Steven Levy: ‘Apple Shares the Secret of Why the 40-Year-Old Mac Still Rules’

Steven Levy has a great piece at Wired commemorating the Mac’s 40th anniversary, including interviews with a slew of Apple executives:

For the past few years, the form factors of Macintoshes have been fairly stable. Could a Mac in the future look totally different, as when the iMac morphed from a basketball to a lamp?

“There’s definitely the possibility for a revolution in the future,” says Molly Anderson, a leader in industrial design at Apple. “When we start a new project, we don’t start by thinking of the constraints of how popular our existing products are. We’re always focused on trying to design the best tool for the job.” Joswiak adds that it has taken courage to keep changing the Mac to keep it on the forefront — always, of course, in a deliberate fashion. “The road to tech hell is paved by people who do things because they can, not because they should,” he says.

Jony Ive told me once that one of Apple’s guiding principles was never to make changes for the sake of change alone. If an idea doesn’t make the product better, they don’t do it. If that means some products only change radically in form factor once or twice a decade, so be it. Good design should stand the test of time.

Levy also includes an excerpt from a piece he wrote for Rolling Stone on the original launch:

If you have had any prior experience with personal computers, what you might expect to see is some sort of opaque code, called a “prompt,” consisting of phosphorescent green or white letters on a murky background. What you see with Macintosh is the Finder. On a pleasant, light background, little pictures called “icons” appear, representing choices available to you. A word-processing program might be represented by a pen, while the program that lets you draw pictures might have a paintbrush icon. A file would represent stored documents — book reports, letters, legal briefs and so forth. To see a particular file, you’d move the mouse, which would, in turn, move the cursor to the file you wanted. You’d tap a button on the mouse twice, and the contents of the file would appear on the screen: dark on light, just like a piece of paper.

This seems simple, but most personal computers (including the IBM PC) can’t do this.

“When you show Mac to an absolute novice,” says Chris Espinosa, the twenty-two-year-old head of publications for the Mac team, “he assumes that’s the way all computers work. That’s our highest achievement. We’ve made almost every computer that’s ever been made look completely absurd.”

Espinosa might be the only person at Apple who can say “40th anniversary? That’s nothing.”

Wednesday, 24 January 2024