A lot shifted when the Apple Macintosh was introduced, and it wasn’t about the RAM, the chips or the processor speed. Our world changed forty years ago today. Marketing, technology, commerce, luxury brands, communities, communication and our expectations for how we might spend our future all shifted, and fairly quickly.
Guy Kawasaki brought me one to use as a beta tester. I was 23 years old and amazed. What I didn’t realize was that revolutions like this were extremely rare, and here was one, at exactly the right moment for my career and for a new cadre of creators.
A big shift the Mac announced was turning the computer from a hobbyist novelty into the center of pop culture, productivity and creative work. The Commodore 64 was a toy. This was a car. The first leap like this since Henry Ford.
The device itself didn’t do nearly as much as we hoped it would (yet), but the clear and actionable promises that it brought with it changed what we expected and imagined might be next.
Regis McKenna never got enough credit for being the visionary behind so much of the marketing and the ripples it caused. Susan Kare became a minor celebrity–for giving a computer a face and a personality.
It was the first time the launch of a new product (other than the Edsel, perhaps) was a media event of this magnitude.
The Super Bowl ad (which Jobs didn’t even want to do) marked a shift from ads being about the product to also being about the ads.
Once we got the joke, we wanted to tell everyone else. Insiders and outsiders. Early adopters and the mainstream. Evangelists. A pattern that’s been repeated hundreds of times since then.
There are few concepts that can’t be explained with an Apple anecdote, and it largely began with the launch of this one device.
[I invented two devices to work with the Mac–the first fax board in 1986, and a precursor to Sonos that would pipe your music across the room. It turns out that it’s easier to write about Apple than to work with them…]
I’m typing this on perhaps the 20th (okay, 40th) Mac I’ve owned. The pace of innovation has now slowed to a crawl as Apple seeks to take profits instead of following the path that the Mac started down two generations ago–to not just sell a product, but to change the culture.
Even if they’ve lost the instinct to make something insanely great, they taught people all over the world to want to do so.
The change we make is at the heart of the work we’re able to do.