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History of Apple: how Apple came to lead the tech industry

Nik Rawlinson | Aug. 20, 2015
Our History of Apple begins with a look at Apple's not so humble beginnings, follow the Apple story with us.

Thank goodness they did.

There are two ways to judge an ad. One is how well it markets your brand, and the other is how much money is makes you. The 1984 promotion was a success on both fronts. Ninety-six million people watched its debut during the Super Bowl, and countless others caught a replay as television stations right across the country re-ran it later that evening, and over the following days.

Fifty local stations included a story on it in their new bulletins, which massively diluted the $800,000 cost of the original slot. Apple couldn't have booked itself a cheaper ad break if it had tried.

The revenue speaks for itself. The ad, combined with Jobs' now legendary keynote, secured the company's future, and kicked off a line of computers that's still with us today - albeit in a very different configuration.

It's perhaps no surprise that following the success of the 1984 advert, Apple booked another Super Bowl slot the following year for a strikingly similar production, this time filmed by Ridley Scott's brother, Tony.

'Lemmings' once again depicted a stream of drones plodding across the screen. The colours were muted, the soundtrack was downbeat, and the drones were blindfolded, so it was only by keeping a hand on the drone ahead of them that they could tell where they were headed. Only when the penultimate drone dropped off the cliff over which they were marching did the last in line realise that a change of course was called for - and a switch to Macintosh Office.

It wasn't a great success. As sterndesign's Apple Matters explains, the advert 'left viewers with the feeling that they were inferior for not using the Mac. Turns out that insulting the very people you are trying to sell merchandise to is not the best idea.'

Wired put it succinctly: 'Apple fell flat on its face People found it offensive, and when it was shown on the big screen at Stanford Stadium during the Super Bowl, there was dead silence something very different from the cheers that greeted "1984" a year earlier.'

The Macintosh and the DTP revolution

The Macintosh got off to a good start, thanks to Jobs' spectacular unveiling, its innovative design, and the iconic '1984' advert, but it still needed a killer application, like VisiCalc had been on the Apple ][, if it was really going to thrive. It found it in the shape of PageMaker, backed up by the revolutionary Apple LaserWriter.

The $6,995 LaserWriter, introduced in March 1985 - just over a year after the Macintosh - was the first mass-market laser printer. It had a fixed 1.5MB internal memory for spooling pages and a Motorola 68000 processor under the hood - the same as the brain of both the Lisa and the Macintosh - running at 12MHz to put out eight 300dpi pages a minute.

 

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