Looking back (and forward) when the Mac was 10

Looking back (and forward) when the Mac was 10

Summary: A MacWEEK special report in January, 1994 looked at the first decade of Macintosh as well as what the future might hold for the platform. At times it's nostalgic and amusing reading, and at other times strangely prophetic.


Back in the days, there was a tremendous anticipation by the Mac community for the first week of January. Firstly, there was the arrival of the San Francisco Macworld Expo (a very large show that filled the Moscone Center, featuring Apple announcements of new products). However, for Mac IT managers and businesses using Macs, it was also the week that they would find the jumbo Expo issue of MacWEEK in their mailboxes. It was packed with product news and Mac market analysis.

In January of 1994, the Expo issue had a long, multipart report covering the first decade of Macintosh. This Decade in Review report offers some interesting reading in hindsight. Here are a few selections:

Looking back (and forward) when the Mac was 10

While some may recall the excitement of the 1984 launch of the first 128K Macs and the followup 512K Fat Mac, the report points out that the Mac had little market share in its first year (the Apple II was Apple's money-maker), "few major applications, and a misguided marketing strategy led by the vague "Power to be your best" campaign." It wasn't until the Mac became part of a critical workflow solution that the platform really got moving.

It's ironic that what let Apple escape its doldrums was not a more powerful Mac, but a printer, a language vendor and an upstart third party with nowhere to go but up. Apple's LaserWriter, Adobe Systems's PostScript page description language and Aldus's PageMaker combined with Apple's masterstroke of building networking into every Mac, demonstrated the first calculable reason for owning and using a Mac. The fact that Microsoft Corp. used the platform to ship the premiere version of Excel didn't hurt, either.

This mention of AppleTalk networking is interesting. The original Mac had networking from Day 1. Instead of the rough going on the networking front by PCs, Mac developers could take for granted for what at the time were mostly high-level capabilities.

It's significant that no other microcomputer vendor of the time conceived of networking as integral to the machine. Even the original Unix didn't have networking written into the OS; TCP/IP was developed separately. And, unlike other components of the OS, AppleTalk was licensed by Apple to third parties and other system vendors starting in the late 1980s.

According to the report's history, the first great age of the Mac came in 1991 and 1992, with the shipment of System 7 (there was no prefix of Mac OS then), the first PowerBooks and 68040-based Macs. And it was this success that let Apple develop a non-Mac platform such as the Newton MessagePad.

At the time, the Newton was filled with possibility. It was a new mobile computing platform, with ideas way before their time and before there was a mobile processor that could support them.

While most of the predictions were short-term, some are interesting to us 20 years in the future:

We predict that the Mac of 2004 will bear little resemblance to today's machine. It will have voice, pen, 3-D imaging and intelligent agents that come wrapped in an interface capable of reorganizing itself, shifting views and even shifting idioms to the task at hand.

Certainly, we have solid voice input now. But 3D imaging, pen input and agent technology? Still, we are seeing shifting, contextual views on iOS and we can expect to see more of them in OS X on the Mac.

Of course, the article had lots of predictions about the future success of the RISC-based platform that Apple, IBM and Motorola were preparing in 1994. It would be a machine that supported Mac and PC OSes; a true 32-bit operating system with a high-performance, 32-bit RISC processor. I recall sitting in meetings of the consortium, where executives expected that the platform could quickly gain as much as a 30 percent market share over Wintel competition. These gains would be in the Windows and server markets.

Other OSes may make the move to PowerPC Macs: PowerOpen Unix and Taligent Inc.'s Taligent OS are guaranteed; Solaris and Windows NT are likely candidates; Microsoft's Chicago is not at all likely, because of its x86 code base. The availability of competing OSes on Mac hardware would expose Apple to all kinds of competitive pressures it doesn't feel now. Of these, the need to integrate Taligent technology into System 7 will probably be greatest in the years beyond 1995.

So much talk and so little product.

Finally, here are a few items from the Report's Devil's Dictionary that have stood the test of time.

Mobile computing: An enabling technology for uncompensated overtime.

Nanokernel: Those little blackened, harder-than-diamond lumps left in the bottom of a microwave popcorn bag.

Newton: What hit Apple on the head.

PowerTalk: What Apple executives do at a PowerLunch.

Repurposing: The process by which Apple employees go to work for Dell, SGI or Microsoft.

Taligent: One of the lost tribes of Silicon Valley.

Topics: Apple, iOS, Laptops, Mobility, Operating Systems

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  • Mac failed

    After all these years, Mac barely scraped. past 5% market share against Windows.

    Underneath all the fanboy nostaligia on this website is the underlying truth that Mac failed except as a niche designer label. No other company or its fans would celebrate peaking at 5% market share after 30 years. Imagine if this were Windows Phone.
    • Mac failed?

      If your definition of success is market share, you are correct. If your definition is profitablity, you are wrong.

      Saying the Mac is a failure is like saying BMW is a failure because its market share is low.
  • Mac failed

    Only a dimwit would say Mac failed. If it weren't for the Mac you would still be on some other version of windows 3.0. DOS would still be the standard for computer users. Mac's success forced the other computers to go to GIU. We would still have to press any key to boot. Since the 80's PC's have been trying to come up with their own version of a desk top format. How sad that you can't see that if it were not for Apple computers, personal home computers would have died out in the early nineties.
    • I agree, except ...

      Even if there was no Mac in 1984, you'd still have a GUI system, courtesy of Commodore Amiga 1000. It was called Workbench (I think) and it was not bad. It was even using more than 2 colors.
      • haha

        Right, Amiga Workbench looked like a toy compared to the Mac OS of the day, let alone where it went, and where Windows95 and what followed went. Even Linux. Comodore has a CEO who couldn't get his head around what needed to be done. Kind of like Blackberry.

        As for the Apple haters calling the Mac a failure, then why is Apple still here and making more money than any other computer maker. Period. They sell more laptops than any other company. They are more like 15 percent of the market and growing faster than the PC market.

        Not to mention today's record numbers of sales of iPhones and iPads, and near-record sales of Macs. And that doesn't even count the Mac Pro which is backordered into March now.

        Some failure. As Phil Schiller would say - "My ass."
        • I'm not so sure about Amiga being a toy.

          First, Mac OS was not called Mac OS, it was System 5, System 6, System 7, System 8, System 9, then OS X. At the time the Amiga 1000, the Atari ST, if you really looked at them, they were way nicer than Mac System 5. When Apple got to System 7, it sort of looked way better than Atari TOS with GEM or Amiga OS. Both the Amiga and the Atari supported multiple colors and stereo sound. The Mac had neither. Also the Amiga OS had a preemptive multitasking kernel which was only really available with UNIX based workstations at the time. Mac System 6 (actually all the way through System 9) was a Pascal coded OS and was not preemptive, was cooperative multitasking. I did quite a bit of coding on that.

          Lest you think I am anti-Apple, I'm nothing of the sort. Although I was late to the Macintosh platform, my first Mac was the SE-30, the first all-in-one Mac with an expansion slot but came preloaded with System 6. Then I got a IIci which was one of my favorites and it had several NuBus expansion slots that were really plug and play. This came with Kanji Talk 7 (Japanized System 7. I was living in Japan at the time). That lasted quite a while and I was building my own Windows PCs, but then I decided to buy a Power Macintosh 6100 AV. At least that one had a NuBus expansion, so some of my cards still worked. I had that with System 8. This was at a time when Wintel machines were using ISA expansion slots that were a driver nightmare. Then my next Mac was a G3 which came with System 8, next I bought a G4 with System 9, which became my first experience with OS X and it was *NIX based which thrilled me to no end. I had been programmer, system administrator, network engineer, DBA on Solaris for over a decade, and now my Mac was a *NIX OS written in C and Objective C instead of the Pascal (never made it to Modula 2). I was immediately drawn to the Terminal app. Immediately Korn shell and Perl scripting were available on my Mac. Turned out later that Apple Script was a bit better. I have ditched tower boxes in favor of laptops, so I started with the Power Book G4 running Panther. The upgraded to Tiger. Upgraded to Mac Book Pro (second line of Intel based) starting with Leopard, then upgraded to Snow Leopard then Lion then Mountain Lion. My main Mac is a new MacBook Air and it came with Mountain Lion, but have since upgraded to Mavericks. So from 1989 until this day, with a brief distraction at the dawn of Windows 3, I have owned Macs for a number of years. Incidentally, although only upgradeable to Leopard, my 2001 Power Book still works, not a speed demon, but still good. My son now has my 2008 MacBookPro, but I've upgraded to 480GB SSD and 6Gb (seems like 6GB works even though rated at 4GB Max - OWC memory upgrade, OWC SSD), it still is very fast. While some may think this is a "failed" system, I don't think so.
      • I agree with your agreement

        Workbench was the Amiga's file manager. The OS was, uh, Amiga OS. It was a preemptive multitasking kernel named Exec. It had 12-bit color (4096) which is way above the 2 color Mac. It also boasted stereo sound. It went to market in 1985. Around the same time GEM from Digital Research (owners of CP/M), were going to run in under CP/M. However, it really gained a bit from another game maker, Atari in its Atari ST series, under the Atari TOS (The Operating System - lame name). Atari also had multiple colors (can't find specs) and stereo sound. GEM showed real promise, but due to the death of founder David Kildall, Digital Research was sold to Novell in 1994. Both Amiga and GEM died, which still have cult status who sort of give them life support. Commodore went bankrupt in 1994. 1994 seems to be a bad year for GUIs. But remember around 1982 - 1986, Microsoft had Windows 1.0. I never say Windows 1.0, but I did see Windows 2.0 around the time that IBM and Microsoft were working together on OS 2. (that was probably my all time favorite Operating systems for programming, until I got Solaris and started programming with Motif.

        The main thing is that GUIs from PARC (who did not understand the potential) had a GUI but also, DEC had its DEC Station that had a GUI that mainly housed VT-200 color monitors in multiple windows. Amiga OS, Atari TOS (with GEM), Microsoft Windows in early 1984 (overlapped by Mac's GUI OS). In other words, GUIs were inevitable. In later years, it could be said that the Mac caused others to step up their game, but Windows 3.0 was a hit, which verified the Mac. Lets also not forget Silicon Graphics (mainly Indigo 2 - not really the Onyx) which is still the coolest I've ever worked on. And, although circular logic, NeXT. That was an awesome platform, a real workstation, did my first multithreaded programming on a NeXT and the Toolkit was so good, you could make your own word processor by assembling blocks of tools without a line of code.