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 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
And today, Apple released this celebration of their 30th anniversary. The first person in the video: John Maeda, who has given three gripping TED Talks. Also making appearance: Louis Rosetto and Jane Metcalf (who funded their startup magazine Wired at a TED), David Carson (watch his talk from TED2003) and John Knoll (who spoke at TED2008).
To many more birthdays, Mac.
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