The second Apple Computer logo, as created in 1976-77 with the rainbow color theme, used by Apple until 1998.
But about that time two young guys from California named Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were about to change that.
Within five years of attaching an assembly of microprocessing chips to a piece of plywood and calling it a personal computer, these two guys would be sitting atop a major new company named Apple worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Their inventive moment and entrepreneurial follow-through set off a process that would dramatically change the world.
They weren’t the only computer inventors at the time, certainly, but Jobs and Wozniak helped set off a technological transformation that would reach into all kinds of industries, setting the tone and tenor for much economic growth and popular culture to come. Business, education, entertainment — and a lot more — would never be quite the same again.
Their story, and that of early Apple, Inc., is one worth revisiting, especially as the personal technology revolution continues to spawn new developments almost daily. The “early Apple” story marks one of those pivot points in history that reminds us how far our modern world has come in recent years — and how fast things have changed and continue to change.
Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in their garage working on their early computer technologies, 1975.
Steve Wozniak was born in 1950; Steve Jobs in 1955. They both attended Homestead High School of Los Altos, California, though at different times, and would later become fast friends. Wozniak had gone off to University of California at Berkeley but later dropped out and took a job at Hewlett-Packard as an engineer.
Jobs and Wozniak first met at Hewlett-Packard in 1971 through a mutual friend when Jobs was 16 and Wozniak 21. While in high school, Jobs had also attended lectures at Hewlett-Packard and had a summer job there once as well. He and “Woz,” as Wozniak was called, built and sold a device called a “blue box” that could hack AT&T’s long-distance network so that phone calls could be made for free. After high school, Jobs went off to Oregon’s Reed College in 1972, but when his family faced financial difficulty in 1974, he quit college and took a job designing video games at Atari. He took the job at Atari primarily to save money for a trip to India where he went for spiritual enlightenment.
An Apple I computer with a custom-built wood housing with keyboard.
Early print advertisement for an ‘Apple 1' computer – essentially a circuit board with ability to connect to keyboard and “tape interface” or TV monitor.
The Apple I, meanwhile, continued to be sold through several small retailers. It included the main circuit board with a tape-interface sold separately. It could use a TV as the display system, then showing only text. Many machines at that time had no display at all. With the Apple I, text appeared on screen then a fairly slow rate — 60 characters per second — but still faster than the teletypes of that era. The Apple I could also start up faster than other machines at that time, and had a cassette interface for loading and saving programs. Although simple, the machine was a masterpiece of design, using fewer parts than anything around, earning Wozniak high praise as a designer. An early print advertisement for the Apple I sings its praises in great detail with the punch line, “Byte into an Apple…” for $666.66.
Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in 1970s with the mother board of their Apple II computer.
Steve Jobs and Mike Markkula with a check for Apple financing in 1977.
Steve Wozniak of Apple Computer, Inc. in the late 1970s with an Apple II model personal computer.
In the fall of 1976, Steve Wozniak was working on a newer version of their computer, which would become the Apple II. Jobs and Woz believed they were onto something that could become a major success, but they lacked the funds to produce it in quantity. They offered it to Commodore Computer Co., a leading tech company at the time, and one which had just bought the chip technology that Jobs and Woz were using in their Apples. But Commodore turned them down.
By November 1976, the two young entrepreneurs received some help from a chip industry veteran and ex-Intel manager named Mike Markkula, who helped Jobs write a business plan. Markkula’s plan predicted sales of $500 million for the new company in ten years.
In 1977, Apple was incorporated and hired its first ad agency with Rob Janov then designing a new Apple logo (as shown above). A venture capitalist named Arthur Rock was also brought in, and Mike Markkula invested $92,000 in Apple for about a third ownership in the company. A bank loan of $250,000 was also obtained. About that time, Michael Scott was hired to become Apple’s first president, bringing professional management to the new company. With the help of Mike Markkula, Apple had secured $600,000 in venture funding.
Meanwhile, the Apple II computer was unveiled in April 1977 and began selling to the general public in June for $1,295. The Apple II was the first pre-assembled personal computer designed for the general market. It offered an attractive plastic case and came complete with standard keyboard, power supply, and color graphics capability. The Apple II allowed a wider range of people to begin using computers, focusing more on software applications and less on development of the processor hardware.
The Apple II would become the first mass-marketed personal computer, and it took Apple to a new level of success. Programmers began creating applications for the Apple II at Jobs’ urging; soon there were more than 15,000 applications available for the machine. In 1977, Apple sales surged to $2.7 million.
The Apple II with monitor and floppy drive mounted on computer box.
Two-page magazine ad for the Apple II computer that ran in “Scientific American,” September 1977.
The Apple II — or more accurately, the Apple II series of computers — would prove to be a huge success for the young company, selling nearly six million units over the next 15 years. From the late 1970s through the mid-1980s, Apple II computers, with various new improvements and peripheral devices, were released nearly every year or two. But the Apple story, technically and commercially, had a couple of key developments in the late 1970s that figured prominently in the company’s success and its future. One of these came in 1979 when a company named Software Arts, Inc., released VisiCalc, the first commercial spreadsheet program for personal computers. VisiCalc made desktop calculators and manual retabulation obsolete. Whole rows and columns of data could now be recalculated with the touch of a button. VisiCalc first ran exclusively on the Apple II, helping to send Apple computer sales through the roof. Also that year came the first commercially successful word-processing program for personal computers, called Word Star. But perhaps the biggest development for Apple in the late 1970s — though not bearing commercial fruit until the mid-1980s — was the deal it struck with Xerox.
Visit to Xerox
In the early 1970s, Xerox engineers at the Palo Alto Research Center in California — also known as Xerox PARC — had developed a computer they called the “Alto.” This computer used a pointing device called a “mouse” and also employed icons on a screen to represent documents — a combination that became known as “graphical user interface,” or GUI. This system would dramatically change personal computing, but not immediately. In fact, at Xerox in the 1970s it had gone nowhere as a commercial product. But that would soon change thanks to Apple. Steve Jobs and software engineer Bill Atkinson visited the Xerox PARC lab in November 1979, and about that time Apple made a deal with Xerox. In return for a “look see” at Xerox’s GUI system, Apple agreed to give Xerox a $1 million slice of its company. As part of the deal, Apple engineers then spent three days at the Xerox research center in December 1979 learning about GUI — which Apple would later refine in R&D and commercialize with great success in the 1980s in its Macintosh computers. But Apple wasn’t there yet, as this was still in the late 1970s. In fact, after Apple made its deal with Xerox, there would be years of research and development ahead. Apple had already begun two major computer research projects — the Lisa and the Macintosh — projects that would exploit the GUI approach to computing and revolutionize the PC business. But this would not happen for several years — and not fully until the mid-1980s.
Meanwhile, out in the business world of the late 1970s, Apple was now approaching a $200-million-a-year company. Its Apple II computers were going great guns, supplying the backbone of the new company’s success. But for Apple, there was also new competition on the horizon. Office machine giant IBM had hired a young company named Microsoft, and was hatching a plan to enter the personal computer business. In May 1980, Apple launched another new computer for sale, the Apple III. This model offered twice the memory of Apple IIs and could run more powerful version of VisiCalc. Apple had begun to court the office market by this time; the company had noticed back in 1977 and 1978 that a large number of Apple IIs were going into offices. With the office market, profit margins were fatter and “word-of-mouth” spread about the technology was also better. As Jobs would later say: “I figured that we could sell five or ten times as many computers in the office if they were easy to use.” But generally, despite what had already transpired at Apple and other computer companies, the personal computer for most Americans was still pretty much a foreign concept. In fact, one magazine advertisement in 1980 ran the bold headline, “What’s a Personal Computer?”
Apple computer ad in ‘Scientific American,’ May 1980, suggests that smart, inventive, curious folks like Benjamin Franklin would want their own computers.
“Rather revolutionary, the whole idea of owning a personal computer? Not if you’re a diplomat, printer, scientist, inventor….or a kite designer. Today, there’s Apple Computer. It’s designed to be a personal computer. To uncomplicate your life and make you more effective.
It’s a Wise Man Who Owns an Apple
“If your time means money, Apple can help you make more of it. In an age of specialists, the most successful specialist stay away from uncreative drudgery. That’s where Apple comes in.
“Apple is a real computer, right to the core. So just like big computers, it managers data, crunches numbers, keep records, processes your information and prints reports. You concentrate on what you do best. And let Apple do the rest….
Apple, the Computer Worth Not Waiting For.
“Time waiting for access to your company’s big mainframe is time wastes. What you need in your own department — on your own desk — is a computer that answers only to you… Apple Computer. It’s less expensive that timesharing. More dependable than distributed processing. Far more flexible that centralized EDP. And at less that $2,500 (as shown), downright affordable….”
Steve Jobs, early 1980s.
Back at Apple, meanwhile, inside the company, Steve Jobs tried to take control of the Lisa research project, but was turned down by Apple president, Michael Scott, who knew that Jobs didn’t have the technical expertise to do the job. The Apple III computer — Jobs’ last project — had fared poorly and had some major technical flaws. A number of the Apple IIIs had to be recalled and retooled. Still, inside the company at about this time there was also a forward-looking optimism about the future of the PC business, and some Apple executives insisted their company lead the way. Apple president, Michael Scott, issued a kind of “practice-what-we-preach” memo to Apple’s staff — an ultimatum of sorts to demonstrate the utility of Apple computers and the future:
“Effective Immediately!! No more typewriters are to be purchased, leased, etc., etc….Apple is an innovative company. We must believe and lead in all areas. If word processing is so neat, then let’s all use it! Goal: by 1-1-81, NO typewriters at Apple!…We believe the typewriter is obsolete. Let’s prove it inside before we try to convince our customers.”
Apple the corporate entity, meanwhile, was about to begin a new chapter in its business history.
Apple Goes Public
By late 1980, Apple Computer had been a private company for three years. Apple’s partners decided to take their company to Wall Street and put Apple on the stock market, making it a publicly-held company. At the company’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) on December 12, 1980, Apple shares were offered to the general public at a price of $14 each. At the opening bell, the stock was priced $22 and sold all 4.6 million shares within minutes. Apple’s stock offering had generated more capital than Ford Motor’s had in 1956 and instantly created about 300 millionaires — more than any company in history up to that point. In its first day of trading Apple closed at $29, giving the company a market valuation of $1.778 billion. Apple’s stock offering had generated more capital than any IPO since Ford Motor Co. in 1956 and instantly created about 300 millionaires at Apple — more than any company in history at the time. Several venture capitalists who had backed Apple early on, cashed out as well, reaping tens of millions. Of Apple’s 1,000 employees then, more than 40 became millionaires because of their stock options. Steve Jobs, holding 7.5 million shares, was worth about $217 million dollars. Steve Wozniak was assigned four million shares making his worth about $116 million dollars. Mike Markkula’s seven million shares of Apple were then valued at about $203 million. And those values would continue to rise with the company’s rising stock price, at least on paper. Within a year of the public offering, Apple’s value would rise by 1,700 percent ! Jobs would later summarize his early wealth in and interview for the PBS program, Triumph of the Nerds (1996) as follows: “I was worth over a million dollars when I was twenty-three, and over ten million dollars when I was twenty-four, and over a hundred million dollars when I was twenty-five… And it wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money.”
Bill Atkinson, right, a key member of the Macintosh research program, begun in 1979, for which Steve Jobs, left, assumed leadership in 1981. Photo, Jan 1984.
Dick Cavett Hired
Apple ad of 1981 pitching computers as the way to Thomas Edison-like inventiveness.
Dick Cavett in Apple II TV ad, 1981. Click on photo to view ad on YouTube.
Apple and Cavett, however, were not alone in TV computer advertising. Celebrity pitchmen for other PC makers were also involved — Bill Cosby for Texas Instruments, Alan Alda for Atari, William Shatner for Commodore, and others. Apple’s main competitor then was Commodore, an established computer maker whose models were then outselling Apple’s. However, the entire PC business was soon headed for major change, as the long-established maker of business mainframe computers, IBM, began its bid to enter the PC market.
August 1981 full-page newspaper ad run by Apple in the Wall Street Journal welcoming IBM to the personal computer marketplace.
IBM Weighs In
In August 1981, IBM introduced its first personal computer to the marketplace priced at $1,565. IBM had a formidable product launch, including a sophisticated TV ad campaign that used a Charlie Chaplin-esque figure who became the mascot for IBM PCs. Apple, for its part, publicly welcomed IBM into the fray, running a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal with a headline that read, “Welcome IBM. Seriously.” The ad was a classic Apple move, tongue-in-cheek as if to say, “Well where have you been, IBM?” Still, all of the computer world was then abuzz over IBM’s big debut. Lost in the blitz, however, was the fact that Apple had a more impressive technical product. The IBM-PC was slower than the Apple II and, in effect, outdated at its introduction. But IBM’s machine would sell briskly and eventually catch and surpass Apple.
Still, at year end 1981 Apple had garnered 23 percent of the $2.2 billion worldwide market in personal computers. It was then neck and neck with Tandy Corp.’s Radio Shack, a company that had the advantage of 8,400 retail outlets. Xerox also had a new PC entry that year as well. But by late 1981, Steve Jobs and Apple were getting a share of favorable national notice.
By October 1981, “Inc.” magazine was pointing to Steve Jobs as the man who “has changed business forever.”
In October 1981, it was Steve Jobs who made the cover of Inc. magazine, then a two-year old business publication for those who ran growing companies. Jobs was shown on the cover standing over an Apple II computer with a feature story tag line that read: “This Man Has Changed Business Forever,” meaning Apple’s move to bring personal computers to the business world.
Inside the magazine, a story by Steve Ditlea was titled, “An Apple on Every Desk” — the goal Jobs had set out for his company in the office market. The 26 year-old Jobs — who then held 7.5 million shares of Apple worth about $163 million — was still the educator, explaining how personal computers in the office would increase productivity.
Jobs pointed out that in the last 15 years, there had only been a few major changes in office productivity — the IBM Selectric typewriter, the Xerox copier, and more advanced phone systems. The personal computer, by comparison he explained, offered the individual office worker a new kid of synergy and productivity — combining typing and calculating, offering data storage, phone-line date transmission, and other capabilities.
Steve Jobs featured on Time magazine’s cover in mid-February 1982.
By early September 1982, the development of the Lisa computer was officially completed. A launch date was set for January 1983. Jobs had been working on the Lisa project since the late 1970s, but in 1982 he was pushed off that project due to some corporate infighting. He then moved over to the Macintosh project. Inside the company there was something of battle going on — described in one account as a fight between Lisa’s “corporate shirts” and Jobs’ “pirates” — to determine which product would be first to market and establish Apple’s reputation. A company named Microsoft, meanwhile, was also developing mouse-based software applications — some for Apple’s Mac project, but also working on its own GUI system for the IBM PC, later known as Windows.
By year’s end 1982, Apple Computers were still going out the door at a fairly brisk pace. For the month of December 1982, Apple IIs were moving at 45,000 a month and Apple IIIs at about 5,000 a month. However, at this point Steve Jobs and Apple needed a more orthodox chief executive to run the company — “adult supervision,” some called it. A more mainstream and respected business executive could help sell Apple to the investment community and corporate America. And Jobs had someone in mind to run Apple: John Sculley, then head of Pepsi-Cola. In December 1982, Jobs and Mike Markkula met with Sculley, discussing the possibility of him heading up Apple. Sculley said he wasn’t interested. But that would not be the end of it.
Steve Jobs on the cover of Fortune magazine, February 7, 1983, near the launch of the LISA computer.
Steve Jobs and the Lisa computer, circa 1983.
Back at company headquarters, Steve Jobs had succeeded in wooing former Pepsi president John Sculley to come to Apple. Jobs at one point had goaded Sculley, saying to him: “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” In April 1983, Sculley became CEO of Apple. Steve Wozniak also returned to Apple in June 1983, but resumed work there in a somewhat lower profile.
“Apple’s E-Mail Ad”
As one measure of how much things have changed in recent years, consider the magazine ad at right. In a two-page magazine spread in late 1983, Apple used the headline, “How to send mail at 670,000,000 mph.” Here’s some of the text from that ad — with Apple continuing to play its role as “computer educator”:
Double-page magazine ad for the Apple III touting something called “electronic mail” as one of the reasons folks might was to buy a new personal computer.
…[O]ne of the things that can make an Apple Personal Computer meaningful to you, personally …is called “electron- ic mail.”
Which, simply stated, is a quick and easy way to send any information, anywhere, anytime…
…This new technology enables your Apple to send or receive any correspondence to any compatible computer over standard phone lines. The same ones your voice has been using for years.
So there’s no costly hook up expense. All you need is an Apple and a device called a modem, that translates the computer’s electronic codes into fleet phone signals.
Which in turn, can actually move messages at about the speed of light. Versus the speed of the U.S. Mail.
And not just letters. But memos, charts and graphs, stock reports, Visicalc reports, weather reports or whatever.
To one address. Or, just as easily, to a hundred….
The ad offered three sample computer screens to show the kind of information that could be sent as electronic mail, and also explored other things the Apple Computers could do with this power to access electronic data — obtain stock quotes, make travel arrangements, scan the New York Times, or tap into an electronic encyclopedia….”. In signing off, the ad said: “But electronic mail is just one of the marvelous things you can do on an Apple. One of thousands. So let your Apple dealer tell you all about it…”
Elsewhere in the computer world of 1983, Microsoft introduced its word processing software, Word. Another maker of a rival word processing program called Word Perfect, introduced Word Perfect 3. Also at that time, Radio Shack offered one of the first popular laptop computers, the TRS-80 Model 100, while the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet program provided a boost to IBM PC sales. By late 1983, Apple and IBM had emerged as the personal computer industry’s strongest competitors, each selling approximately one billion dollars worth of computers that year. Apple was also continuing to accommodate new software and other options to its computers. In early December 1983, for example, Electronic Arts introduced the Julius Erving & Larry Bird Go One-On-One basketball game for the Apple II computer. Another Apple computer — the Apple III+ model at $2,995 — was released for sale in December as well. IBM, for its part, would sell one million of its PCs by the end of 1983. Apple, however, had something big in the works; a major step in its future — the launch of the Macintosh computer.
Apple’s “Mac runner” about to slay Big Brother with her powerful hammer throw.
In late January 1984, Apple launched its Macintosh computer with a somewhat unusual television ad that was aired on Sunday, January 22, 1984 during the third quarter of the 1984 Superbowl XVIII championship football game. The ad, known as “1984,” was cast in a Orwellian future — George Orwell being the author of 1984, the famous novel of a dystopian /totalitarian future. Apple’s “1984” TV ad — running 60 seconds at a cost of $1.5 million — had been produced by film director Ridley Scott. It featured a female athlete clad in track running clothes, carrying a heavy sledge hammer. She runs into room filled with seated throng of drone-like workers watching a huge television screen. On the screen is a giant face of a “Big Brother” figure who is dispensing propaganda to the workers. His words are heard in the ad, but not clearly enough to be made out by most viewers. Big Brother is actually giving a spiel from Orwell’s book:
Big Brother on screen. To view Apple’s “1984" TV ad, click on the photo.
“…My friends, each of you is a single cell in the great body of the State. And today, that great body has purged itself of parasites. We have triumphed over the unprincipled dissemination of facts. The thugs and wreckers have been cast out. And the poisonous weeds of disinformation have been consigned to the dustbin of history. Let each and every cell rejoice! For today we celebrate the first, glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directive! We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology. Where each worker may bloom secure from the pests purveying contradictory truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!
Big Brother’s drones “enlightened” after “Mac Runner” has thrown her liberating hammer.
Apple’s aim with the ad, according to various interpretations, was to free and empower people, combat conformity, and allow originality in the computer market. Big Brother in the ad symbolized rival computer manufacturer, IBM, also known by a nickname, Big Blue. The Macintosh Computer, of course, is cast as the liberator; the first computer to make personal computing accessible to average users.
…Come writers and critics
Two days after the 1984 ad aired, the Macintosh computer went on sale. At Apple’s annual shareholders meeting that same day, an emotional Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh. In his introduction of the Mac, with some 2,500 people in the audience, Jobs first quoted the 2nd verse of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin’.” Jobs then moved into his main set up on IBM and George Orwell prior to showing the TV ad to the audience. It was an effective and emotional mini history lesson that Jobs had used a few times earlier to good effect. One of Jobs’ Apple colleagues, Andy Herztfeld, recounts below how Jobs made effective use of the speech at the annual meeting, using both hype and purposeful pauses, to get his audience in the right frame of mind:
….Steve reappeared on the left side of the stage as the lights dimmed again. “It is 1958,” he began, speaking slowly and dramatically. “IBM passes up a chance to buy a young fledgling company that has invented a new technology called xerography. Two years later, Xerox was born, and IBM has been kicking themselves ever since.” The crowd laughs, as Steve pauses.
… “It is ten years later, the late sixties…. Digital Equipment Corporation and others invent the mini-computer. IBM dismisses the mini-computer as too small to do serious computing, and therefore unimportant to their business. DEC grows to be a multi-hundred million dollar company before IBM enters the mini-computer market.” Steve pauses again.
“It is now ten years later, the late seventies. In 1977, Apple Computer, a young fledgling company, on the West Coast, introduces the Apple II, the first personal computer as we know it today. IBM dismisses the personal computer as too small to do serious computing, and therefore unimportant to their business,” Steve intoned sarcastically, as the crowd applauds.
“The early 1980s. 1981. Apple II has become the world’s most popular computer, and Apple has grown to a 300 million dollar corporation, becoming the fastest growing company in American business history. With over fifty companies vying for a share, IBM enters the personal computer market in November of 1981, with the IBM PC.” Steve is speaking very quickly now, picking up momentum.“…IBM wants it all, and is aiming its guns at its last obstacle to industry con- trol, Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire indus- try? …Was George Orwell right?”
– Steve Jobs, Jan. 1984
Apple Annual Meeting
“1983. Apple and IBM emerge as the industry’s strongest competitors, with each selling approximately one billion dollars worth of personal computers in 1983. The shakeout is in full swing. The first major personal computer firm goes bankrupt, with others teetering on the brink. Total industry losses for 1983 overshadow even the combined profits of Apple and IBM.” He slows down, speaking emphatically.
“It is now 1984. It appears that IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, after initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM dominated and controlled future and are turning back to Apple as the only force who can ensure their future freedom.”
Steve pauses even longer, as the crowd’s cheering swells. He has them on the edge of their seats. “IBM wants it all, and is aiming its guns at its last obstacle to industry control, Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right?”
The crowd is in a frenzy now, as the already famous 1984 commercial…fills the screen…. By the time the commercial is finished, everyone in the auditorium is standing and cheering.
Premier issue of Apple’s “MacWorld” magazine, featuring Steve Jobs with computers, inaugurated at the Mac launch, January 1984
After the initial hype for the Mac died down a bit, there came the reviews for the computer by technology writers for the mainstream press and computer publications. Larry Magid, of the Los Angeles Times, writing in a January 29, 1984 piece, said: “I rarely get excited over a new computer. But Apple’s Macintosh, officially introduced last Tuesday, has started a fever in Silicon Valley that’s hard not to catch….By the time I got my hands on the little computer and its omni-present mouse, I was hooked. Apple has a winner….”
The January 30, 1984 issue of Newsweek ran a four-page story about the Macintosh, which included photos of Macintosh team members Burrell Smith and Andy Hertzfeld, and was also generally favorable toward the new computer. Byte magazine, then influential in the personal computer industry, put the Macintosh on its February 1984 cover.
Byte magazine put the Mac on its February 1984 cover.
By the fall of 1984 Apple published an extensive advertising insert on the Macintosh in Newsweek magazine, with foldout, accounting for about 20 pages. For many consumers, this was the first “up-close” experience with a Macintosh — detailing all the various features of the new computer. But the Macintosh was not without its shortcomings, some of which would later begin to slow sales. Still, at the outset of its offering, the Mac was a genuinely new thing that would change personal computing.
The famous Apple “1984” TV ad almost did not become famous at all — and was almost cancelled prior to the Super Bowl. The ad, in fact, had traveled a pretty rocky road to its debut. The idea was first hatched for a print ad in late 1982, when advertising agency Chiat-Day began working on it, trying to sell a Wall Street Journal type ad around the idea “why 1984 won’t be like 1984.” They had pitched the idea initially to other computer companies as well as Apple for its Apple II computers, but had no takers. So the idea was shelved.
However, by the spring of 1983, the ad was reconsidered at Apple for the Macintosh, which was then being scheduled for its January 1984 launch. Steve Jobs wanted something inspiring to help launch the Mac; something that was as revolutionary as the product itself. When the 1984 Orwellian storyline was presented at Apple, he loved it, and encouraged Chiat-Day to go for it. Chiat-Day then developed a story board, building a mini science fiction story set in a totalitarian, Big Brother-type world. CEO John Sculley was a bit apprehensive about the ad, noting that the Macintosh itself was hardly mentioned. Still, Sculley approved the $750,000 needed to produce the one-minute commercial.
1984's "Mac runner" in her hammer-throw wind up, sending a message to Big Brother.
Film director Ridley Scott, fresh off the success of Blade Runner (1982), was hired to film the ad, which was shot in London. Steve Jobs joined a Chiat-Day team attending the week of filming in London. A cast of almost 200 extras was used to film the ad, a number of whom were $125/day British skinheads who appeared in the baldheaded workers scene. An accomplished discus thrower named Anya Major was retained to do the key hammer-throw scene.
Worker-drones listening to Big Brother.
A rough cut of the ad was shown to Apple staff a few weeks later, and in October 1983 it was shown at Apple’s annual sales conference in Honolulu, Hawaii. At this showing, Steve Jobs used the IBM historical set up described earlier, positioning Apple as the industry’s best alternative (see “Sources” below for a You Tube clip of this). The crowd loved it. Based partly on the response in Honolulu, Apple then booked two ad slots for the Super Bowl XVIII at cost of over a million dollars — one for sixty seconds and another for thirty seconds. But then came the cold water.
In December 1983, the finished verison of the ad was shown to Apple’s board of directors. However, unlike the younger crowd in Honolulu, Apple’s board members — especially its outside members — were not enraptured by it, and in fact, were quite negative. “Everyone thought it was the worst commercial they had ever seen,” John Sculley later recalled. Sculley then asked Chiat-Day to sell back both Super Bowl time slots. Chiat-Day, however, sold off only the thirty-second slot, telling Apple they could not renege on the longer spot at so late a date. Apple considered using a more conventional commercial in that slot, but in the end decided to take a chance on “1984.”
The final on-screen message of "1984," post "white light" enlightenment.
The ad was shown in the third quarter of the Super Bowl game, which featured the Los Angeles Raiders vs. the Washington Redskins. The ad had a potential viewing audience of nearly 100 million that day. But during the broadcast it was hard to tell how the ad was received. After the successful Mac launch and rave reviews for the ‘1984’ TV ad, the Apple board gave the Mac team a standing ovation. After the game, however — which the Raiders won 38 to 9 — many TV stations covered the ad as “news,” some offering repeat showings of ad in its entirety. Spill-over coverage of the ad continued in the media the following day, all of which created a “bonus effect” of free media coverage for the ad worth millions.
After the ad aired, Apple, Jobs, and Chiat-Day went on to receive much praise. In fact, when the Apple Board held its January meeting following the Mac launch, the entire Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend. When this group entered the room, according to Andy Hertzfeld, “everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.”
In November 1984, Business Week featured Steve Jobs and John Sculley in a cover story about taking on IBM.
In November 1984, a cover story appeared in Business Week with a happy photo of Steve Jobs and John Sculley and the headline, “Apple’s Dynamic Duo.” The story covered Apple’s “bold plan to take on IBM in the office.” But back at Apple, behind the scenes, things weren’t so happy. Macs were not selling as well as they had. Christmas sales were poor and the computers were piling up in storage. Apple had to publish its first quarterly loss in history. On top of that, about 20 percent of the staff was let go. But part of the problems at Apple had to do with its changing from a small company with decentralized divisions to more of a mainstream corporation — and Steve Jobs, John Sculley, and the Apple board of directors all became involved in that transformation. The result was not a pretty picture, as a power struggle ensued between Jobs and Sculley with the Board siding with Sculley. At first, it appeared Jobs would remain as chairman of the company, though in more of an ambassadorial role. On May 31, 1985, Jobs was stripped of his divisional and operational responsibilities when he became chairman.
Fortune magazine’s August 5, 1985 issue with feature story, “The Fall of Steve Jobs.”
Steve Jobs Out
In early August 1985, Jobs appeared the cover of Fortune magazine in a story titled: “The Fall of Steve Jobs: Behind the Scenes at Apple Computer,”which offered a detailed blow-by-blow account of his rift with Sculley and his demise at Apple. That story appeared before the final departure of Jobs, which came somewhat later, in September 1985. Jobs was not happy at his departure. “I feel like somebody just punched me in the stomach and knocked all my wind out,” he wrote Apple board member and long-time business colleague, Mike Markkula. “I’m only 30 years old and I want to have a chance to continue creating things. I know I’ve got at least one more great computer in me. And Apple is not going to give me a chance to do that.” Jobs left the company, along with a few other Apple employees who would later help him found another company, NEXT Computer.
In the aftermath of Job’s demise at Apple, there were a number of stories in the mainstream and business press, such as the Newsweek cover story shown below that appeared on September 30, 1985 — “A Whiz Kid’s Fall: How Apple Computer Dumped It’s Chairman.” But this was not the end of Steve Jobs — or Steve Jobs at Apple — by any means. This was but one part — and an important part — of the Steve Jobs / Apple story. But there was much more to come — NEXT, Pixar, the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone, the iPad, all still ahead. Steve Jobs and Apple were just getting started.
Steve Jobs on the cover of Newsweek, in a story about his demise at Apple, Sept 30, 1985.
See also at this website: “The iPod Silhouettes,” about Apple’s very successful iPod and iTunes advertising campaign; “Google & Gaga,” about Google advertising and the entertainment industry; “Start Me Up,” about Microsoft and Windows 95; and “Ted Turner and CNN,” about the founder and creation of the Cable News Network. Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. — Jack Doyle
Date Posted: 10 May 2010
Last Update: 6 July 2017
Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack Doyle, “Apple, Rising:1976-1985,”
PopHistoryDig.com, May 10, 2010.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
“Apple History,” Apple2History.org.
Ken Polsson, “Chronology of Apple Computer Personal Computers,” IslandNet.com, July 2009.
Scott Granneman, “Computing History, 1968-Present,” Granneman.com.
“Apple, Inc.,” Wikipedia.org.
Lee Dembart, “Computer Show’s Message: ‘Be the First on Your Block’,” New York Times, Friday, August 26, 1977, p. 10.
Kay Mills, “The Third Wave: Whiz-Kids Make a Revolution in Computers, Los Angeles Times, July 5, 1981, p. E-3.
“Software Store Source of Programs for Apple,” Los Angeles Times, May 22, 1981, p. G-10.
Steve Ditlea, ” An Apple on Every Desk,” Inc., October 1981, pp. 50-51.
Paul Richter, “IBM Moves to Dominate the Personal Computer Market,”Los Angeles Times, January 31, 1982, p. E-1.
“Striking it Rich: America’s Risk Takers,” and “The Seeds of Success,” Time, Monday, February 15, 1982.
Peter Nulty, “Apple’s Bid to Stay in the Big Time,” cover story, Fortune, February 7, 1983, pp. 36-41.
George M. Taber, “IBM Comes on Strong,”Fortune, February 7, 1983, pp. 40.
George M. Taber, “The Mouse That Roars – a Day with Lisa,”Fortune, February 7, 1983
Larry Magid, “Macintosh Shapes Up a Winner,”Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1984.
“The Magician and the Manager: Apple’s Steve Jobs and John Sculley,” Financial Enterprise (magazine of the General Electric Credit Corporation), Fall 1983.
Steve Jobs, Annual Sales Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, October 1983, “1983 Apple Keynote- The 1984 Ad,” YouTube.
Michael Moritz, The Little Kingdom: The Private Story of Apple Computer, New York: William Morrow, 1984. Steve Jobs, the early years.
Deborah Wise and Catherine Harris, “Apple’s New Crusade,” Business Week, November 26, 1984, p. 146.
Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine, Fire in the Valley, Osborne/McGraw Hill, 1984. Some history on the personal computer era in Silicon Valley.
“A Whiz Kid’s Fall: How Apple Computer Dumped It’s Chairman,” Cover Story, Newsweek, September 30, 1985.
Christoph Dernbach, “Showdown at Apple: John Sculley vs. Steve Jobs,” Mac-History.net.
Jeffrey S. Young, Steve Jobs: The Journey Is the Reward, Scott Foresman Trade, 1987.
“Apple’s Garage,” Fortune, 1996.
Ted Friedman, “Apple’s 1984: The Introduction of the Macintosh in the Cultural History of Personal Computers,” Revised version of a paper presented at the Society for the History of Technology Convention, Pasadena, California, October 1997.
Linda M. Scott, “For the Rest of Us: A Reader-Oriented Interpretation of Apple’s ‘1984’ Commercial,” Journal of Popular Culture, Volume 1, No. 25 pp. 67-81.
“Apple: The First 30 Years- The Critical Events That Helped Shape the Computer Maker,” MacWorld.com, March 2006.
Owen W. Linzmayer, “30 Pivotal Moments in Apple’s History: Highlights-and Lowlights-From the Company’s History,” MacWorld.com
Elizabeth D. Hoover, “The Birth of Apple,”American Heritage.com, Saturday April 1, 2006.
Matt Barton and Bill Loguidice, “A History of Gaming Platforms: The Apple II,” Gamasutra.com.
“Steve Jobs on Magazine Covers,” KuoDesign.com.
Kevin Maney, Technology, “Apple’s ‘1984’ Super Bowl Commercial Still Stands as Watershed Event,” USA Today, January 28, 2004.
Andy Hertzfeld, “The Famous 1984 Commercial Almost Got Canceled,”Folklore.org.
Andy Hertzfeld, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” (Mac unveiling, Apple Annual Meeting, January 1984, Folklore.org.
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“The Evolution of Apple Ads,” WebDisignerDepot.com.
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Apple II TV Ad With Dick Cavett, “Apple II Commercial — Homemaker,” 1981, YouTube.
Apple 1980 -1989 Timeline.
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Jack Doyle, “The iPod Silhouettes, 2000-2011,” PopHistoryDig.com, December 9, 2011.
Welcome To Macintosh, An interesting 2008 documentary film on Apple and the Macintosh that has aired on CNBC. See one sample trailer on You Tube; also Welcome to Macintosh website.
A Brief History of Steve Jobs and Apple
Born February 24th, 1955, and passing away way too early on October 5th, 2011, Steve Jobs was co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc. His impact on the technology industry, entertainment, advertising and pop culture was vast, and he leaves behind an empire that is changing the way we all live and work.
The Beginning of Apple
It all started with three men - Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Mike Markkula - who together in the late 1970's designed and marketed the Apple II series of computers.
It was the first commercially successful line of personal computers, and led to the Apple Lisa in 1983 - the first computer to use a mouse-driven GUI (graphical user interface). One year later, the Apple Macintosh was born (launched by one of the greatest ads of all time, 1984), and with it, the Apple legend began to grow.
The Fall and Rise of Steve Jobs
In 1985, after a long and drawn-out fight with the Apple board, Steve Jobs "left" the company that he helped create. Some say he was pushed or ousted, others say he left simply to pursue other projects. That being said, his next move was NeXT, a tech company he founded that specialized in higher education and business.
One year later, in 1986, Steve Jobs took a major interest in a small division of Lucasfilm Ltd. Focused on the development of computer-generated graphics for animated movies, the company now known as Pixar was acquired by Jobs.
It was a masterstroke for Steve, who instantly saw the potential for the company (which we now all know as one of the greatest movie-making studios of our time). After many small projects and lots of trial and error, Pixar released Toy Story in 1995 (crediting Jobs as the executive producer) and the rest is history.
One year after the release of Toy Story, in 1996, Apple bought the NeXT company that Jobs owned and asked him to come back in a leadership role. He was interim CEO from 1997 to 2000, becoming the permanent CEO from that point until his eventual resignation in August of 2011.
Steve Jobs and Apple Begin World Domination
When Jobs came on board in 1996, Apple was still very much a niche computer platform. Windows-based PCs were owned by the vast majority of consumers, with the higher-priced Apple computers mainly being used by the creative industries, including advertising, design and motion pictures.
However, that all changed when the iPod came along in November of 2001. Out of nowhere, Apple was suddenly on everyone's lips. The idea that thousands of songs could be stored digitally on one small device much smaller than any Walkman or CD player was mind-blowing. Steve Jobs had spearheaded a product that literally changed the way music was played and shared.
Within a few years, Apple was the technology that everyone wanted to own. And then came the iPhone in 2007, which took Apple from a major player to the company everyone was trying to emulate. Overnight, the iPhone reinvented cell phone technology, and it was yet another crushing victory for Steve Jobs.
His company, Apple, was the brand leader and the one leading the field.
In 2010, after many variations of the iPhone, the iPad was launched to an initially mediocre reception. People and focus groups didn't see the need for it, but Steve Jobs knew it was going to have a big impact. And it did. By March of 2011, over 15 million iPads were on the market.
Steve Jobs Loses His Fight With Cancer
The health of Steve Jobs had been in question since around 2006 when his gaunt, frail appearance and lackluster delivery were the focus of his WWDC keynote address. In actuality, Jobs had announced his condition (pancreatic cancer) to his staff in mid-2004. Between 2003 and his death in August 2011, Jobs underwent many procedures and therapies to try and beat the cancer, but it was too aggressive. He stepped down as CEO of Apple on August 24 th, 2011, and died just a few weeks later on September 11th (the 10th anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers).
Life at Apple After Steve Jobs
To say Apple greatly misses the influence of Steve Jobs would be the understatement of the century. Steve Jobs was many things to Apple, some bad, most good. Yes, he was a perfectionist and had an ego the size of Jupiter. Yes, he often didn't care about costs, or feelings, or people. But he was a visionary, and an incredible marketer of products.
The last great innovation that Apple released to the market was done so under the leadership of Steve Jobs; it was the iPad, back in 2010. Almost everything released from that point on has been an update to an existing product. New designs, like the iPen and Apple Watch, have had a very poor reception. And the idea of tying courage to the removal of the headphone jack is one Steve Jobs would never have approved of. Jobs, first and foremost, was about giving the consumer the best possible product, not 15 different types of dongles and adapters. Apple has clearly lost its way, and at this point, may never recover.
Steve Jobs was a visionary, an entrepreneur, a savvy advertising client, and from what everyone who knew him has said, a good friend. He will be missed by many, including Apple, a company that seems to have lost its way since his passing.
The Future of Apple Without Steve Jobs
To be honest, it's a mixed bag. At the time of this update, Apple stock is the trading at $144 per share, just shy of the record $156 that it set in May 2017. What does this mean? Well, despite people across the world becoming increasingly tired of what Apple has to offer on the innovation front, their products are still excellent performers, and the industry standard in design, creativity, film, music, and other such avenues.
The big question is...will Apple ever bring to market a product that was as revolutionary as the iPhone, iPod, or iPad? And it's worth noting that in all of those instances, products already existed that did very similar jobs. Apple and Steve added the lightning in a bottle, but none of these were completely original. So, does something else exist right now, something in its infancy, that Apple could jump on and create another thriving segment of the market? Several possibilities come to mind.
First, the 3D printer. Currently, they are available in varying forms, from off the shelf models to self-assembly kits, and span many price brackets. But they're prone to technical problems, and the end results are far from perfect. Apple, if it learns from what Steve Jobs did, could take this and revolutionize it. It aligns perfectly with the products it offers, and it could bring 3D printing to the masses.
Another avenue is that of the smart home. Could Apple finally create a line of products that turn your home into a completely connected, intelligently-controlled environment? Look at a product like Nest, which learns how you like your home heated and cooled, and sets the temperature accordingly. An Apple thermostat, done the Apple way, could also bring A.I. into every home.
And then, of course, there's the self-driving car. It's coming soon, but will it be everything it could be? Apple is known for focusing on consumer-friendly products. Open the box, plug it in, go. Will they be ready to handle the car that drives itself? And will it be priced way above the other offerings? Only time will tell.