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History of Apple: how Apple came to lead the tech industry

Nik Rawlinson | Aug. 20, 2015
Our History of Apple begins with a look at Apple's not so humble beginnings, follow the Apple story with us.

The Macintosh project: pixels

The hardware was only half of the story. Coder Bill Atkinson had implemented a radical system by which the Macintosh System software allowed for overlapping windows in a more efficient manner than the computers at PARC had done, and Susan Kare spent months developing a visual language in the form of on-screen icons that have since become classics.

It's her that we have to thank for the on-screen wrist watch (to indicate a background process hogging resources) and the smiling Mac - among others - as well as the seemingly illogical square and circles combination she chose for the command key. (This is a common symbol in Sweden, where it's used to denote a campsite.) Her paint bucket and lasso graphics are used widely in other applications, and the fonts she designed for use on the original Macintosh, which included Chiacgo, Geneva and Monaco, are still in use today - albeit in finer forms.

The Macintosh went on sale in January 1984, priced at $2,495. It wasn't cheap, but it was good value for what you got, and that was reflected in its sales. By the beginning of May that same year, Apple had hit the landmark figure of 70,000 shipped units, which was likely helped in no small part by a remarkable piece of advertising directed by Ridley Scott.

Read about how the name iMac was chosen here: Apple ad man Ken Segall on convincing Steve Jobs to Think Different when naming iMac

Apple's '1984' advert

Nobody would ever deny that the original Macintosh was a work of genius. It was small, relatively inexpensive (for its day) and friendly. It brought the GUI - graphical user interface - to a mass audience and gave us all the tools we could ever need for producing graphics-rich work that would have costs many times as much on any other platform.

Yet, right from the start, it was in danger of disappointing us.

You see, Apple had built it up to be something quite astounding. It was going to change the computing world, we were told, and as launch day approached, the hype continued to grow. It was a gamble - a big one - that any other company would likely have shied away from.

But then no other company employed Steve Jobs.

Jobs understood what made the Macintosh special, and he knew that, aside from the keynote address at which he would reveal it, the diminutive machine needed a far from diminutive bit of publicity.

He put in a call to Chiat\Day, Apple's retained ad agency, and tasked them with filling sixty seconds during the third quarter break of Super Bowl XVIII.


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