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The '1984' Macintosh Ad and Its Impact on How Technology Was Looked upon Thereafter

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It was the 1984 Super Bowl. It was half-time, and the Los Angeles Raiders were on their way to defeat the Washington Redskins convincingly in what was turning out to be a dull game, until an ad showed up on the screen which woke everyone up.1 This was, what's now become, the legendary Macintosh Ad that was broadcasted only that one time during that Super Bowl. The ad, depicting George Orwell's vision in his book 'Nineteen-Eighty-Four' of a totalitarian future, has won many accolades, including Advertising Age's 'Commercial of the Decade' for the 1980's and the 'Greatest commercial of the last 50 years' in 1995. Furthermore, it was also the first American commercial to win a Grand Prix award at Cannes, and in 1999 TV Guide named it the best commercial ever made.2 This paper will discuss how this celebrated '1984' Macintosh had a major hand to play on how technology, and especially computers, was looked upon thereafter and the impact it had on the computer industry.

Kevin Maney in his article 'Apple '1984' Super Bowl commercial still stands as watershed event' says that "Macintosh, wasn't the only computer ad that aired then. It's just the only one that changed people's lives -- particularly people who already loved technology."3 Maney also goes on to say how many tech industry leaders feel that the ad played an inspirational role in their careers, and he describes the ad as "one of those rare bolts of lightning that can mobilize a generation in a particular field".4 By stating these things, Maney is trying to describe how the ad had an impact on people's lives and it changed the way they looked at technology. It was a revolutionary ad, and unlike one the people had seen before when it came to computers and technology.

The ad was described by the creative director of Chiat/Day, which was Apple's advertising agency at that time, as being so effective and important because "It explained Apple's philosophy and purpose; that people, not just government and big corporations, should run technology. If computers aren't to take over our lives, they have to be accessible."5 This describes the message that was trying to be portrayed by the ad, and many people would contend that the message has indeed had a major effect on how computers and technology are looked upon today, as not something that should dominate us, the people, but something that we can use to empower ourselves.

Indeed, Apple's idea of the ad was that of 'empowerment', and according to Ted Friedman, a "vision of the PC as a tool for combating conformity and asserting individuality".6 Friedman also goes on to say that Macintosh's "vision of the power and potential of the personal computer has triumphed, becoming the ideological underpinnings of techno-boosterism in the 1990s."7 To further exemplify how important Friedman felt the ad was when it came to how computers and technology came to be looked upon, he says that "the 1984 commercial was what established the framework through which people made sense of the Mac, and eventually, I'd argue, all computers. Ever since that commercial, the Mac has glowed with an aura of rebellion and empowerment. Without that commercial, those subsequent developments might not have been possible."8 When the computer was still at its early stages till 1984, people



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