Bid now for an original Beta copy of the iconic 1984 Mac ad

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Apple ad
Own a piece of Apple history.
Photo: Brent Thomas

Want to own a genuine rare piece of Apple history? Up for auction right now is an original Beta cassette dub from 1983, containing two different edits of Ridley Scott’s iconic “Nineteen Eighty-Four” Macintosh commercial.

The tape is signed by the ad’s late art director Brent Thomas. It came from his estate, and is a pre-Super Bowl dub of the same original master tape seen by the Apple executive board. They absolutely hated it!

Apple’s most famous ad in history

Apple’s 1984 commercial was created to hype the upcoming Macintosh computer. It most famously aired during Super Bowl XVIII. However, despite the erroneous claim that it aired just once continuing to thrive, it also had a short theatrical run as well as screening once on TV at 1 a.m. in Twin Falls, Idaho, on the last day of 1983, so as to make it eligible for ad awards the following year.

It very nearly didn’t air at all. The ad was a lot darker in tone than Apple’s previous commercials, which traded on the comedic timing of Apple celebrity spokesman Dick Cavett. Instead of comedy, it embraced a dystopian cyberpunk aesthetic.

Apple executives almost sold off the air time they had purchased for running the ad, but Steve Jobs was able to convince them not to do so. In the end, the ad became one of the most memorable adverts ever screened.

Although it is easy enough to find online, the tape being auctioned off contains a few nice rarities. One of these is the harder-to-find 30-second cut of the ad. It also sounds like there might be slight editing differences with the 60-second copy and the final aired version, too:

“[There are] certain interesting variants to be studied including repetitive returns to close-ups of the pseudo-IBM “Big Blue” screen, with its cryptic informatics; a shot which only appears once in the final televised version, with the other close-ups having been replaced by over-the-shoulder long-shots of the uniform workers, transfixed before the screen.”

Starting bids for the tape stand at $3,500, and it’s expected to sell for $10-15,000. The auction ends on May 8.

The signed cassette is preserved in its original plastic case. There’s also an accompanying USB drive with the digital files. The signed tape will be accompanied by a signed letter of provenance noting the original acquisition from the estate of Brent Thomas.

Tempted? We sure are!