Apple Computer debuted the Macintosh in 1984. It was the first personal computer to feature a graphical user interface, a system of operating a computer by manipulating windows, menus, and icons with a mouse. It’s much easier to use than the traditional system requiring precise text input, and revolutionizes the way people interact with computers.
Earlier PCs were not for those unfamiliar with a computer, as the interaction between user and machine was through a command line interface in which the user had to type explicit instructions that the computer could recognize. In 1963 the Stanford Research Institute established the Human Factors Research Center for the study of human-computer interaction. It was there that the mouse was invented by Doug Englebart, and the idea of a GUI was conceived.
The first company to build a GUI computer was Xerox, who created the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center led by Bob Taylor. The PARC team developed a desktop workstation featuring a composite of text and graphics. The result was the Xerox Star in 1981, which utterly failed because of a high price tag. At the time Apple CEO Steve Jobs had visited Xerox while it was under development, and he set in motion Apple’s first attempt at a GUI PC, the Lisa, which fails for the same reason as the Star. The second attempt, the Macintosh, was a hit. On January 22nd, 1984 they ran a now famous commercial during the Superbowl, a marketing move still talked about today. The “Mac” as it was called, sold for about $2500 and did well. It’s impact on the computing world was that GUI would become an industry standard, quickly adopted by many other operating systems and changing the relationship between human and computer forever.
The original Macintosh sported a Motorola 68000 8 MHz processor and 128k of RAM. Later the memory was boosted to 512k, earning those models the nickname “Fat Macs”. It also included a black & white screen that ran at 512×312, had two serial ports, a printer port, and external floppy port.