Happy 30th birthday, Macintosh!

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Thirty years ago today, Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh 128k at an Apple shareholders’ meeting. Excitement was high after the airing of the now-classic commercial “1984” during the Super Bowl two days before, and the demo — complete with the “Chariots of Fire” theme song — lived up to the hype.

The unveiling was the backdrop for another thing that started in 1984: TED. At that first conference, Nicholas Negroponte made at jab at the Macintosh mouse in his talk, “5 predictions.” And at the next TED, held in 1990, John Sculley shared his vision for what he calls the “knowledge navigator,” a device eerily iPad-esque.

As we wish Macintosh a happy birthday, we can’t help but think of some of our intertwined moments. Here, a look.

  • One of our most-viewed talks ever is Steve Jobs’ Stanford University commencement speech, “How to live before you die.” The talk is even more poignant now, two years after his death. In it, Jobs remembers taking a calligraphy class in college. “I found it fascinating. But none of it had any hope of any practical application in my life,” he said. “But 10 years later when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me.”

Roger Ebert speaks through his Mac at TED2011. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Roger Ebert speaks through his Mac at TED2011. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

  • Roger Ebert lost the ability to talk, and eat, after his battle with cancer. But on the TED2011 stage, he was able to speak again — with the help of a MacBook. He begins this moving talk, “These are my words, but this is not my voice. This is Alex, the best computer voice I’ve been able to find, which comes as standard equipment on every Macintosh.”

  • At TED2006, Jeff Han gave a talk called “The radical promise of the multi-touch interface,” blowing the audience away with his pressure-sensitive computer screen interface. So a year later, when the iPhone was launched with a similar feel, many tried to connect the dots between the two. David Pogue asked Steve Jobs about Han’s technology on the day of the release — but Han told the TED Blog there wasn’t a connection, or any bitterness, to be found. “The iPhone is absolutely gorgeous, and I’ve always said, if there ever were a company to bring this kind of technology to the consumer market, it’s Apple,” he says. “I just wish it were a bit bigger so I could really use both of my hands.”

Chris Anderson holds his Macbook as he interviews Bill Gates. Photo: Joshua Wanyama

Chris Anderson holds his Macbook as he interviews Bill Gates. Photo: Joshua Wanyama

  • At TED2009, curator Chris Anderson interviewed Bill Gates and — as many pointed out — read his questions off a Macbook perched on his lap, Apple logo glowing. A year later, Anderson and Gates met on the TED stage once again — and this time Anderson kindly covered the Apple logo on his laptop with a sticker of speaker John Hodgman (who played the PC in those “I’m a Mac; and I’m a PC” commercials). When Gates noticed, he joked, “I have your face on my PC.”

And the next year, he covered the logo on his laptop. Photo: Red Maxwell

The next year, the two joked about the incident. Photo: Red Maxwell

  • At TED2010, John Underkoffler — perhaps best known as the person who designed the interface for Minority Report — gave a talk called “Pointing to the future of UI.” In it, he reflected on the advent of Macintosh, saying, “It was an astoundingly seminal event in the history of human-machine interface and in computation in general. It fundamentally changed the way that people thought about computation, thought about computers, how they used them and who and how many people were able to use them.”

A look at TED's Media Cave setup. Photos: James Duncan Davidson

A look at TED’s Media Cave setup. Photos: James Duncan Davidson

  • To complement the Mac’s many appearances onstage, our backstage production environment — where we capture and edit TED Talks as they happen — is Mac-centric too. A typical setup is described in this technical breakdown of the 2012 Media Cave by photographer James Duncan Davidson. But perhaps the biggest Mac enthusiast on our staff is Tom Rielly, who founded Yale’s Macintosh User Group in 1984. He wrote the piece “How Steve Jobs and the Invention of the Mac Saved My Life” for Out Magazine.

To many more birthdays, Mac.

Comments (27)

  • commented on Jan 26 2014

    Reblogged this on mielbuzz and commented:
    Who knows what % of current Apple users were even born when this was launched?

  • commented on Jan 26 2014

    Reblogged this on six design hats.

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  • commented on Jan 25 2014

    Reblogged this on norismo.

  • Tony Chadwick commented on Jan 25 2014

    In 85′ I co-founded the first Apple reseller for the creative industries in Melbourne Australia. The Xpress Group. The Mac and the advent of DTP (Pagemaker and Postscipt) revolutionized the graphic arts publishing and printing industries forever! Thank you for sharing this. 30 years on – despite Steve’s many misgivings his legacy and genius lives on!

  • commented on Jan 25 2014

    Reblogged this on حداديات.

  • commented on Jan 25 2014

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  • commented on Jan 25 2014

    Republicou isso em Mundo da Pesquisa.

  • commented on Jan 25 2014

    Reblogged this on Random Repeat.

  • Julie Kertesz commented on Jan 25 2014

    I was there, 30 year ago, and there again when the first time apple organised a meeting for distributors of products for Macintosh, Addis-on as I already was distributing in France products for apple 2, and I did love that first mac? which fast become a friend.

    Very easy to use, very difficult to program, till Bill Atkinson creator also of MacPaint created and gave away HyperCard. I wrote the first French book of it, because it did permit the ‘rest of us’ make. Programs on that mac we loved so much.

  • commented on Jan 25 2014

  • Claudia Gallegos commented on Jan 24 2014

    I am going to tell you a story. In 1988, I was starting my tv production company. I was 24 years old. I landed a great client to do a documentary and I proposed to do all the graphics with a Mackintosh, which was very expensive. We used a scanner and re-draw the logo of the company to produce slides in colour: each rendering took 24 hours, which was 3 days less that the other option in the market.
    This Mac had a hard drive and came in that bag. Wow! It came to my studio to connected to the editing suite. I understood themes will be always different from that point. It was amazing!

  • Martin Venzky-Stalling commented on Jan 24 2014

    Thanks for posting this!

  • Ghina Zand Alhadid commented on Jan 24 2014

    It was trippy watching this on an iPad.
    I could feel the wonder and anticipation within the audience of what can be done with this wonder machine! I think people saw possibilities. Thank you for sharing this video, it is wonderful.

  • commented on Jan 24 2014

    Happy birthday, indeed!

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  • Diogo Martins commented on Jan 24 2014

    Brilliant minds make brilliant things.

  • commented on Jan 24 2014

    Reblogged this on Elizabeth's space.