Today Macintosh turns 20. On January 24, 1984, the world saw “why 1984 won’t be like 1984.” I was already hopelessly addicted to computers by then. My family didn’t own one (despite my impassioned pleas), but I spent many after-school hours in my high school’s brand new computer lab, a veritable playground packed with Apple IIe’s. In January, I had just finished the “advanced” computer course “Computer Programming for Problem Solving” and was pretty proficient with Apple Basic and Apple’s version of UCSD Pascal (thanks Mr. Balliet!). I had heard about Macintosh (maybe even saw the ad on the Super Bowl) and thought it sounded pretty cool.
That spring, I was walking through the mall and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw a Macintosh in the window of Computerland. This was something different. I think I spent almost an hour there watching other people play with this incredible new thing. I stopped by a few days later when they were less crowded and tried it out for myself. Within a few minutes, I was hooked. All the stuff we take for granted now–overlapping windows, bitmapped display, WYSIWYG, mouse, drop-down menus, icons—was revolutionary. Oh, sure, there were other computers with those things, even one I’d heard about–but not sitting in a suburban Maryland mall where I could use the thing, and not for $2500.
Hooked or not, I couldn’t afford a $2500 computer, so for the time being Macintosh and I went our own separate ways. At college, I spent a lot of time working on computers, but they were mostly mainframes and minis (anybody remember MTS, the Michigan Terminal System?). A couple computer labs on campus had Macs, but I never had much occasion to use them.
I finally bought a Macintosh of my own in 1991, the day after the Perfect Storm. I had the day off work and decided to stop in at the local Apple dealer. I thought I might buy a Mac Classic, but walked out with an LC (or rather, walked out having spent money on an LC that I wouldn’t actually see for weeks). I’ve never looked back. Sure, I now have a PC sitting right next to my Mac and I use Windows and Linux regularly, but I’m really a Mac person at heart. Wired is running a story about the 20th anniversary titled We’re All Mac Users Now and I think that hits the nail on the head. Everybody who uses a computer today owes a debt of gratitude to Macintosh, whether they know it or not.
So Happy Birthday, Macintosh!