Happy birthday, Macintosh

Happy birthday, Macintosh

Summary: The Mac is 27 years old today, January 24. It was distinguished by a number of "firsts:" notably, the first mass-market computer presenting users with a graphical user interface and a mouse for input.

TOPICS: Apple, Hardware

The Mac is 27 years old today, January 24. It was distinguished by a number of "firsts:" notably, the first mass-market computer presenting users with a graphical user interface and a mouse for input.

Today's computer users, those who weren't users back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, can't understand the impact of Macintosh (it was just plain Macintosh then, not "the Macintosh." Yes, it had only a small 9-inch, 512-by-342-pixel, black-and-white display, but it showed fonts and images. Astounding! This raster graphics capability was something that even supercomputers of the time couldn't do. And certainly not the PC and Apple II competition.

Instead of entering commands with a text interface (command line),  users moved the mouse to interact in real time with the images and text. We could cut and paste. A miracle. We take all this for granted nowadays. According to reports, Jef Raskin, the first lead engineer of the project that became the Mac, hated the mouse. He wanted a joystick or a pen. Steve Jobs insisted on mouse, which had been used on the Lisa, Apple's $10K business machine introduced before the Mac.

The Mac used many technologies pioneered with the Lisa, such as, the QuickDraw graphics routines as well as the Motorola 68000-series processor. used on the higher-priced machine. The Mac pixel was square, while the Lisa's LisaGraph engine used rectangular pixels.

We don't think anything of dropping in another gigabyte of RAM into our machines. However, back in 1983, memory was very very expensive — the Mac came with 128 kbytes of RAM soldered on the logic board. To minimize production cost, Apple placed a piece of read-only memory (ROM) on the logic board that stored a library of code pieces, which could later be loaded when needed into memory by programs and the system.

The original Mac 128K had a list price of $2,495.

Another first on the Mac was the 3.5-inch 400K floppy drive. It was a great advance over the 200K 5.25-inch floppy used widely. Its hard-plastic case and spring-loaded cover over the read-write aperture were real advances. So what if the disks cost $10 each and that even a simple file copy might require minutes of swapping disks in and out of the single drive. In those days, we were grateful. Admittedly, we were even more grateful when the Mac Plus came out in 1986 and came standard with a hard drive. I believe that the 512e model had two floppies in the enclosure.

The original Mac was cream colored and could easily be carried around with its built-in handle. The keyboard had huge umber-colored keys that required a substantial press down to activate.

At a collectibles fair the other month, I saw a complete setup for sale, including Mac 128K, keyboard, mouse, Imagewriter printer, manuals and MacWrite/MacPaint disks. It was priced at $300.

Great memories.

Topics: Apple, Hardware

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  • It started a revolution

    I'm pretty sure my Mac Plus didn't come with a HDD. It came with SCSI which allowed an external drive that sat under the unit. I still have mine.<br><br>[edit]The original Macintosh defines the modern computing experience.

    It was amazing the difference in quality of the material we produced compared to the other systems (remember the THINK IDEs Pascal/C, graphics and different typefaces). All could be printed on the graphics capable Imagewriter printer (if you had the time). The ease of networking was another standout feature, localtalk was amazing for it's time (drivers in DOS anyone).<br><br>MacPaint and MacWrite defined the GUI for these applications. As has the clipboard.<br><br>Happy birthday Mac:-)
    Richard Flude
  • RE: Happy birthday, Macintosh

    I remember when my Pop brought one home I was initially unimpressed because of the B&W screen. Heck even our Apple ][+ had a color screen. Later I saw it's qualities.
    I remember being the only kid in my class to hand in reports with true type fonts and integrated images on the page. I was a star...
    • I see you are still delusional

      I call you a liar for your story. It is so completely bogus that I don't believe it.

      :) :) :)
      • RE: Happy birthday, Macintosh


        How can a Happy Birthday wish to a Mac turn it into a Mac vs PC issue ??? This is really ridiculous
    • Good Times

      Did you also have to persuade your teachers to actually <i>accept</i> work produced on a computer rather than on a typewriter? At my schools some of the faculty back then were concerned that I would have an easier time plagiarizing (with *no* AOHell, Prodigy, etc... let alone Internet) on a computer than I would on a typewriter or by writing in longhand. I had one teacher who made me get my Dad to send in a note that he and Mom would vouch for the originality of my work!
      • RE: Good Times

        Alas- showing my age.. This was before the internet. or at least before I even knew it existed. I was asked if my parents typed and organized it though.
        This was, strictly speaking my fathers computer that he used for work. I was allowed to use it for school projects however.
      • RE: Happy birthday, Macintosh

        Peas in a pod, you and I. "Our" Macintosh was also my Father's work machine, I was 14 going on 15, and when Dad finally upgraded to a Macintosh SE years later, that same 128K became my college paper writing workhorse.
        And yes, this was all well before the Internet.
  • RE: Happy birthday, Macintosh

    The Mac 512e or "Fat Mac" only had 1 800K floppy drive, 512MB of RAM. It was called a Fat Mac because of these upgrades. And mine has been turned into an aquarium, thus it's a macquarium.
    • RE: Happy birthday, Macintosh


      Going out on a limb here and saying that if you have a Fat Mac with a half gig of RAM, you were one rich dude.
    • RE: Happy birthday, Macintosh

      @jhefter I think you mean 512K. K as in Kilobytes, rather than Megabytes; back then 512K was big- even Bill Gates said that 640K was more than you would ever need to run any program. :-)
  • Steve

    Can you imagine computing today without Steve Jobs? we would all still be using the floppy disk and Palm devices with a stylus LOL

    Thank god for Apple!
    • RE: Happy birthday, Macintosh

      Well it at least would have been years in the future. When MS eventually released Windows, I remember how downright awful it was even though they had Apples code to build upon for over a year. Who knows how long it would have taken MS to do on their own. Maybe by then Xerox would have eventually ran with it.
      • RE: Happy birthday, Macintosh


        You're a funny one... Microsoft would never be "innovative" enough to think that the GUI would have succeeded. It would have never dawned on them at all and we would all still be typing away at the command line. :-)
  • Mac Model Clarifications

    Your memory seems to be a bit scrambled on the classic models.

    The Mac Plus did come with built-in SCSI -- the first Mac to do so -- a larger ROM (128K vs. 64KB), and an 800KB floppy drive, among other improvements. However, it only had one internal drive bay, and did not have the ability to run an internal hard drive, as its SCSI connector was only external.

    The Mac 512Ke was -- unlike the Mac 512K non-E, which was nothing more than a Mac 128K with 512K of memory -- actually a Mac Plus without SCSI, and using chip memory instead of SIMM's. No more, no less. (And no second drive bay.)

    The first compact Mac to offer dual internal drive bays was also the first to offer a stock internal hard drive option: The Mac SE. Minor key word there, "compact," as it was actually tied for the distinction among Macs as a whole, since the not-nearly-so-compact Mac II was released on the same day (March 2, 1987), and also had dual internal drive bays, and offered a stock internal hard drive option.

    Hope this helps jog the memory a bit! :)
  • Did anyone take advantage of the &quot;Test Drive a Mac&quot; campaign?

    I remember taking home a Mac for a few days where I was able to experience MS Word and Excel for the first time. Most readers would be unaware of the fact that those programs were first released on Apple Mac computers.

    I always liked Apple's HyperCard program.
    • RE: Happy birthday, Macintosh


      Remember installing from floppies?

      I had Word 5 on one 700k disk.

      To put Windows 3.1 and office on a PC meant many hours of popping lots of floppies in and out.
      • RE: Happy birthday, Macintosh


        "Remember installing from floppies?"

        LOL, yup. Royal pain. And they didn't last that long, either. Constantly running chkdsk on stuff.

        Thankfully that's gone now.
      • RE: Happy birthday, Macintosh

        A friend of mine was amazed at the level of compression used by my Borland programming software install disks.

        Its been so long ago, I've forgotten most of the details but I seem to recall that 5 or 6 "five and a quarter inch" floppy install disks would account for something like 30 MB worth of hard drive space. (At the time, 30 MB seemed like quite a lot.)

        Remember when IBM OS/2 was first released? Didn't it have something like 30 or so "five and a quarter" floppy installation disks?
    • I remember using HyperCard

      @kenosha7777 on my parents old Mac... Macintosh IIci. That was a fun little computer... My first mac was a Performa 6116CD that came with System 7 - back when Compuserve was the big thing and Gil Amellio (sp?) was running things into the ground.

      I have to say being a former Mac user I do really like how the Windows OS has developed over the years.
    • RE: Happy birthday, Macintosh


      As did I. Some of the coolest applications I first built were in HC.