Today in Apple history: Mac’s ‘1984’ ad debuts in theaters

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1984
Before it won the Super Bowl, Apple's iconic Mac ad invaded theaters.
Photo: Chiat/Day/Apple

January 17: Today in Apple history: Mac's '1984' ad debuts in theaters January 17, 1984: A week before its famous airing during Super Bowl XVIII, Apple’s iconic “1984” ad debuts as a trailer in movie theaters.

To hype its revolutionary new Macintosh computer, Apple buys several months of promotion from theatrical ad distributor ScreenVision. Cupertino’s sci-fi-tinged “1984” spot — which depicts a sledgehammer-wielding freedom fighter taking on a Big Brother figure supposed to represent IBM — gets such a favorable audience reaction that some theater owners continue to roll the ad after Apple’s contract ends.

Today in Apple History: Bill Gates hails Mac as the future of computing

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Bill Gates
Bill Gates offered high praise for the Mac in 1984.
Image: Fulvio Obregon

November 26: Today in Apple history: Bill Gates praises Macintosh November 26, 1984: “The next generation of interesting software will be done on the Macintosh, not the IBM PC,” claims Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in a BusinessWeek cover story.

The claim would seem almost unthinkable coming out of Gates’ mouth just a few years later. But it comes at a time when Microsoft is best known as one of the biggest Mac developers.

Today in Apple history: Apple signs damaging deal with Microsoft

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Windows used a number of elements of the Mac UI
One of the most damaging deals in Apple history.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

November 21: Today in Apple history: Apple signs Microsoft deal licensing Mac look and feel November 21, 1985: Following Steve Jobs’ departure, Apple comes close to signing its own death warrant by licensing the Macintosh’s look and feel to Microsoft.

The deal, between Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Apple CEO John Sculley, comes hot on the heels of the Windows operating system’s release. The pact gives Microsoft a “non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, nontransferable license to use [parts of the Mac technology] in present and future software programs, and to license them to and through third parties for use in their software programs.”

Oh, boy!

Today in Apple history: World gets a chance to test-drive a Mac

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Apple's innovative
Apple's innovative "Test Drive a Macintosh" ad campaign urged potential customers to take a Mac for a spin.
Photo: Apple

November 8: Today in Apple history: Test-drive a Mac November 8, 1984: When initial Mac sales prove disappointing, Apple CEO John Sculley dreams up the “Test Drive a Macintosh” campaign to encourage people to give the revolutionary new computer a chance.

The promotional strategy advises people in possession of a credit card to drop into their local retailer and “borrow” a Macintosh for 24 hours. The idea is that, by the time potential customers need to return the Mac, they will have built up a bond with it and realized they can’t live without one.

While 200,000 would-be Apple customers take advantage of the offer, Apple dealers absolutely hate it.

This retro racer is as close as we got to Mario Kart on the original Mac — and you can play it

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Emora Kart Mario Kart clone for Macintosh
Gaming has come a long way since 1994. (Thank goodness.)
GIF: Matt Sephton

Even back in the early ’90s, Mario Kart was one of the hottest games you could get to scratch that crazy kart-racing itch. Super Mario Kart became an instant success after it debuted in 1992 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. So, naturally, other game developers tried to replicate it on other platforms.

Emora Kart, launched in 1994, is the closest we got on Macintosh.

Later distributed with a 2002 copy of MacLife magazine in Japan, Emora Kart looked pretty fun — even in black and white — and it’s obvious where it got its inspiration. You can play this retro racer now in your browser (or download an original copy for free).

Incredibly rare Apple VideoPad ditched by Steve Jobs heads to auction

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Apple VideoPad 2 prototype
It's expected to fetch up to $12,000.
Photo: Bonhams

An incredibly rare Apple VideoPad 2 prototype is headed to auction after it was purchased from an Apple engineer back in 1999. It comes with a black leather carrying case that features the Newton logo, and is expected to fetch $12,000.

The VideoPad, which was scrapped by Steve Jobs upon his return to Apple in 1997, was a personal digital assistant (PDA) similar to the Newton that would have allowed users to carry out video calls. But it never made it to market.

Today in Apple history: The forgotten first Mac with an internal CD-ROM

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Why did the Mac IIvx fail to take the world by storm?
Why did the Mac IIvx fail to take the world by storm?
Photo: Apple

October 19: Today in Apple history: Mac IIvx, the forgotten first Mac with an internal CD-ROM, launches October 19, 1992: Apple launches the Mac IIvx, the first Macintosh computer to ship with a metal case and, more importantly, an internal CD-ROM drive.

The last of the Macintosh II series, the Mac IIvx experiences one of the more notorious price adjustments in Apple history. Within five months of shipping, Apple slashes the computer’s launch price of $2,949 to $1,899. That’s one way to reward early adopters!

Today in Apple history: Steve Jobs and Jef Raskin clash over the Mac

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Apple Mac
The war over the Macintosh's soul started on this day in 1979.
Photo: Apple

September 27: Today in Apple history: Steve Jobs and Jef Raskin clash over the Mac September 27, 1979: Years before the Macintosh will ship, Steve Jobs and Jef Raskin clash for the first time over the direction of the R&D project to produce the revolutionary computer.

Raskin, the founder of the Macintosh project, wants to produce a machine that’s affordable to everyone. Jobs wants a computer that’s going to be the best, regardless of price.

Guess who won?

Today in Apple history: iMac G5 takes a page out of the iPod’s playbook

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The iMac G5 looked like the world's biggest iPod.
The iMac G5 looked like the world's biggest iPod.
Photo: Matthew Pearce/Flickr CC

August 31: Today in Apple history: iMac G5 takes a page out of the iPod's playbook August 31, 2004: Apple launches the iMac G5, a distinctive, white plastic computer that looks a little like the world’s biggest iPod.

Housed in a 2-inch-thick enclosure reminiscent of Apple’s Cinema Displays, the new all-in-one machine bridges the gap between the pleasing plasticity of the iconic G3 iMac and the minimalist form factor of today’s ultra-slim aluminum Mac desktops.