Apple's March to the Future

by Charlotte Wipp

The 1984 Macintosh Super Bowl Ad

Before Apple was a multinational company, it produced personal computers for hobbyists and businesses. Although, with the release of the Macintosh line Apple intended to no longer be the underdog in the personal computer market. This was visible in their 1984 ad during Super Bowl XVIII, before the release of the first Macintosh. The commercial is set in a dystopian landscape, characterized by grayish tones and rows of marching minions. The standout character is a woman in bright colours running towards the audience holding a sledgehammer. The woman stands against Big Brother on a large screen, representing Apple against other computer corporations like IBM. The screen is destroyed, leaving the viewer with the message: “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like “1984.””. The allusion to the text “1984” by George Orwell, paints Macintosh as an idea of empowerment and Avant-guard, compared to the conformity of IBM. 

1984 Apple's Macintosh Commercial

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Macintosh 512K and keyboard

Waterloo Computer Museum. Macintosh 512K and keyboard. 2024.

The Macintosh in 1984-1997

Two days later, on January 24th , the first Macintosh 128K was released. Although the 128K needed to hold up to consumer expectations and with its low memory capabilities and inability to be upgraded, Apple needed to develop another model. Due to the memory constrains, to demo the Macintosh, Steve Jobs used a Macintosh 512K prototype which would be released later that year. 

Post the release of the first Mac, Jobs and many others on the original Macintosh team left due to disagreements with the CEO. Jobs went on to found NeXT, which would be later acquired by apple in 1996 and used as the base for Mac OS X.

The Macintosh 512K was released later in 1984, improving the lack of ROM and RAM capabilities. Within the next couple of years, new models like the Macintosh Classic, Plus, SE, Classic, and LC, continued to be released with the intention that they would become accessible and sought out by many.  

Take Macintosh out for a test drive

Apple. Test Drive a Macintosh. 1985.

The Macintosh in 1997-2012

In 1997, Apple appointed Steve Jobs as CEO, who promptly negotiated a deal with Microsoft, in turn making Internet Explorer the default Mac browser. The Macintosh was rebranded from the classic creamy beige to a futuristic translucent colour, following the popularization of the World Wide Web. The iMac G3 was released in 1998, marketed as a trendsetting approach to the internet. From here Apple prioritized the ability to be consumer friendly, in addition to shifting to a futuristic marketing and design approach. The company continued to shift forward to develop more portable PCs and create early designs for the iPhone.  

Say hello to the world

Apple. iMac Brochure. 1998.

To everyone who thinks computers are too complicated, too costly, or too beige:

Apple. iMac Brochure. 1998

Apple 2012-present

After Steve Jobs retired in 2012, Apple continued to expand into the major corporation known today. Apple legacy connects to Job’s infamous “One More Thing” practice where he would save the final line of his release speeches for a key development in to be released technology. 

Apple continues to release products catered to the ‘individual’, marking each product with an i-prefix. The legacy of radical innovation stems back to the initial 1984 commercial, pushing the relationship between consumption and individualism. Presently, to be a multi-national corporation Apple must push mass production, and in turn a lack of individualism presents itself as the consumers are reduced to sales.

The Macintosh 128K could not have been a mass-success without the paradox between individualism and consumerism. Apple’s success and technological development resides on its initial success in the personal computing market, transitioning from hobbyist customers to the world. From this success one can reflect on the progress that Apple and personal computers have made, as with consumption comes development.

Other Macintosh Artifacts In the Museum Collection

Macintosh Manuals and Add-ons

The Macintosh and Waterloo

Macintosh Advertising

Macintosh Peripherals

How to Find the Exhibit

Map of DC

Waterloo Computer Museum. Map of DC exhibits. 2024.

Our Donors

This exhibit could not have been possible without artifact donations from Stephen McColl, Devon Merner, Donald Duff-McCracken, Paul Silva, Forbes Burkowski, and Maria Phipps. View the artifacts in the exhibit within our Museum Catalogue

Mini-Mac SE

Are you interested in building your own Macintosh Plus, SE, SE 30, or Classic? Follow our documented process for building a Macintosh SE or come and visit the Computer Museum to see our finished Mini-Mac project. 

About the author

Charlotte is a Physics and Astronomy student currently in her 2B term at Waterloo. She enjoys tinkering and creating all forms of art in her free time. She works at the Computer Museum as their current Winter 2024 coop student.  

Mini-Mac SE


Waterloo Computer Museum. Lemmings on Mini-Mac SE. 2024.