30 Years Ago, Apple Was The Same Company

The other day, Megan dug up the original New York Times review of the first Macintosh from 1984 and read it to me. Hearing it outloud was amazing.

It’s not that the review by Erik Sandberg-Diment is particulary good — in fact, in many ways, it’s exceedingly silly. But listening to it made clear just how little Apple has actually changed in the past 30 years from a product and perception perspective.

A few examples — first, on the topic of the then brand-new mouse:

The first thing to take me by surprise as I sat down at the Macintosh was not the mouse pointer used to move the cursor on screen, which everyone has been expecting…

A rumored feature which everyone had been expecting? How boring.

Next, on the screen:

With a scant nine-inch diagonal, it presents a diminutive five-by-seven viewing image. My personal dislike for small screens made me chalk up an immediate minus on the Mac’s scorecard, particularly since I found myself, as I usually do when confronted with a miniscreen, hunkering right up to the computer, much closer than comfort called for, as I flicked it on.

Too small. Apple needs to make a larger screen device!

But wait:

The Mac display makes all the other personal computer screens look like distorted rejects from a Cubist art school. With a 512-line horizontal by 342-line vertical, the display conveys an image that is refreshingly crisp and clear. The use of square dots rather than the standard rectangular ones at each of the almost 200,000 line crossings adds even more to the sharpness of the picture. After a couple of hours of looking at this screen, going back to the Apple IIe at home brought tears to my eyes.

That too-small screen is a thing of beauty! Something no competitor can match. Imagine that!

Alas:

What the Mac adds in visual clarity, however, it takes away in chromatics. At present, only a black-and-white screen is available. Apple appears to be aiming this computer at the small-business and educational markets rather than the home entertainment segment, so perhaps the company feels that color is not necessary. Certainly the machine could not be delivered with the rainbow at the current price of roughly $2,495. Even so, I suspect the absence of color capability is a mistake, one which, along with the diminutive screen size, will hopefully be rectified eventually by add-ons for those wanting them.

He suspects it’s a mistake — not a calculation by Apple. It was simply an oversight, you see. (By the way, $2,495 is over $5,500 when adjusted for inflation.)

This sounds familiar:

Another startling feature that I became aware of after a few minutes, although it may be a minor point to some people, is the absence of fan noise. The vacuum cleaner sound effects so annoying to many people and so prevalent in small computers is totally nonexistent. The reason is simple: The Macintosh has been engineered to cool itself. There is no fan to drown one’s thinking. In fact, at 60 words per minute, the only sound you will hear is the clicking of the keyboard.

A small detail only Apple would seemingly care about both then and now (see: Mac Pro).

And:

Keyboards are a very subjective matter. This one is certainly more comfortable and responsive than those to be found on the Apple II series. It is also light enough to rest comfortably on one’s lap, which is what manufacturers seem to think people do with these things, although I personally have never seen anyone work that way. Furthermore, it solves one of the minor mysteries of personal computer engineering that has long bothered me; namely, why does the keyboard cord always have to plug into the rear of the computer so it inevitably becomes snarled coming around the side? The answer is that it does not. The Mac’s keyboard plugs quite naturally into the front of the computer and never seems to get hung up.

Again, it’s the little things…

But:

That is one plus for the Mac’s design - followed by a negative. There is no numeric keypad on the board. A separate one may be attached, but then, counting the mouse’s tail, you have three cables snaking their way back to the machine. All in all, I get the feeling, as I do with I.B.M. PC products, that a lot of outside manufacturers are going to be cranking out modified keyboards for owners who do not like the standard model.

Yeah, that clearly mattered. Perhaps those who doubted Apple’s decision not to include a physical keyboard on the iPhone should have looked to this.

Meanwhile:

As to the mouse, it is part and parcel of the Mac revolution, and it will probably be the reason you either sign up for or turn your back on this machine. To a large extent, the Macintosh works with what has been termed a ”finder environment.”

The mouse as a reason to “turn your back on this machine”. Remember how much uproar there was when Apple later killed the mouse?

And finally:

The fundamental difference between the Mac and other personal computers is that the Macintosh is visually oriented rather than word oriented. You choose from a menu of commands by simply pressing the wandering mouse’s button rather than by using a number of control keys or by entering words.

Written as if this could be anything other than the absolute future. So weird.

  1. eudestblr reblogged this from parislemon
  2. sioux-me reblogged this from parislemon and added:
    This is actually an interesting read, so check it out.
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  6. camerontwigden reblogged this from parislemon and added:
    The more things change, the more they stay the same.
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    Awesome
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