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It was 25 years ago today...

It was 25 years ago today...

No doubt you saw recently that Macintosh – the first Apple computer to bear the name – celebrated its 25th birthday.

The machine in question cost US$2495 and was unveiled in a TV advert during the Superbowl on 22 January 1984. It had a 9-inch screen in an upright beige case, 128K of RAM, internal floppy drive, and came with a keyboard and single-button mouse.

Ah, those were the days.

I don’t think anyone could have come close to predicting quite where we’d be today. Smartphones, MP3 players, Netbooks, flash drives, cloud computing, Twitter, Skype, Google Earth, YouTube were a mere twinkle. Not even Star Trek was there yet … although we all dreamed. (Incidentally, talking of YouTube, check out Apple’s TV commercial that introduced the Macintosh: http://tinyurl.com/3xlwrh).

But is it really that long? I was at school (just). Rugby was an amateur game. Sky was the blue thing above our heads. And Google was a noise a baby made.

Ah, those were the days.

Band Aid was formed following shocking pictures of famine in Ethiopia, Ghostbusters and Police Academy topped the movie ratings, and Michael Jackson suffered serious burns during filming of a Pepsi TV commercial. The AIDS virus was identified. The Dow Jones Average ended the year at a record 1211.

On the tech front, it was the same year that Dell Computers was formed, Richard Stallman started developing GNU – a computer operating system composed entirely of free software – and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was born.

IBM introduced its first portable computer, the imaginatively named IBM Portable, weighing in at 30 pounds or 13.6 kilograms! The best-selling IBM-compatible computer of the year was the Tandy 1000. ISA was expanded to 16-bit capability, Hitachi announced it had developed the first memory chip capable of holding 1MB, and Paul Mockapetris and Jon Postel introduced Domain Name System/Service (DNS). Oh, and SETI was founded (sadly, there’s still nothing to show for it).

Politically, Robert Muldoon lost the general election to David Lange, which, you may recall, resulted in some political shenanigans and the NZ$ being devalued by 20 per cent. On the world stage, Margaret Thatcher ruled the UK, Andropov and Chernenko shared the honour in the USSR and, of course, the indomitable Ronald Reagan was US President.

It took me a year to get my hands on my first Mac. It came with 1MB RAM and 20MB HD. I thought it was the bee’s knees, cutting-edge stuff … and it was. It came with Apple’s original laser printer (black and white, naturally). Also added to the package was a copy of Quark Xpress (V1) and the original Adobe Illustrator. I was in the UK at the time, and the whole lot cost the company I was working for about £12,000 (so, what’s that, about $36,000!). It’s a lot of money now, can you imagine then?

It’s enough to bring a tear to my eye just thinking about it.


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