Harry McCracken on the Original Macintosh

Harry McCracken, writing at Fast Company:

The most celebrated part of that original Mac was its software interface, which brimmed with new ideas, despite the lazy conventional wisdom that it merely imitated work done at Xerox’s PARC lab. But at the moment, I’m most fascinated by its industrial design. That petite all-in-one beige case, created by Jerry Manock and Terry Oyama, was unlike anything anyone had seen until then — at least outside of a kitchen. [...]

But if all the first Mac inspires is nostalgia, we’ve lost sight of how daring it was. Unlike Apple’s first blockbuster PC, the Apple II, it had a built-in display but no integrated keyboard. It also sacrificed most of the Apple II’s defining features, such as its dazzling color graphics and expansion slots.

In retrospect, it’s among the gutsiest gambits Apple ever made. Imagine the company introducing a new smartphone that has virtually nothing in common with the iPhone. You can’t — or at least it strains my imagination.

That’s what kept me from getting the Mac until I owned one. The Apple II defined what I thought of as a computer, and because the Mac didn’t resemble the Apple II in any way — it didn’t even have a compatibility mode to run Apple II software — it seemed like something else to me. An appliance of some sort, not a computer.

Turns out it was the best concept for a computer anyone has ever devised.

Wednesday, 24 January 2024