1984 Macintosh Debut Brought Great Divide Between Apple, IBM PC Partisans
Apple on Jan. 24 celebrated the 30th anniversary of the 1984 introduction of its renowned Macintosh, the "computer for the rest of us."
The Mac's debut came little more than a month before the first issue of PC Week, the print predecessor of eWEEK, hit the streets on Feb. 28, 1984. While eWEEK wasn't able to report immediately on the arrival of the Macintosh, the publication regularly covered the evolution of Apple's PC and the effect it was having on home and business computing.
But the truth is that in those early days PC Week didn't focus a lot of time and resources covering Apple and the Macintosh because this Ziff-David Publishing Co. weekly newspaper stated on its masthead that it was the "News Weekly for IBM System Microcomputers." In 1988 Ziff-Davis would start publishing MacWeek, a trade journal that was devoted entirely to news and features on Mac hardware, software and accessories.
IBM PCs and "compatibles" ruled the business market and many people in the industry at that time, PC Week's editor's included, looked on Steve Jobs' Apple and the Mac as upstarts that occupied little more than a niche in a PC market that was growing explosively.
Early IBM PC Enterprise Deployment
Even Enterprise deployment of IBM PCs was still in its early stages in 1984. Many enterprises that operated with data entry terminals connected to mainframes and minicomputers in that era were resistant to adopting PCs of any kind either because they believed PCs were an unnecessary additional expense or they regarded PCs as toys that didn't have a place in business offices. But user demands and business requirements soon wore down the resistance to PC adoption.
Soon many office workers who had never touched a computer of any kind would have to learn how to work with the IBM PC with its command-line interface and green or amber CRT monitors.
In that environment, the Mac, with its mouse and innovative graphical user interface, was a radical departure from the IBM PCs that users had just recently learned how to work with. Businesses that were already in the throes of training people how to use IBM PCs weren't eager to train employees on how to work with an entirely different style of computing.
The Command Line is Just Fine
Besides there was something of a macho attitude in the enterprise world that believed, "we don't need no stinking mouse. The command line interface is just fine for us, thank you." In fact, most enterprise PC users wouldn't start working with a graphical user interface until after Microsoft introduced Windows 3.0 and 3.1 in the early 1990s.
As a result, Macs and PCs followed parallel adoption paths in enterprises. Macs were widely used in corporate art and publishing departments where the GUI was particularly handy for desktop publishing, design applications or graphics production of all kinds. The PC prevailed for spreadsheet data entry, database updates and basic word processing tasks that were the bread and butter of business computing.
While Macs were widely adopted in enterprises, the installed base of IBM compatible PCs hugely outnumbered Apple's computer.
Which style of computing you preferred depended to a great degree on what which computer you were introduced to first. If your first computer was a Mac, then it was likely that you would prefer to work with the graphical user interface at home or at the office.
If you first started working an IBM compatible, then the transition to the Mac might seem more than a little jarring. It generally was the exception in the 1980s to find people who were equally adept and comfortable working with both the Mac and PC. And it's probably safe to say that those bipartisan users tended to prefer working with the Mac rather than the PC.
PC Week and Later eWEEK continued to follow the evolution of the Macintosh through all the many models and technology enhancements of the 1990s and 2000s. While there is less of a cultural divide between Mac and PC users today than there was in the early days, people remain as intensely partisan about their favorite computer as ever.
John Pallatto is eWEEK's Editor in Chief. He has more than 35 years experience as a professional journalist, which began as a reporter with the Hartford Courant daily newspaper in Connecticut. He was also a member of the original staff of PC Week in March 1984. Over the years, he has served as a feature and news writer, West Coast Bureau Chief and Managing Editor/West Coast before named editor in chief by QuinStreet in November 2012. Pallatto has also served as a senior editor at Ziff Davis' Internet Computing magazine and the West Coast bureau chief at Internet World magazine.
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