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Jan 24, 2014 10:35 AM EST

Macintosh Computer 30th Anniversary; How Failure Helped Steve Jobs Start a Revolution

Steve Jobs
(Photo : Reuters) Steve Jobs in 1997, just after his return to Apple.

The original Macintosh computer turns 30 years old today, now try to imagine how the company that brought us the iPhone, iPad, iPod and MacBooks nearly failed with its desktop computer.

Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, told his biographer Walter Icaacson he was building the Macintosh and wanted it to be sold at a price $500 lower than its $2,495 price tag. CEO John Sculley wanted to tack on the extra money to cover advertising expenses, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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The computer was being released with a Super Bowl ad directed by Ridley Scott, but despite the fanfare, the Macintosh had several problems.


"The problem was a fundamental one: It was a dazzling but woefully slow and underpowered computer, and no amount of hoopla could mask that," Isaacson wrote. "This caused many component failures and earned the Macintosh the nickname 'the beige toaster,' which did not enhance its popularity."

Apple saw a burst of Macintosh sales right after its Jan. 24, 1984 unveiling, followed by a harsh drop off. With Apple in crisis mode, the company Jobs started booted its own co-founder that summer.

In 1986, Apple adopted one of Jobs' philosophies, that the Mac's hardware and software should be tightly integrated and user-friendly. To this day, any Apple device - tablet, smartphone, mp3 player - are all designed that way and, what's more, is they are meant to synch with one another.

Jobs may not have officially re-joined Apple until 1996, but when he did he quickly became CEO, a title he hung onto until his death in 2011. Jobs' enthusiasm and brilliance, as well as his fiercer, more demanding side, were just a sign of things to come when he stood on stage in 1984 to introduce the Macintosh. According to the LAT, that public appearance was even the first time the world saw his natural showmanship.

As he said in a speech at Stanford, being kicked out at Apple was the best thing that could have happened to him. The model of a user-friendly, creatively designed computer has flourished over the last three decades and probably will not for some time.

"The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life," Jobs said at Stanford in 2005. "I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful-tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it."


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