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A Gem From The Archives: We Revisit A Mac Doubter


And we close the hour with a listen back. It's been 30 years since the Macintosh computer was introduced, which prompted us to go back into our archives. Let's listen now to how our program covered the birth of the Mac back in 1984.



You may have seen the ad on television during the Super Bowl, the one with the 1984 motif, advertising the new Macintosh computer made by Apple. With the Macintosh, Apple has decided to directly challenge IBM for the lead in the personal computer industry.

BLOCK: That's our colleague, Noah Adams, who went on to interview writer Peter McWilliams, the author of the 1982 "Personal Computer Book." In an age when computers were run by typing command lines, the Mac had a mouse and icons to click on, a graphic user interface. McWilliams concluded that the Macintosh was a mistake.


PETER MCWILLIAMS: I think they're hoping people are going to fork out $2,500 for a computer for their home. And I can't see it.

ADAMS: What do you get for the $2,500 now?

MCWILLIAMS: What you get is a screen, a nine-inch screen. You get a keyboard. You get 128K of RAM, which is internal disk storage. And you get a 3-1/2-inch disk drive.

ADAMS: Let me translate a bit here or try to translate. You're saying it has a very good memory. It has a 3-1/2-inch disk drive, which is not compatible with other computers. What's the standard size, then?

MCWILLIAMS: The standard is five-and-a-quarter inch. And they have made a corporate decision that the 3-1/2-inch drive is going to make it. I don't see it myself. But this whole computer is a calculated risk on Apple's part. If the world is ready to accept a brand-new standard, this machine will make it. If it's not, the machine won't make it.

And it will have certain specialized applications like in architectural firms and so forth. But on the whole, it's gambling that the world is ready to accept a new standard. My personal point of view is that the world is not.

BLOCK: That's the late author Peter McWilliams, talking with our former host Noah Adams 30 years ago tomorrow, January 25th, 1984. They were talking about Apple's Macintosh computer, which had just been introduced.


MCWILLIAMS: This is not just another computer. This is their last chance.

BLOCK: The Macintosh did indeed have an uphill battle against the standards of the time. But we hear that Apple survived and is still in business. More of that interview is posted at nprchives.tumblr.com. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.