The Macintosh turns 25 (and how it was almost a Bicycle)

The Macintosh turns 25 (and how it was almost a Bicycle)

Summary: Tomorrow, 24 January 2009, is the 25th anniversary of the Macintosh. On that fateful day in 1984 Apple released a little toaster of a personal computer that went on to become the first commercially successful personal computer to feature a mouse and a graphical user interface.

TOPICS: Apple, Hardware

Tomorrow, 24 January 2009, is the 25th anniversary of the Macintosh. On that fateful day in 1984 Apple released a little toaster of a personal computer that went on to become the first commercially successful personal computer to feature a mouse and a graphical user interface.

The embedded video above (YouTube) is Apple's famous "1984" television commercial directed by film maker Ridley Scott. From my new book, Corporations that Changed the World: Apple Inc.:

Apple announced the Macintosh to the world with a television commercial (“1984”) that was directed by Ridley Scott, an alumnus of such films as Alien, Blade Runner, and Gladiator. The commercial, written by Apple’s advertising agency Chiat /Day, aired on January 22, 1984, during Super Bowl XVIII between the Washington Redskins and the Los Angeles Raiders. The ad featured a female character (played by Anya Major) wearing a white tank top, red shorts, and running shoes, running through an eerie, dark, futuristic world and throwing a sledgehammer at a huge TV image of Big Brother. The Big Brother character was giving orders to rows of people that looked like prisoners— a veiled reference to IBM. The commercial ended with a message read by Edward Grover: “On January 24, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”

Here's another fun "Macintosh" anecdote by The Father of the Macintosh, Andy Hertzfeld, again from Corporations:

How the Mac Was Almost a Bicycle

The name Macintosh was originally selected because it was Jef Raskin’s favorite type of apple, but the Mac almost wasn’t an Apple at all. When Raskin took a leave of absence in February 1981, Steve Jobs and Rod Holt made the decision to change Apple to something else. They felt that the name Macintosh was just a code name and that a name change was in order to reflect the change in regime.Holt decided on Bicycle as the new name that would replace Raskin’s Macintosh for the duration of the project and presented it to his design team. When they balked, Holt insisted that all references to Macintosh be changed to Bicycle, telling them that it shouldn’t really matter “since it was only a code name.” The Bicycle name originated from an ad that Apple had placed in Scientific American magazine. The ad featured quotes from Steve Jobs about computers, including one about how personal computers were “bicycles for the mind.” The logic was that humans could run as fast as other species, but a human—on a bicycle—could beat them all. Rod’s edict was never obeyed. Somehow, Macintosh just seemed right. story goes like this: I received a 128k Mac in the summer of 1984 as a birthday gift from my Mom and spent an entire summer at my grandparents cottage obsessively learning MacWrite and MacPaint. The rest, as they say, is history.

I remember attending an early Macworld Expo (1985?) where the smell of solder was wafting down the hotel hallway from all the backroom Mac 512k upgrades that were being performed. I still have a working 128k in the garage (in the original beige Apple bag, natch) and a MacPortable in the attic, although it's not the backlit one.

What's your Mac story? Tell us about your Mac museum in the TalkBack. (C'mon, you know you have one. :)

Aside: Fun BBC video of a Mac 128k booting faster than a modern Windows notebook.

Update: CNet's Caroline McCarthy wrote a nice story about the anniversary that's part of a package called Mac at 25 from

Topics: Apple, Hardware

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Macintosh

    I bought my own Macintosh 512K computer in the UK on
    the 18 December 1984 at a cost of ?2175 (US$ 2958). I
    still have it at home and I see that Stephen Fry regrets
    giving his Macintosh away in 1986. The reason that I
    bought the Macintosh was that the Apple computer did not
    come between me and my work since it was so user
    friendly, as all my other Apple computers have been. I have
    kept all of them, namely Power Macintosh 7500/100,
    PowerBook 100 laptop, two iBooks and I currently use a
    MacBook. They are like loyal old friends.
  • Fist computer with a GUI and mouse?.....

    How about checking your facts and finding out that the first commercial computer featuring a GUI and Mouse was the Xerox Star 8010 in 1981, three years before Apple realesed the Macintosh.
    And the first GUI was seen in the Xerox Alto in 1973.

    Shows how clueless you actually are. Editors like you should be fired for the lies you spread around.
    • You're the one who is wrong

      Didn't you read the entire sentence? He said the Macintosh was the first "commercially successful" personal computer with a GUI and mouse, not the first commercially available. Your post puts your reading comprehension skills into question more than his knowledge of technology history. :-)

      Lesson here? Please be sure to read and actually understand someone's statements before you start making baseless allegations against others' intelligence!
    • Fist computer... ??

      [i]And the first GUI was seen in the Xerox Alto in 1973.[/i]

      Sorry, wrong on that point, too.

      PARC's work on GUIs built on earlier work by Evans and
      Sutherland in Utah, among others, and the mouse invented
      at SRI by Doug Englebart's group.

      Xerox advanced the notion, but they were not the
      originators of the idea.
      Steve Hix
      • And neither was Apple

        according to what you said (although I
        think there is some debate going on
        about that)
        • Apple were...

          ...the first to be [i]commercially successful[/i]. I think that is the piont
          being made anyway. :) I suppose the fact that Xerox (actually XeroxPARC,
          but I am being pedantic) weren't the first to develop the GUI, implies that
          Apple weren't either!
        • Why

          is everyone SO determined to probe that Apple is "inferior" because
          they didn't invent the GUI??<br><br>Apple was invited by Xerox to
          send engineers to observe IBM's GUI development. Xerox had
          essentially abandoned the idea of making it a commercially viable
          product. They then happily <i>sold</i> the technology to Apple.
          Apple then proved that IBM was wrong to abandon it by using the GUI
          to create a commercially viable and very successful
          product.<br><br>No one claims that Apple invented the GUI
          anymore. That happened in the past due to widespread confusion
          caused by the fact that Apple<i> successfully</i> (note the
          emphasis, please) put it in the mainstream
          first. Nowadays most people don't care who invented the GUI, they're
          just glad that someone did. The only people who keep beating this
          dead horse are haters. Get over it.
          • Another myth

            is that Apple just wholesale copied the Xerox PARC GUI. Completely untrue. There were significant changes Apple made in their own implementation.
          • Here's an article worth reading:


            where Bruce Horn discusses the myth that Apple copied
            the GUI from Xerox.

            Imagine what the Mac or Windows would looked like if
            they had just copied the Xerox GUI. For all of the
            complaining from Windows users about the Mac's single
            menu bar, Xerox didn't even have a menu bar. They used
            pop-up menus exclusively.
          • Yeah, it comes from Mackido, haha

            how objective
          • @markbn..

            Um, try reading it. Unlike you, Bruce Horn was at PARC, and
            knows about the Xerox GUI.

            He explains how different the Mac interface was from the
            Xerox one, and, if it will make you happy, explains why he
            feels Xerox' was better.

            Of course, you could continue to rely on myth for your 'facts.'
            I prefer to hear about it from someone who was there.
          • Advantage of menu bar at screen top

            Fitts Law says that the further away and smaller the target for the mouse, the longer it will take to get there. At the top of the screen, the mouse pointer stops, so any overshoot is not noticed. This gives the Mac user quicker and more reliable access to the menu bar than Windows users get.

            This is still not optimal and I hope to see pie menus in wide use since they are both faster to use and easier to remember than the vertical lists in drop down menus. When we combine them with auto-zooming to ease exploration of large data spaces, our computers will be easier to use and more fun too.

            Jef Raskin showed a zoom world solution for a hospital information system in "The Humane Interface". He failed to mention that people learned that system with less than one minute of training. Even computer experts did it in less than two minutes.

            Things will eventually get better for people.
    • Before throwing stones . . .

      Even a clueless editor might help you with your spelling and grammar ;)
      Power Natto
  • .

  • RE: The Macintosh turns 25 (and how it was almost a Bicycle)

    My Commodore 64 ran circles around the first Mac... it was a slow, clodding piece of memory bloat.
  • I started on the Apple II

    I have fond memories of when Apple wasn't a 900lb gorilla intent on suing instead of competing.
    • I think you have your corporations mixed up. [nt]

    • It will be so nice when

      you get tired of your silly, self-righteous, sanctimonious, pathetic,
      self because it is irritating hitting next only to see some stupid remark by
  • Happy Birthday Mac...

    How dull computing would be without the genius of the leaders and worker at Apple. Their skills plus some technology licensed from Xerox changed the world. No other company makes products as cool as the wares from Apple. Also, lets all pray for a speedy recovery to the person who made it all possible, Steve Jobs.
  • RE: The Macintosh turns 25 (and how it was almost a Bicycle)

    The first time I used a Mac extensively was in 1987 when I worked in a print shop. We used it primarily for typesetting. The quality wasn't great compared to the photo typesetting process, but for quick run jobs you couldn't beat the speed and ease of the Mac.

    I did a lot of word processing and gaming on an Apple /// (which could also load an Apple II emulator) up until about 1992.

    After that, up until 2006, I was primarily a PC guy, but have since switched to Mac & iPhone as my two primary platforms. I use Windows at home pretty much only for gaming.