January 24 marks the 25th anniversary of the Macintosh. Introduced by Steve Jobs, this revolutionary computer was the first successful computer with a mouse and a graphical user interface (GUI). The first Mac was pretty low-end, with 128 KB memory and a processing speed of 8 megahertz, and could barely mange to run the new type of operating system. But it marked a change in operating systems, moving from arcane command line interfaces to graphical interface based on a desktop metaphor.
Although the Mac was easier to use it was fighting an uphill battle with giant market leader IBM. The war of the OSes was highlighted in the Ridley Scott superbowl ad:
Today, the Mac has managed to capture about 10 percent of the market.
Back in 1984 the computer was an infrastructure product. Programs written for one platform don’t work on the next. By selecting one platform you were limiting all software written for any other platform. Microsoft understood this and emphasized open API architecture encouraging developers to target is API.
This is of course still true today but there are some suggestions that the computer and the desktop metaphor are becoming increasingly more like a commodity. With the web the platform has moved and which OS you use is not so important.
Wired has an interesting article on the Mac’s anniversary.