The Macintosh at 50

Summary:Apple's Macintosh has been one of the defining features of the past quarter century. How about the next?

Over the past 25 years, the ideas behind the original Macintosh have become industry standard. Any 2009 computer user could sit down at an original Macintosh and use it to write and format a letter; the same can't be said of a PC from 1984.

A:\> is no longer an interface, it's an emoticon. Someone grinning in a clown hat. Meanwhile, the Mac ideals of simplicity, elegance, intuition and clarity have won the day.

But it isn't all purity of vision — today's Macs have absorbed things such as command lines, feature bloat and even run a version of Unix under the hood. The hardware has become functionally identical to that of PCs. What the Mac at 50 will look like — if the idea of individual computers is even still current — will be what most computers will look like. We asked around the office and the internet to find out what people thought.

David Meyer, senior reporter, ZDNet UK: "The Mac at age 50 will be like most personal computers in 2034 — no longer recognisable as such. It will use displays that are embedded into walls or various other surfaces. There will be a separate keyboard associated with each of these displays, but the identifiable 'Mac' itself will probably be a handheld device — not unlike the iPhone in form — that the user carries around and associates with whichever display is closest if they need a larger display than that on the handset. Either that, or it will be embedded in the user's brain."

Andrew Donoghue, via Facebook: "In 25 years, I reckon, the Apple Mac will be a cross between a computer and food blender — like the Delorean in Back to the Future and, instead of a battery (they will have been banned), you simply toss your leftover sandwiches in blender/organic energy converter sticking out the back and, hey presto, another three hours in the matrix."

Karen Friar, community and news editor, ZDNet UK: "The Mac will be a paperback-size device with a folding QwertyY keyboard that wraps around it. It will be rugged enough to just drop in the bottom of a carrier bag. A projector will allow you to use any wall or surface as a display screen. You can hook up a full-size keyboard or display screen at home or in cafés/other public areas.

"You'll also be able to use any household display device (TV, etc) wirelessly. It still won't work easily with Microsoft documents."

Paul Ockenden, via Facebook: "I think, in 25 years' time, style will have triumphed so much over substance that Macs won't actually be able to do productive work. Apple's long-held ambition to create pure high-class tech-ornaments will have come to full fruition. And, despite the complete lack of functionality, people will still love them."

Charles McLellan, reviews editor, ZDNet UK: "Since the personal computer era began in the 1970s, the focus has shifted to ever more portable and more connected client devices — desktop, notebook, smartphone — with data storage and processing increasingly happening off-client, in the 'cloud'. This trend towards client convenience and cloud functionality will surely continue. So, although today's 25-year-old iMac is still recognisably a desktop computer, it's highly unlikely that the 50-year-old Mac — if such a thing still exists — will be a box (however elegant) that sits on your desk, with a keyboard and mouse attached.

"But what will the Mac of 2034 look like? Apple has always been about elegance and usability, and will surely be among the first to allow us to wear our computers lightly. Processors will continue...

Topics: Innovation


Rupert has worked at ZDNet UK, IT Week, PC Magazine, Computer Life, Mac User, Alfa Systems, Amstrad, Sinclair, Micronet 800, Marconi Space and Defence Systems, and a dodgy TV repair shop in the back streets of Plymouth. He can still swap out a gassy PL509 with the best of 'em. If you want to promote your company or product, fine -- but pl... Full Bio

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