the Macintosh team since 1981, had been peeking in on the shoot throughout. As the group fell to the ground, he saw his opportunity and joined the end of the huddle.

    Seeff kept shooting.
    Thirteen members of the Macintosh software team, a baby, and Steve Jobs, 1984. Photograph by Norman Seeff.612xauto
    From left: Randy Wigginton, Jerome Coonen, Donn Denman, Rony Sebok, Andy Hertzfeld, Bruce Horn, Bill Atkinson, Susan Kare, Owen Densmore, Steve Capps, Larry Kenyon, Patti Kenyon, Tracie Kenyon, and Steve Jobs.

    Steve knew that the very best work conveys the ideas and intentions of the people who created it. And he believed deeply that this team of engineers, designers, and programmers, who were also sculptors, photographers, and musicians—a team that integrated technology and the liberal arts—could create a machine for everyday people, “a computer for the rest of us.”

    At a time when computers were complex and difficult to use, it was a radical objective. To get there, Steve encouraged the team and protected them; he pushed them hard and shared his critiques. He asked them to sign their work like artists, even while reminding them that they were building a tool for others to use. “We’re going to walk into a classroom or an office or a home five years from now,” he promised, “and somebody’s going to be using a Macintosh for something we never dreamed possible.”

    Not long after these photographs were taken, the Macintosh was announced to the world. The road ahead would not be straightforward—not for the product, not for the group who made it, and not for Steve himself. But one realization was clear even in January 1984: new things were now possible.

    “I remember the week before we launched the Mac,” Steve recalled in 2007. “We all got together, and we said, ‘Every computer is going to work this way. You can’t argue about that anymore. You can argue about how long it will take, but you can’t argue about it anymore.’”

  4. Nothing special planned, but have some fond memories and memorabilia.

    About a week before the release date a bunch of sales folks from the various Apple dealers in the Edmonton area were summoned into a classroom in a downtown office building.

    We walked into a room with around 24 machines. It was like nothing else I had seen.

    After selling Apple ][‘s, ///‘s, Kaypro’s and Victor 9000’s, the 128k Mac was like something dropped down from another planet. The closest interface I had seen up close before touching a Mac was a Corvus Concept.

    Still have some unique lapel pins, T-shirts and marketing items. And, I still have my Own-a-Mac shipping receipt for my first machine. The special offer to entice Apple dealer staff was a Mac, MacWrite, MacPaint, Multiplan and a carrying case for 1,495 CDN when the retail for the machine alone was 4,295.

    Another link to history - when Dr. Owen Beattie saw the Mac released, he thought it would be the computer that would work best for his next trip north that summer. A Basic program on a 128k Mac was used to record data in the first exhumations from the Franklin expedition.

  5. More from Jason, Dan Moren at Macworld, and Harry McCracken at Fast Company:

  6. Yes, the email that you posted was mentioned and was published in part this morning on AppleInsider:

  7. Thanks, Adam! The reporter found me on LinkedIn somehow, and we had a delightful chat. I will admit that it’s a little misleading because my 128K Mac no longer runs. As I posted a few years ago, I just get a Sad Mac screen now. I would love to find someone in the Seattle area who could help make it work again, but I just haven’t had the time to explore.

  8. Cult of Mac has a nice article.

    And Steven Levy has been around since the early days:

  9. An amazing nugget from that article is that Apple maintained software support for the 128K Mac until 1998. Is this true? 14 years is a long time, especially for such a constrained machine.

  10. I forgot that I wrote this April Fools article back in 2016:

  11. So not only the Mac but Tracie Kenyon is 40 years old now. Kind of puts things in perspective.

  12. The Science-Friday podcast (WNYC Studios) posted a circa 15.0 minute interview (with guests Andy Hertzfeld and Steven Levy) on Wed 24 Jan 2024, originally recorded/broadcast in January-2014, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the Mac.

  13. The 2014 interview that I found is a half-hour long.

    Be sure to scroll down and look at the Related Links section

  14. Yep - circa 30.0 minutes is more like it.

  15. Who’s Tracie Kenyon and what’s her relationship to the Mac?

  16. Check the human pyramid picture here.

  17. Perhaps, she is the baby pictured here, though the picture caption spells the first name “Tracy.”

  18. Interesting internal spot promoting the Mac in 1983 within Apple via that 40th site. Everyone so young!

  19. Here is another video of the event on the Computer History Museum’s YouTube channel. It’s around ten minutes longer than the video shared at the top of this thread. I haven’t had the chance to watch either, so I don’t know if the difference is important.

  20. It was in the Fall of 1984 that I finally bought my first Apple computer. I was stationed in Germany and the PX was selling computers. They had the Macintosh, the Apple IIe, and the Apple IIc. I looked at all of them and was intrigued by the Mac but ended up getting the IIc because, while the prices were comparable, I got a Scribe printer with the IIc! I finally got a Mac in 1992.

  21. I had an Apple II but because I worked in Windows/PC places I never bought a Macintosh until two events made the decision for me.
    I headed up corporate services in a place that had researchers and staff doing field work in remote deserts, in the air doing low level surveys, and in the Great Southern Ocean. When a large party was returning after 3 weeks to base, I decided to pay a visit to hear what worked and what didn’t. I turned as they were unpacking and spied 4 Macintosh computers absolutely covered in fine red dust. Only PCs were permitted under the corporate rules. The head guy could see what I was about to say and he said something like ‘these have been in the field for a number of trips and they just keep working and where we go a PC would last less than a day. We just clean them out with compressed air and they are ready to go again’. I stood there debating ‘corporate policy’ or ‘corporate work’ and then I turned a blind eye and those Macintoshes kept their place.
    The other event was when the big boss called me on a Sunday saying for me to come in and help collate a major economic research paper for the Minister to read on Monday and to table in Parliament on Tuesday. When I found out that the Minister wanted charts, tables, illustrations in that paper, I thought this was impossible. The boss bought in his personal Macintosh and we used that to pull this 60plus page paper together. When we finished I thought the paper looked good and that we had done all this work on this little computer. Also I had not used the Macintosh operating system and apps and was surprised how quickly I became good at using it on that Sunday.
    Shortly after I made the change to make a Macintosh the centre of my personal computing and I still have fond memories of those little personable Macintoshes.

  22. We shall always be grateful to Steve Jobs for translating to the public at large the vision of Stanford University and Xerox PARC researchers to make computers less clunky with the GUI & mouse innovations. (The story is well documented in Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography Steve Jobs.)

    Those of us fortunate to have used such a black and white Xerox commercial system in a U.S. government office back in the early 1980s had little new to learn when the Mac came out because the screen, mouse, and keyboard actions were virtually the same.

    It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 40 years since those innovations appeared. It’s also stunning that Xerox did not see the immense application the system would have for personal computing. Had they, the company might be sitting in the computing catbird seat today.

  23. I bought my first Mac 40 years ago about 30 days after it was released. Never looked back. Never owned a Windows machine. Between my wife and I we now own 9 Apple devices. 2 desktops. 1 laptop. 2 phones. 2 iPad minis. 1 iPad Pro. 1 watch. All synced. Not as easy to avoid hardware and software glitches as it used to be, but congrats to Apple on a significant anniversary.

  24. You should go read through all the early Mac anecdotes on Especially On Xerox, Apple and Progress.

    There were a lot of similarities between the Xerox Alto (and later the Star/ViewPoint systems), but quite a lot of huge differences.

    Some things that come to mind (based on my very brief experience with a ViewPont system):

    • Xerox didn’t have drag-and-drop. To move or copy an object. you would need to select it, then press a dedicated “copy” or “move” button on the keyboard, then click its destination.

    • Xerox didn’t have regions - the ability to only redraw parts of the screen that need to be redrawn. When a window would move, all of the underlying windows would completely redraw themselves - wasting CPU time and looking much uglier.

    • The menu bar was an Apple innovation. Xerox had context menus, but nothing uniform or standard - all application-specific.

    • Xerox had the concept of property sheets. To modify most objects, you would select it, then press the “Properties” button on the keyboard, to get a window full of its settings, which you would modify in order to change the object.

    • Xerox relied heavily on specialized “transfer sheet” documents (I think that’s what they were called) for creation of new objects. For instance, in the ViewPoint drawing app, there was no menu to create new objects. Instead, you’d have a transfer sheet document, which is a read-only document containing one instance of every object supported by the app. You’d go through the select-copy process to copy these objects into your document.

      These transfer sheets were even used for creating new documents and folders in the file system There was a read-only folder with file system template objects which you would copy to other locations.

    • Xerox didn’t put object names below the icons. They instead used fairly large icons with lots of whitespace in them, and would draw the name on the icon in that space.

    See also:

  25. Thanks, Dave, for elaborating on the differences between the early Xerox system and the Macintosh improvements. It was so long ago, I don’t recall the specifics as you expertly listed them. We used the computers only for text, transmitting the documents to others in our office, and intranet email. These aspects alone were hugely welcome after years of typing and re-typing documents and walking them to their in-house destination.

    It took me a while, however, to become accustomed to the silence of composing documents. Not hearing the clacking of the keys against a typewriter platen, I had to reassure myself that the characters I chose on the keyboard actually appeared on the screen!

  26. Watching this video on my MacBook Air, I was struck that as much as Mac OS has advanced and technology has moved by leaps and bounds, the basics of the interface have stayed remarkably stable. If it works, it works! Another thought: recently, I watched a 1940 film about how to dial a rotary phone. The presenter went slowly and in detail about waiting for the dial tone, how to turn the dial, etc. Stuff that seems second nature to a guy like me who grew up with dial phones. It’s the same feeling with the Mac OS interface – in those early days, it needed slow and careful explanation for adults who needed to adapt. Now, watch a video introducing Apple Vision Pro. If that product succeeds and evolves over the years, that video’s explanations will one day seem quaint and obvious!

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