This week in history: Apple Mac launched

Steve Jobs with the Apple Mac in 1984 © Getty images
Steve Jobs and the Mac: it won out in the end

By the early 1980s computers had begun to appear in the home and the office, but they weren’t exactly user-friendly. Apple Computers came up with the idea that users would find it easier to use a graphical user interface (GUI) that represented files and software as icons, rather than write various commands in MS-DOS, the previously used operating system.

While the first commercial computer to use a GUI was the Apple Lisa, unveiled in January 1983, its $9,995 price tag ($23,000 in today’s money) put it out of the range of most users, and it was discontinued.

Steve Jobs already had a team working on a budget version called the Macintosh, costing $2,495 ($5,510). Even before the Macintosh had hit the shelves, it generated huge interest thanks to an enormously popular advertisement directed by Ridley Scott, an acclaimed film director.

The Apple Mac was initially criticised for being much slower than both the Lisa and its competitors. As a result, it failed to prevent the IBM PC becoming the standard for the home and office. However, its graphical interface ensured strong sales, especially with publishing companies, a niche that it fills to the present day.

Ironically, the Mac’s GUI would have a big influence on the development of Microsoft Windows. Between 1988 and 1992 there was a ferocious legal battle between the two companies, with Apple unsuccessfully claiming that Bill Gates had stolen many ideas from the Lisa and Macintosh.

However, with users deserting PCs in favour of tablets and smartphones, the Mac (rebranded as the iMac since 1998) has now re-emerged as a major player.

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