A huge breakthrough in personal computing was made on this day in 1984, when Apple Inc. launched the Macintosh computer.
The Mac, as it became known, greatly simplified computing for the home user by providing a graphical user interface (GUI) – that is, interaction with the screen using graphics and icons, instead of tricky-to-learn and time consuming text-based navigation.
The Mac was also the first mass-market PC to come with a mouse. Instead of typing a series of commands to open and edit a file, these operations could now be carried out with a double-click of the mouse – a massive step forward in user-friendliness.
The Mac was the brainchild of Apple engineer Jef Raskin, who envisaged the personal computer as a piece of technology that should be as easy to use as any other household item.
By the time Raskin left the company in 1981 Steve Jobs had realised the Mac’s potential, and purchased GUI technology that was being developed by Xerox PARC to enhance it.
The Mac was expensive when launched, retailing at $2,495 (around £1,500), and lagged behind the cheaper IBM in personal sales, but found a market in education and desk-top publishing.
Nevertheless, it had paved the way for modern home computing – when Microsoft adopted GUI, desktop-based interface with files and folders became the industry standard, and the Mac had ensured its place in PC history.