It’s an icon.
For all of our tech gamesmanship, Apple vs PC, iOS vs Android, days like today are fun to celebrate regardless of which team you’ve sided with.
The Mac is 30 years old.
Many are focusing on the revolutionary ad which played during Superbowl XVIII. Seeing “18” in Roman numerals makes me feel damn old, as I was actually alive for that presentation. We of course have that video linked below, but I wanted to focus briefly on the actual Mac itself, and what we might still be able to learn from it today.
It’s impossible to overstate how important the Mac was in making computing accessible to consumers. For many people my age, it was likely their first computer and graphical user interface. In schools, it was often the computer used to populate labs where we learned basic programming skills, supplemented traditional math, science, and writing education. It was probably one of the first machines we were able to play games on. I’m pretty much always down for a round of Oregon Trail.
What made it so revolutionary was a focus on the user experience. Utilizing precious little computing power by today’s standards to draw pictures and icons on the screen. It gave many first time users a much clearer understanding of what they could accomplish on a little magic box. We live in a world now where my watch is more powerful than those cute little Macs of old, so this aesthetic wasn’t easy to pull off.
A multi-disciplined team of individuals was responsible for bringing Mac to life, including doctors, artists, even an archaeologist. All working together to bring a more informative UI to the user than the flashing text prompt of UNIX and DOS. It’s where we first started having conversations about conveyance and skeuomorphic design.
As we move forward…
As we look towards the next 30 years, we must keep asking ourselves the same questions those early Mac pioneers struggled with. We must keep demanding efficiency, but not at the cost of experience. We’ll constantly be evolving, receiving more powerful devices, but we must have applications for that power.
Lastly, we need to start having frank conversations about our social use of technology and ergonomics. How we incorporate it into our daily lives, use it respectfully and safely.
Happy birthday Mac! You’ve been an inspiration for generations.
(Photo courtesy of Mac History)