See how Mac magically decluttered our desks over past 30 years

Before and after photos show the Mac's radical reinvention of our desktops. Image courtesy BestReviews

Before and after photos show the Mac’s radical reinvention of our desktops. Image courtesy BestReviews

Remember your desk from the ’80s? If you were even alive back then it probably featured an old Macintosh surrounded by a disgusting mess of books, letters, a telephone, a fax machine and probably even a Rolodex. But thanks to the rapid pace of technology, you’d be hard-pressed to find any of those items on the modern college student’s desk.

To show just how quickly our work areas have evolved in the last three decades, the Harvard Innovation Lab recreated the desktop from 30 years ago, then documented how the Mac decluttered it as technology evolved. What was once a confusing pile of single-use items has been pared down to just a clean, simple surface with a laptop, sunglasses and smartphone. Watch the full time-lapse “Evolution of the Desk” video to see how the decluttering went down.

My desk doesn’t look anywhere near as clean as Harvard’s desk in 2014, but at least I don’t have to keep a big-ass globe on it just to find the location of Rwanda. How has your desk changed over the years?

  • kraigeriginal

    Yeah… except that phone pictured above is definitely a Samsung Galaxy S4. #fail

    • dougthomsen.tv

      S3, in fact :) It’s my old phone.

    • Grayson Williams

      Yeah, and the computer after the Macintosh Classic is also a ThinkPad.

    • jotasss

      Its because of the iCloud breach!

  • vanstatten

    yeah just macs did that not computers.. peeh

    • Tallest Skil

      Yeah, it’s not like Apple invented the modern computer or anything.

      • DigitalBeach

        Apple also lead the way/set the standard for Apps.

  • John Martin

    Just the sunglasses to go :)

    • kraigeriginal

      … Enter: f.lux

  • Matt Winegar

    How did a Mac replace car Keys?

    • kraigeriginal

      Because you must choose – either a Mac or a car.

    • herbaled

      The iPhone has replaced car key on some cars.

      • Carl Draper

        Except in the gif, there’s no iPhone, instead there’s an S3.

  • Ross Rasmussen

    Who has a desk?

  • Keith

    Cool project, though as a friend points out, the Mac is 30 years old not 35 (using the “1984” Super Bowl as as reference). Might want to update the headline.

  • Alex Burda

    Yeah, and if the electrical power goes down, even the desk is gone…and you start looking for the old notebook and contacts book. :D

    PS: maybe the globe should have stayed, so that people at the desk wouldn’t become so ignorant about where they are on this planet…

    • sMalL hIlL

      If you had a desktop and a laptop, then when the power goes down you can transfer to the portable, no internet for me though as the modem runs on mains too. :/

      • Alex Burda

        The battery on the portable does not run forever. For the internet one can use a mobile wireless device (I have one as a backup or as on road solution). But that runs on battery to so…the problem stays the same. This “desktop cleaning” is just an illusion as depends exclusively on electrical power. Somewhere in the back, the old solution are on standby because there are no redundancy systems here… :)

    • Carl Draper

      Google Earth

  • Garrett

    how does the mac replace scissors and white out?

    • DigitalBeach

      How does it not? I cut paper with my Macbook Air all the time.

    • TJ

      Cmd-X, Cmd-C, Cmd-V

  • sMalL hIlL

    Here’s a pic of my desk right here right now.

    • JR

      but they are multiplying.

      • sMalL hIlL

        Yeh right. I’m sure you know what you’re on about. Flucked if I do… :)

  • Steve Lawrence

    How does it replace a printer?

    • Carl Draper

      it’s not a printer, it’s a fax machine

  • RageOfReason

    Hmm, starts looking like a life-filled home and turns into a stark east german stasi interrogation room!
    http://elitedaily.com/money/entrepreneurship/psychology-behind-messy-rooms-messy-room-may-necessarily-bad-thing/708046/

  • JohnyMyko

    Looks cool, but I don’t think a computer can replace the car keys next to the sunglasses…

    • adavila78

      Well… you can open some car models with some smartphone apps ;)

  • Yep

    How did Apple do this? I’m confused. Sounds like a fanboy….

    • jay

      Read history. learn.

  • Kate

    What is sad is the writer actually thinks that Apple did this on their own. Really?

    • jay

      They did.

About the author

Buster HeinBuster Hein is Cult of Mac's Senior News Editor and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Twitter: @bst3r.

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