Greatest Mac Moment #25: The “1984’ Commercial

25 Years of Mac First off, we don’t want to take any heat about this entry’s placement in our list. Certainly the “1984’ commercial announcing the original Mac is more important than to place dead last. So don’t read anything more into this week’s entry than we wanted to begin our list where this whole adventure began: on January 22nd 1984.

Pete Mortensen:
I have to confess something here: I never had the opportunity to see the original “1984’ commercial when it originally aired. I was, after all, 3 years old, and my parents, clearly thought I should go to bed before it aired on the East Coast. I did, however, seek it out in 1995, the darkest days of Apple’s history and the apex of my Mac fanaticism. I read countless summaries of the spot, clicked through very slowly loading galleries of screenshots, and finally, sometime around January of 1996, I got to see it on TV in my parents’ basement during a rather insufferable “Greatest TV Commercials of All Time!?!” special on CBS. I loved the ad, but I had built it up in my mind to an experience comparable to transfiguration. It wasn’t. That didn’t happen until “Think Different” came out, the first signal that Apple wasn’t just going to lie back and take it anymore. The birth of a new era…

Lonnie Lazar:
In 1984 I was 2nd year law student still using IBM Selectric and Smith-Corona electric typewriters. I thought spooled white-out correction tape was a great invention! By the dawn of the 90s I had a friend on the SF peninsula working for a custom PC maker and it would be over a decade after the debut of Macintosh before I used my first Apple, a Color Classic II in 1995. I remember being very impressed with the dramatic effect of Mac’s introductory commercial when I saw it live during the Super Bowl, but as a bit of a political radical and anti-Reaganite, I read more of an underlying social statement into it. It’s significance as a harbinger of change to come in the realm of the personal computer went right over my head. After all, those Selectrics were the gold standard at the time.

Leigh McMullen:
I remember the commercial vividly, we had been studying Orwell in school that fall, and so its timeliness and visual impact were stunning. That said, I was an Atari guy when the Mac launched, and to be honest the allure of a computer that lacked color graphics, or bad-assed arcade style games eluded me for quite some time. It really wasn’t until a few years later, playing the original SimCity at the Drake University computer lab, that the little beige toasters started to grow on me.

  • no-doz

    Just want to dive in and dispel the myth that the ad only ran once. I was working in a Chicago newsroom at the time and it came on during the local news (WBBM/CBS) at least a few days before the Super Bowl. A bunch of us in the newsroom (using terminals and Atex as I recall – the stone knives and bearskins were in desk drawers with our bottles of hootch) were all blown away by the ad, the concept, the computer etc. I started plotting my first Mac purchase then.

  • DeadParrot

    I actually saw the 1984 commercial as part of the “previews of coming attractions” at the movie theatre in January 1984. It looked wonderful on the big screen.

  • Cal

    I was 16 then, and the Mac ad had gotten enough pre-Superbowl buzz to really make me want to see it. I was not disappointed.

    I was taking a “computer applications” course in high school at the time (which was offered separately from comp sci), and we used Apple IIe’s in class. Years later, my first computer purchase was a Mac Classic II, and my second job used Macs in the office.

    But sadly, I haven’t owned a Mac since that first one.

  • charli

    if I recall from my marketing class correctly, this ad was one of the first if not THE first major ‘event’ ad during the Superbowl (ie, an ad created to run during the game with a big budget etc like the current ads). it started not only a new era in computing but also in product advertising.

About the author

Leigh McMullen

Leigh McMullen leads the Advisory Services & Strategy practices for the professional services arm of one of the Big-Five firms. He has written several books that would cure any insomnia you might have, and is an avid Mac junkie.

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