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Larry Press: 1984 Apple Super Bowl Ad, Early Mac Reviews Here

aNewDomain.net — On the 30-year anniversary of Apple’s original Mac announcement, I read our Jerry Pournelle’s memories of that 1984 machine. In Why the Original Mac Just Didn’t Cut It, Jerry talks about the original Mac’s shortcomings, saying the 128K model he reviewed cost too much and was too slow — and hot. He called it a “toy,” a pronouncement that greatly upset the late Apple co-founder and chairman Steve Jobs

But Jerry might also have added that the original Mac had a monochrome display. That screen was just a little larger than a postage stamp. The machine also came with a clunky dot matrix printer.

In many ways, it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. Check out the original Apple Mac ad that ran during the 1984 Super Bowl 30 years ago.

Scroll below the video to find my reviews of the original Apple Macintosh and the Macs that followed it.


Video: Robert Cole YouTube Channel

As it happens, I, too, reviewed the original Apple Macintosh when it came out in 1984. I’ve included the reviews I published at the time below. Two quotes neatly sum up my impressions. On the positive side, I wrote:

When I took the Mac on a visit to my father’s home, I could not get him to stop playing with it. He has had ample opportunity to use other personal computers — even some with mice — but has barely been willing to sit still for a short demonstration. With the Mac, he started by himself, drew silly pictures, wrote silly words, and had a good time …”

That was the good news, but I also noted:

Although this review is about the Macintosh, I am writing it on an IBM PC.”

The rest of the article was an in-depth review of the Mac, which included the same shortcomings as Jerry noted. In the end, as you’ll see below, I concluded that the first Mac was an important step in the right direction and that I thought the hardware limitations would soon be overcome.

Here’s my review of the original 1984 Apple Macintosh, embedded below.

Original Macintosh Review by Larry Press

Here’s my Mac Plus review, also appearing in the same magazine. The Mac Plus was the Apple Macintosh with a hard disk installed. And I actually wrote that review on the Apple Mac Plus I was reviewing. What a difference a hard disk made.

Review of the Mac Plus by Larry Press

After Apple unveiled the Mac II and the Mac SE at Macworld in March 1987, I reviewed those machines, too. It’s funny what you notice when you look back. I noted, in this piece, that in all likelihood the industry was moving to “detachable pads” we’d all carry around with us someday.

Larry Press Reviews the Mac II and the Mac SE

Note: The Mac reviews above are followed by a report on the Seybold Publishing Conference and a review of the early hypertext authoring program, Guide.

And then there’s this bit — on the Macintoshing of IBM. IBM began to behave in a more Apple-like way, I noticed, with the introduction of its IBM PS/2 line.

The Macintoshing of IBM, by Larry Press


This is an analysis of IBM’s announcement of the PS/2 and OS/2 — their attempt to catch up with the Macintosh.

The article above also gives IBM PC owners some tips and stopgap strategies to use while they waited for their new PS/2 machines.

In retrospect, I was so in awe of IBM back then. I’d worked at IBM when Big Blue dominated computing. I couldn’t imagine customers or, more importantly, IBM PC clone makers ever eschewing the IBM PS/2 or its Micro Channel bus. I also failed to see that Microsoft would push ahead with Windows in competition with OS/2, which it was developing as a joint partner with IBM at the time.

The PS/2 — and its operating system, the co-developed Microsoft-IBM OS/2 failed. Apple had winning technology until Microsoft started to catch up with Windows 3.11 in 1989 and, finally, with Windows 95.

Note that the article above also is packaged with a brief description of recommended upgrades to WordStar and Norton Utilities. Also, you’ll find a report on the ACM Symposium on Small Systems. Those were the days.

For aNewDomain.net, I’m Larry Press.

Based in Los Angeles, Larry Press is a founding senior editor covering tech here at aNewDomain.net. He’s also a professor of information systems at California State University at Dominguez Hills. Check his Google+ profile — he’s at +Larry Press — or email him at Larry@aNewDomain.net.

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  • Ant Pruitt

    I enjoyed your review from the way-back machine, Mr Press

    -RAP, II

    • lpress

      Thanks, Ant. It was fun for me to read too after so many years. I am surprised at the level of detail and geekiness. I guess we were all pretty geeky in those days.

  • Compadre

    Man do I love reading old technology review columns.

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