Apple 2.0

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Jan. 1984: How critics reviewed the Mac

January 12, 2009: 10:10 AM ET

Original MacAnticipating the 25th anniversary of the Macintosh -- unveiled by Apple (AAPL) in a Super Bowl ad on Jan. 22, 1984 -- AAPLinvestors has assembled some choice quotes from the first wave of critical reviews.

Below, a sample from their collection, to which we've added a few of our own (from Owen W. Linzmayer's Apple Confidential 2.0).

Our favorite: John Dvorak's blistering critique of that newfangled pointing device called a "mouse."

Byte, Gregg Williams, February 1984

The Macintosh brings us one step closer to the ideal of computer as appliance.

Creative Computing, John Anderson, July 1984

In its current form, the Macintosh is the distilled embodiment of a promise: the software can be intuitively easy to use, while remaining just as powerful as anything else around. It is now time to lay out the "bads":

• The Macintosh does not have enough RAM.

• Single microfloppy is slow and inadequate.

• There are no internal expansion slots or external expansion buses.

• MacWrite has some severe limitations.

• The system is monochrome only.

• MS-DOS compatibility is ruled out.

• The Macintosh will not multitask.

• You can't use a Mac away from a desk.

• MacPaint has an easel size limitation.

• Forget about external video.

• Macintosh software development is an involved process.

Bill Gates

Anybody who could write a good application on a 128K Mac deserves a medal.

InfoWorld, Thomas Neudecker, 26 March 1984

We think Apple has at least one thing right -- the Macintosh is the one machine with the potential to challenge IBM's hold on the market

The Seybold Report, Jonathan and Andrew Seybold

Apple also got some important things wrong. Our biggest worry is that Mac may be under-configured... But the dumbest thing Apple did with the whole development effort was to allow two different operating systems for Mac and Lisa.

San Francisco Examiner, John C. Dvorak, 19 Feb. 1984

The nature of the personal computer is simply not fully understood by companies like Apple (or anyone else for that matter). Apple makes the arrogant assumption of thinking that it knows what you want and need. It, unfortunately, leaves the "why" out of the equation -- as in "why would I want this?" The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a 'mouse'. There is no evidence that people want to use these things. I dont want one of these new fangled devices. [The deleted portions of this quote appeared in the AAPLinvestors collection, but they are not from the 1984 Examiner piece and it's not clear at this point whether Dvorak ever wrote them. He does not recall using the phrase "new-fangled," ever. We apologize for the error.]

David Bunnell, Macworld, from The Macintosh Reader

Borland founder Philippe Kahn was half right in January 1985 when he called the early Macintosh a "piece of s___." It was underpowered, had very little software, no hard drive, no compelling applications like desktop publishing, and was marketed by a company that seemed to be near death. I can't help but be amused by all the pumped-up bravado I hear and read about the people who created the Macintosh. To hold up the Macintosh experience as an example of how to create a great product, launch an industry, or spark a revolution is a cruel joke.

Click here to see APPLinvestor's full collection.

Below the fold: That 1984 Super Bowl commercial with the "Big Brother" theme.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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