This is my original Apple Macintosh (aka the Macintosh 128K) from 1984. I believe I bought it somewhere around 1998-2000 at the old State Road Shopping Center Goodwill in Cuyahoga Falls. Unfortunately it only worked for a short time after I found it but in that time I had a lot of fun with it. I keep it around today as a piece of history.
You can identify an original 1984 Macintosh among other classic Macs by the way that the rear name badge just says “Macintosh” and the way that the front of the computer just has an Apple logo and no model name.
The original Macintosh did not have a hard drive. It ran from 400K 3.5in floppy disks. I found this Macintosh with the mouse and keyboard (minus the letter Z) but with no disks, which created a problem. I made some posts on the old RoadRunner newsgroups and found some local Mac nerds to help me out. One of them a disk that had been formatted 400K with an significantly old System and copies of MacWrite and MacPaint, which is basically what you would have received in the box in 1984. To my amazement, we found that the old Macintosh worked. Compared to the Apple II, the crisp black and white image was a revelation.
Through some research I found sites like mac512.com that (at that time) had a lot of old software available to download, assuming you had a Mac that could write the 400K floppy format. My mother and I made a trip to a local Kinkos that had late model Power Macinitosh towers (probably Power Macintosh 9500 or 9600s) that still had floppy drives. We spent about an hour or so filling up a few floppies with old games like Shufflepuck, Kung Fu and Stunt Copter.
Later I came to realize that this Macintosh had been upgraded to about the specs of a Macintosh 512K with 0.5MB RAM, an option which Wikipedia says cost $995 back in the day.
This Macintosh was the first Macintosh of any type I owned and the first Apple product I had owned since my grandfather gave us his Apple IIe. Oddly enough, the later Macs I found at thrift stores or acquired used I found in roughly the order they came out: a Macintosh Plus, a Macintosh SE, a Macintosh Classic II, a Macintosh LC III, a Quadra 700, a Quadra 605, a Performa 630CD, a PowerBook 190cs, the PowerBook G3, and most recently an eMac and a 2010 Mac Mini.
The Macintosh Plus (which in many ways was the machine the Macintosh 128K should have been) gave me a good education into what the Macintosh experience would have been in the mid-to-late 80s.
While I am fascinated in these machines as old computers I’m still a PC guy at heart. It’s just that these are the opportunities that have presented themselves. If the thrift stores had been full of Deskpros or PS/2s I would be writing about them here too.
Since this old Macintosh no longer works, it gives me a good opportunity to talk about the way it looks.
You can see the visual similarity between the Apple IIe (introduced in 1983) and the Macintosh with the beige plastic and the beveled edges. Growing up with an Apple IIe, I have a fondness for the beige style that Apple did so well in the mid 1980s. I have said before that I like my 80s stereo equipment to have the angular silver appearance of a DeLorean. Well, I want my 80s computer equipment to have the beige plastic look of the Apple Macintosh and the Apple IIe.
I adore the beveling around the floppy disk drive especially. That’s the way a floppy drive should look. It just looks important.
The way the mouse looks roughly like the Macintosh, with the mouse button mirroring the monitor and the Apple logo in roughly the same place is stunningly cute.
I really dig the color Apple logos on the front and back of the Macintosh. Bring back the color Apple!
One of the things that puzzles me about this machine is: If you had paid $2495 for one of these things in 1984 would you have been happy with it?
We’ve all been told that this is the machine that like Prometheus bringing fire to man, brought the Graphical User Interface to the common person.
The reality is that this was a seriously compromised computer when it was launched. The 400K floppies were too small. The 128K RAM was way, way too small for the kind of graphical programs that were expected to be built for it. The single built-in floppy drive and the limited amount of RAM led to horror stories where the simple action of copying a disk took multiple disk swaps. It also lacked a dedicated port to add an external hard drive.
The Macintosh Plus, introduced in 1986, corrected these flaws by coming with at least 1MB RAM, an 800K floppy drive, and a SCSI port for adding an external hard disk. The Macintosh SE in 1987 added an option of an internal hard disk or a second floppy drive. So, if you had bought this machine in 1984 you were probably looking longingly at the Plus and SE which had the same screen and same CPU, but corrected the glaring flaws in the original design.
Additionally, would you have been happy with the software selection? The Mac would have come with the brilliant MacWrite and MacPaint, but after that was there other quality software to buy? It seems like the first few years of Macintosh software were a bit tortured. Meanwhile Apple II and IBM PC owners were cheerfully drowning in great software.
I’m sure the first two things people thought of when they saw a Macintosh back then was: This is amazing but 1) Can I have it with color? 2) Can I have a bigger screen.
Maybe this is just my “future” bias talking here but anytime I’ve tried to write anything on the 9in screen classic Macintoshes have I’ve felt visually cramped.
If you were the kind of computing enthusiast with a quick trigger finger for novel technology that was probably the kind of person who bought a Mac in 1984, what did you think of the Amiga in 1985? Granted the Amiga had a less elegant GUI than the Macintosh but it came with an emphasis on color and multimedia while your Mac was staring back at you in crisp but dull black and white. Apple would not add a Macintosh with color capability to the lineup until the stratospherically expensive (but eminently open) Macintosh II in 1987.
I think you have to keep in mind what the ownership experience was really like when you appreciate the historical importance of this machine.
The original Macintosh is a terrific monument to one of the best technological moments of the 1980s. Seeing one with it’s crisp and cheery screen must have stunned people who were knew computers as boxes that spit out glowing green text in a black void. This was the 1980s vision of the future.