Today is the 30th anniversary of the unveiling of Macintosh, the first computer to be marketed to a wide public with a mouse and windows-based user interface. All of our computers today are its heirs.
To celebrate, stop by the History of Science Collections and view an early, low-serial number 1984 Macintosh, donated by Tim Long, on display in the Roller Reading Room. The Collections also holds a late-1984 Macintosh donated by Kennard and Kay Bork; these are part of a computer collection consisting of approximately 40 working computers from the 1970’s through the 1990’s.
One of my favorite portraits of Steve Jobs, taken by Tom Zimberoff, hangs above an easy chair in the Researcher Lounge of the History of Science Collections. Jobs saw that the Mac would do for computers what alphabetic writing did for ancient civilization. The Rosetta Stone displays the same text in three bands of writing, beginning with Egyptian hieroglyphics and the more-easily read demotic script. Both hieroglyphics and demotic, like Mesopotamian cuneiform languages, were written in syllabaries comprised of several hundred characters. Syllabaries were the scripts of highly trained scribes, mastered only through a long period of preparation. As a result, scribes were an elite culture, and their work was subject to the control of large, highly-organized states in Egypt and Mesopotamia. In contrast, the lowest band is Greek, an alphabetic script. With only a couple dozen characters, Greek could be mastered with determination by anyone. The resulting impact of Greek culture upon the world, made possible by literacy, signified to Jobs what the Mac and the 20th-century Information Revolution were all about.
- Apple.com: Explore 30 years of innovation on the Mac (video, 3 mins)
- Listen to the British Museum’s discussion of the Rosetta Stone in their History of the World in 100 Objects series (15 mins).
- Steve Jobs unveils the Macintosh (5 mins)
- Tidbits: Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Macintosh
- NPR: At 30, The Original Mac Is Still An Archetype Of Innovation