The Mac at 25: Successes, regrets, Apple's had a few

5 things Apple did right and 5 things it didn't over the last quarter-century

Remember the adage, "Don't trust anyone over 30"? Putting aside the fact that you're likely well past that age if you recognize the line, if you live by it, you may view 32-year-old Apple with a gimlet eye. But the Macintosh itself -- which will hit the 25-year mark on January 24 -- is still something we can trust.

We journalists live for significant anniversaries, which allow us to take a retrospective view of something in the news and look back on events that, in the moment, might not have seemed so momentous. Twenty-five years ago, Apple took the wraps off the first Macintosh, announcing it in a Ridley Scott-directed commercial -- a riff on George Orwell's 1984 -- that aired nationwide just once, during the 1984 Super Bowl, and went on to become iconic.

In these heady days when Apple seems to be gaining ground in a number of places and ways, it's important to remember that everything that followed from the first Mac was not a given. If things had gone differently, maybe Microsoft would be the cool, hip upstart now. With that kind of alternate reality in mind, here's a brief and far-from-complete collection of five successes and five mistakes Apple has made in the last quarter-century.

Let's look at Apple's smooth moves...

The Human Interface Guidelines

What did computers look like in 1983? When you turned them on, what did you see?

Odds are, it was a green cursor on a black screen. You had to know how to do what you wanted to do, and then were limited to what you knew how to do -- a vicious circle of limitation. Sounds like something Joseph Heller might have come up with, no?

The first Mac, in 1984, was something totally new and different to almost everyone in the computer and noncomputer worlds alike. The windows/icons/mouse/pointer (WIMP) interface, first pioneered at Xerox PARC, was intelligible at a glance and set the paradigm for almost every personal computing interface to follow.

Still, it all could have gone bad (imagine if Windows 3 had been the first UI offered) if not for the coherence and progressive discovery offered by the carefully designed Mac user interface.

That was the result of a lot of work, both theoretical and practical, by Apple's Human Interface Group on how people looked at and reacted to various parts of an interface. They codified and published the principles and applications of the Mac interface as the Human Interface Guidelines (HIG), showing everything from how to make a button to where the drop shadows should go on screen to how quickly a visual cue should appear after a user click. This wasn't just a good idea -- though it was indeed a very good idea. The public HIG encouraged developers to produce applications that looked and acted like the familiar Mac interface. Users weren't confused with a whole new way to save, or move, or do anything, each time they loaded a new program. Think that's a trivial achievement? Take a look at the Interface Hall of Shame . You could be stuck with that.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Dan Turner

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?