Apple Mac: 30 years of 'incredible influence'

Steve Jobs, left and John Sculley present the Steve Jobs, left and John Sculley present the new Macintosh Desktop Computer in January 1984 at a shareholders meeting in Cupertino, Calif. Photo Credit: AP File

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Look around. Many of the gadgets you see drew inspiration from the original Mac computer.

Computers at the time typically required people to type in commands. Once the Mac came out 30 years ago Friday, people could instead navigate with a graphical user interface. Available options were organized into menus. People clicked icons to run programs and dragged and dropped files to move them.

The Mac introduced real-world metaphors such as using a trash can to delete files. It brought us fonts and other tools once limited to professional printers. Most importantly, it made computing and publishing easy enough for everyday people to learn and use.

The Mac has had "incredible influence on pretty much everybody's lives all over the world, since computers are now so ubiquitous," says Brad Myers, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Human-Computer Interaction Institute. "Pretty much all consumer electronics are adopting all of the same kinds of interactions."

But despite its radical interface, initial sales of Apple's Macintosh -- priced at $2,495 in 1984 -- were lukewarm. For years it was mostly a niche product for publishers, educators and graphics artists. Corporate users stuck with IBM Corp. and its various clones, especially as Microsoft's Windows operating system grew to look like Mac's software. (There were years of lawsuits, capped by a settlement.)

Then came the iPod music player in 2001, the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad tablet in 2010. They weren't Macs, but they shared the Mac's knack for ease of use. Elements such as tapping on icons to open apps have roots in the Mac. The popularity of these devices drove many Windows users to buy Macs.

In recent years, PCs have declined as consumers turn to mobile devices. Apple sold 16 million Macs in the fiscal year ended Sept. 28, down 10 percent from a year earlier. By contrast, iPhone sales grew 20 percent to 150 million and iPads by 22 percent to 71 million.

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