The original Mac: Hints of mobile tech to come, 30 years ago

Summary:When you think of the original Mac that was ushered in by Steve Jobs 30 years ago, you don't tend to think of mobile tech. Given my obsession with mobile, that's exactly what entered my mind.

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Image: Apple

Steve Jobs and Apple ushered in a revolutionary product 30 years ago. The Mac was a beige box that would have a profound affect on the computing industry. I recommend reading Harry McCracken's excellent article on Time to get an idea just how profoundly that affect was on the industry.

The Mac of 1984 wasn't powerful by today's standards, not even close. But it captured the attention of a lot of folks given its all-inclusive design, the handle, and its windowed GUI. That was enough to get folks' imaginations working overtime.

I saw all of those innovations too, but the overriding thought that struck me about the original Mac was how portable it was. More than any other feature of the Mac, the fact you could pick it up by the handle and take it anywhere was a powerful feature in my eyes.

See also:  The Mac's 30th: What's your story? |   Reflections on the 30th Anniversary of the Macintosh by a true believer |  I used a Mac before you did

It's obvious I was obsessed with mobile tech even back then, when there wasn't such a thing. I had a mental image of a very portable computer that could be taken, and more importantly used, anywhere. 

In its early form the Mac was certainly not that device, but it was a clear indicator of Apple's focus on mobile. Decades before real portable computers would be a reality, Apple and Steve Jobs gave us the Mac. This computer in a portable case would set the stage for fantastic things to come from Apple in the mobile world.

I was living and working in Caracas, Venezuela when the Mac was introduced. I regularly travelled back and forth between Caracas and Houston for my job. I used a Columbia Data Products VP, a 30lb monstrosity that I regularly carried back and forth between the two countries. It ran DOS and frankly couldn't do very much.

I ran Framework by Ashton-Tate on the VP, an office suite that allowed using four apps onscreen at once. Each ran in a window on the green phosphor screen that only displayed text. It was a whopping 5-inch screen so those four windows were pretty tiny. I grokked how powerful having multiple applications on the screen at once could be, so I soldiered on.

Then came the Mac, at about half the weight (16.5lbs) of that barely transportable VP I lugged around. The Mac had a windowed interface that set the stage for what was to come in PCs. It displayed black text on a white page, a big advancement over the amber and green text on black of that time.

I used the new Mac heavily, learning every trick of the few apps of that time. I carried it back and forth between Caracas and Houston, a much easier feat than with the beast of a transportable I used before it. 

The rest, as they say, is history. Macs evolved into the MacBook Air I use today. PCs evolved into the Windows hybrids now common. The iPad started the tablet craze that is generating billions of sales for the mobile industry.

It all started with the original Mac 30 years ago. The first true mobile computer, in my view.

Topics: Mobility, Apple

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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