With the Apple Macintosh completing 30 years on January 24, 2014, here’s a recap of its launch and how it became such a phenomenal success

This one is for computer history buffs. In 1976, Steve Wozniak, a young American electronics expert, designed Apple-1, a single-board computer. With best friend Steve Jobs, he started Apple Computer, Inc., and together they sold more than 200 of the boards. Apple then announced the follow-on, Apple II, a ready-to-use computer for all.

1977 dawned, and Apple II (with printed-circuit motherboard, switching power supply, keyboard, case-assembly, manual, game paddles, A/C power cord, cassette tape and computer game Breakout) became an instant success, selling by the million. Hooked to a colour TV, Apple II produced brilliant graphics. The next one Lisa, the first PC with a graphical user interface, failed. Lisa was an improvement, with a 1-MB RAM, and a 12-inch monitor, but the golden steed of the Apple stable charged out in 1984, exactly 30 years ago.

Birth of Macintosh

The Macintosh was the first successful mouse-driven computer with a graphical user-interface. Apps included MacPaint, which made use of the mouse and MacWrite, which demonstrated WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) word-processing. All it needed was a single $1.5 million commercial during the 1984 Super Bowl and a $2500 price to set off a storm. Interestingly, Apple’s commercial featured the theme of destruction of Big Brother (that’s right, from George Orwell’s 1984)with the power of personal computing found in Macintosh.

When Steve Jobs pulled a 16-pound, 32-bit machine, with a 9-inch black-and-white screen and a pointing “mouse” device from a duffel bag in front of a rapt audience, he turned the computer from a futuristic, sci-fi gizmo into an everyday appliance. Home computing would never be the same again. The friendly desktop — affectionately called Mac — with its click-on-icons facility, opened computing to non-geeks in the same way touchscreens have made smartphones and tablets accessible now. Mac was a quantum leap said a Silicon Valley friend, who described how thousands of “Apple faithfuls” partied at an arts centre not far from the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, to mark the birthday. “Apple-Mac was the first computer which impressed people,” he said.

It is a before-after story. Prior to January 24, 1984, computers were workplace machines taking commands in typed text that looked like code to people who were not software programmers. Mac-GUI (Graphical User Interface) opened computing to the “rest of us”. You clicked an on-screen icon, and it opened a file. You moved a mouse, it re-drew the screen. Your PC had memory, took processing commands, and included a “drop-down” menu, calculator, and chess game. It offered 128 kilobytes of RAM at a $2,500 price tag. If Mac’s page layouts and photo editing won the devotion of the artistic types, its “hypercard” won the hearts of the rest. You could create a page and link it to someone else. You could network all your computers and share data. It was like a private Internet.

There were hiccups — with speed, with workflow. But what Steve Wozniak called the T-model, the blueprint for all future computers, laid a bold, new path with its 8 MHz-CPU speed, 3.5” floppy drive, detachable keyboard, mouse and weight. As Jobs went from bowtie to turtleneck, the boxy Macintosh with a mouth-like slit below the screen for floppy disks evolved into a line that boasted slim, powerful laptops and a cylindrical Mac Pro desktop model. What would we be without the svelte iPod Mini/Shuffle, MacBook Pro, MacBook airs, and iPads?