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The Mac revolutions

Karen Haslam | July 14, 2016
From the Macintosh 128k to the iMac and the MacBook Air

Prior to the Macintosh launch on 24 January 1984, using a computer would have been a very different experience to what we know today. You would have accessed everything via MS-DOS or a command-line interpreter, typing basic commands after a C;\_ prompt to get a program to run. 

When Apple launched the Macintosh, it was the first time consumers were given a user-friendly means of interacting with a computer. 

The Macintosh introduced consumers to the first graphical user interface. The interface was based on representations of familiar objects, a waste paper basket, for example. Users moved 'files' and 'folders' around a 'desktop'. These items were dragged and dropped using a mouse.

While this graphical user interface was inspired by a development environment at Xerox, Apple was the first company to feature it in a consumer product. Microsoft didn't adopt a graphical user interface until late in 1985 when it launched Windows. 

Thirty years later many of these same metaphors are still in use on both the Mac and on Windows PCs, although the iPad and iPhone use a more simplified interface, which is gradually making its own impact on the Mac. For example, the traditional way of scrolling up and down a screen has been turned on its head as the Mac operating system has adopted the iOS logic of pushing a page up in order to see what's below.

There was more to the first Macintosh than the graphical user interface though. The 1984 Macintosh was also revolutionary because it bought the kind of performance that would normally have cost more than $10,000 down to a price that a consumer could afford. It was also the first mass-market computer to be networkable.

However, if you compared a Mac from 1984 and a Mac from today the differences would be astounding. The original Mac featured a 9-inch black-and-white display, the only 'storage' was a 3.5-in. floppy drive (which could store 400KB of data on each disk), and there was just 128k of RAM. The CPU was a Motorola 68000 processor running at 8MHz. It shipped with MacWrite, a word processing tool, and MacPaint, a drawing tool.

Compare that to the Mac Pro today, which can offer 1TB flash storage, 64GB RAM, and 12 processor cores, with each running at 2.7GHz (or 6 running at 3.5GHz).

Even the original iPhone when it launched in 2007 offered better specs than the original Macintosh, apart from the 3.5-inch display (compared to 9-inch). The original iPhone offered up to 8GB storage, a 412MHz CPU, and 128MB RAM.


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