The Mac Turns Forty


CUPERTINO, Calif., January 24, 1984 — Apple Computer today unveiled its much-anticipated Macintosh computer, a sophisticated, affordably priced personal computer designed for business people, professionals and students in a broad range of fields. Macintosh is available in all dealerships now.

Via Stephen Hackett, who highlights a quote in that press release from Steve Jobs (emphasis Hackett’s):

“With Macintosh, the computer is an aid to spontaneity and originality, not an obstacle. It allows ideas and relationships to be viewed in new ways. Macintosh enhances not just productivity, but also creativity.”

That still defines the Mac today, four decades after it was introduced. This is why I fell in love with the Mac in the first place way back at my high school newspaper, and why I still love it today.

Plenty of people have spent this anniversary reminiscing about what the Mac means to them; Michael Tsai has a good roundup. On “Upgrade”, a six-member panel reflected on the best Macs, software, and accessories in a duplicate-free draft format; they also pointed out their “Hall of Shame” moments. It seems a little hacky for me to invite myself to add on but, heck, why not?

Without spoiling the episode, my pick for my favourite Mac has to be the one I am typing this on: the 14-inch M1 MacBook Pro. The laptop is the definitive configuration of a modern Mac, and this model is a near perfect example.

Picking my favourite Mac software is massively difficult. I dug up a seventeen year old hard drive to jog my memory, and it is a long list. From Apple, my picks are: Aperture, Exposé, the original space-themed version of Time Machine, and the ability to type special characters by using the option key. From other developers, my picks are Coda, Homebrew, NetNewsWire, Pulp, Things, and myriad joyful Twitter clients like Bluebird and Twitterrific. I could go on. If I had to pick only one to reincarnate, it would probably be Aperture.

My favourite accessory has to be the 30-inch Cinema Display. The Thunderbolt Display was a worthy successor, but the aspect ratio was just a little better on the original gigantic Apple display.

As for a Hall of Shame thing? That would be the slow but steady encroachment of single-window applications in MacOS, especially via Catalyst and Electron. The reason I gravitated toward MacOS in the first place is the same reason I continue to use it: it fits my mental model of how an operating system ought to work. I love how I can float a bunch of application windows all around my desktop and it still feels organized and workable; when I try to do the same thing on my Windows P.C. at my day job, it is nowhere near as good. Uniwindow applications rob users of the best parts of this model.