January 24, 1984 was the day the Macintosh first went on sale. It was the first commercially successful personal computer to feature a mouse and a graphical user interface rather than a command line interface, and it promised to revolutionize personal computing.
Yes, back then Apple still called itself Apple Computers. And although January 24th was its birth, January 22, 1984 was its introduction, via a commercial known as 1984, directed by Ridley Scott, and shown during the Super Bowl.
The ad is set in an Orwellian world, and a host of people sits staring blankly at a broadcast of a monolithic figure on a giant screen, until a woman clad in track-and-field garb runs in (with security hot on her heels) carrying a sledgehammer. Spinning around much as in the Olympic hammer throw event, she hurls the sledgehammer at the screen, resulting in a bright explosion whose light washes over the audience. And then, the message:
On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like "1984."
The ad was never shown again. For trivia buffs, the woman was played by Anya Major, who won the role because, as an experienced discus thrower, she could handle the sledgehammer.
While the Macintosh was, and is, a success, the IBM PC and clones dominated the market, particularly with the introduction of Microsoft Windows. And in 1985, founder Steve Jobs left the company after a power struggle with then-CEO John Sculley, not to return for a decade.
And it was his return, and the introduction of the iPod, that truly fueled Apple's resurgence, rather than the Macintosh. But now, the Mac is making serious inroads into PC market share, and the commercials we now see are clever, snarky, and humorous, rather than warning against Big Brother and a distopian PC society.
So Happy Birthday to the Mac. Watch the 1984 ad and one of the "Get a Mac" ads below.