This week marks the showing of the iconic “1984 won’t be like 1984” TV commercial by “Blade Runner’s Ridley Scott introducing the Apple Macintosh personal computer at the ‘84 Super Bowl. The theme was that the dystopian view of the world from the Orwell novel would be diverted because of the Macintosh computer, a device that would signify the fight of individuals against huge, impersonal corporations……. like maybe IBM.
The TV ad was simply galvanizing. Not only did it chronicle Apple as the plucky company fighting a David vs. Goliath battle for individuality and creativity in the face of insipid conformity, it introduced a truly revolutionary device.
The Macintosh obviated the clunky DOS system, the counter-intuitive “C prompt”, introduced graphic interface and the concept of the “desktop” from which objects were mobilized or opened/closed via a “mouse tail”. It was easy to understand by non-technicians and actually did meaningful work such as writing and math. It was a quantum jump in user interface. Literally mind altering.
Steve Jobs is widely reputed as having “stolen” the entire concept from Xerox in their “Office of the future” project in the early 80s, but this is not technically true. Xerox freely introduced Jobs to the nuts and bolts of the entire project because they thought it would never come to anything. Xerox engineers didn’t think there was any need or use for “personal computing” so they let the inquisitive Jobs have a free look at their intellectual property.
It was the “Eureka moment” that Jobs experienced that prompted the foresight of Macintosh as the “computer for the rest of us”. The concept was not stolen; it was created from a vision that the original owners didn’t have any conception of, radically changing the fabric of society, as we know it.