The truth about the 1984 Macintosh

From Adam Fisher’s Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley, excerpted in New York magazine.

Andy Hertzfeld: The Macintosh had a great launch; it was really successful at first. Steve laid down a challenge at the introduction, which was to sell first thousand machines in the first hundred days, and it exceeded that. But then starting in the fall, sales started dropping off.

Steve Wozniak: The Macintosh wasn’t a computer—it was a program to make things move in front of Steve’s eyes, the way a real computer would move them, but it didn’t have the underpinnings of a general operating system that allocates resources and keeps track of them and things like that. It didn’t have the elements of a full computer. It had just enough to make it look like a computer so he could sell it, but it didn’t sell well.

Andy Hertzfeld: By December of 1984 the forecast was to sell eighty thousand Macs, and in fact they sold like eight thousand.

My take: Now they tell us.


  1. Richard Wanderman said:
    We knew this. The issue was the price. As I remember it was $2400 which in the era of cheaper Apple IIe and IBM PC computers which had more software and could do more was a tough sell. Universities could get the Mac at a substantial discount and it sold relatively well in that environment but it was always my feeling that had the price been lower it would not have had that decline after launch.

    Jobs gave me my first Mac but a year later Apple was charging $1000 for the 512K motherboard upgaprade (they tossed in MacDraw to sweeten the deal). I did it but it seemed extremely expensive for what it was. 512K made the Mac much more useable, in retrospect, maybe it should have launched with 512K.

    August 5, 2018
    • Ah, the fat Mac.

      I don’t think the Mac matured enough to become a SELLER until the Mac Plus. By then the OS was light years better, and there was software. I founded my business on. Mac Plus with Insight accounting software (still the best I’ve ever used). If only the modules could have linked together in real time.

      August 5, 2018
  2. Ken Cheng said:
    Back then, what were computers? Mainframes with terminals and command lines? Then the IBM PC came out and we had Wordstar for writing and Lotus for spreadsheets. The first Macs didn’t do much for alot of money, but they were definitely different from what had come before.

    It was a bit like the iPhone in that you knew the World had just changed, but not how much it had changed. The big difference was that it would take time to be useful, due to the high cost, and the need for the hardware and software to mature. A bit of a chicken and egg situation.

    I bought my first Mac SE in 87 for something like $1350 at 17th St Computers in NYC, because the OS allowed me to type in Chinese. There were no inexpensive ways to do that on an IBM PC, without buying a ridiculous-looking keyboard. I was able to take that Mac home to China, tucking it under the seat on the airplane, and lugging it all around China via train. Its universal power supply was a trooper. It worked everywhere. Given how widely fluctuating the voltage was in China, and on trains back then, it was a very forgiving power supply. You could actually hear and see the voltage change as you used it. I still have that Mac. Haven’t turned it on in a while, but I’m sure with a new battery for the clock, it would work just fine. Amazing what we put up with in those days. I think the Apple Chinese OS v4.3 came on 17 diskettes or something close to that. Then again, it may have only been 2 diskettes, and I may be confusing that version with the last version I used OS v7.1. The first iPhone was far more useful and powerful than that first Mac, even with a smaller 480×320 screen, than the Mac’s 512×384.

    Lots of products don’t survive due to the hardware not being ready, ie Newton, Handspring, etc.. Thank goodness the Mac and Apple survived that period.

    August 5, 2018

Leave a Reply