Today in Apple history: Mac’s first 100 days prove a roaring success


Mac 128k Beauty Shot
The original Mac was a smash hit. Sort of.
Photo: iFixit

May 3: Today in Apple history: Mac's first 100 days prove a roaring success May 3, 1984: Apple marks the all-important first 100 days of Mac sales, signaling whether the product launch is a hit with customers.

The results outstrip even Steve Jobs’ most optimistic targets. Unfortunately, not everything is as positive as it seems following the successful Mac launch.

Original Macintosh launch

It’s easy to forget today, but when Apple launched the Macintosh in 1984, the company was coming off a couple of high-profile failures. The Apple II remained a big seller. However, attempts to produce a successor in the form of the Lisa and the Apple III failed miserably.

Beyond a doubt, the Mac represented an immense technical achievement. However, the first-gen Macintosh 128K was also slow and underpowered. In addition, Apple still faced the threat of the IBM PC — a more serious, “respectable” choice for many people shopping for their first personal computers.

On top of this, the Mac cost a lot. Although much cheaper than some Macs that Apple would later produce (even adjusted for inflation), it still cost $2,500 in 1984 dollars — the equivalent of more than $7,500 today. This stood in stark opposition to the way the Mac project started under Jeff Raskin, with the idea of producing an everyday computer for $500 or less.

Nonetheless, Jobs remained confident. He predicted that Apple would sell 50,000 Macs in its first 100 days. Apple smashed that number by April 6. By May 3 — or day 100 — Apple had sold 72,000 Macs.

We could have sold 200,000 Macintoshes if we could have built them,” Apple product marketing manager Barbara Koalkin told USA Today.

Sales during Mac’s first 100 days fool Apple

Buoyed by this early success, Apple began building up a massive inventory of Macs. The company ramped up manufacturing to a rate of 110,000 Macs per month. However, early adopter sales did not accurately reflect mainstream public demand for the new computer.

Sales slowed, and Apple did not hit the 1 million Mac mark until March 1987. Far from a repeat of the Apple III failure, the Mac nevertheless became an early setback for the company.

In the aftermath, Apple CEO John Sculley dreamed up the “Test Drive a Macintosh” campaign. The goal? Encourage average customers to give Apple’s revolutionary new computer a chance.

Before too long, Jobs was forced out of Apple. He went on to run two companies, NeXT and Pixar, that produced even more-expensive computers.

Apple silicon chip powers new era of Macs

After decades of using other companies’ processors to power Macs, Apple announced its plan to switch to its own custom chips in 2020. The resulting launch of the first Apple silicon-powered machines sparked a Mac renaissance similar in some ways to the heady success of the Mac’s first 100 days.

Apple’s proprietary M1 chip made Macs faster and more power-efficient. In fact, the performance of the M1 MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini stunned the world.

The new Mac lineup also proved popular with consumers, many of whom found themselves working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Apple reported record Mac revenues of $9.1 billion for the first three months of 2021. Apple’s M2 chip, released in 2022, raised the performance bar even higher. And the M3 processor, which arrived in November 2023, boosted Mac performance even more.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.