The technology we use daily is so integrated into our routines that it’s hard to remember that a Macintosh computer was groundbreaking. It’s almost surreal that an advertisement that aired during Super Bowl XVIII changed life as we knew it. The commercial, named “1984,” first aired on January 22 a full 35 years ago.
Directed by Ridley Scott, the commercial shows people marching in unison in grey uniforms. Then, we see a shot of a woman — not in a uniform — sprinting from police officers with a giant hammer in her hand. She comes across a large screen, which many uniformed people are entranced by, that shows a “Big Brother” figure talking to the audience about creating a “pure ideology” and join as one. The runner smashes the screen with the hammer, and the trance is broken.
“On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh,” the screen then reads.
“And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’”
As NPR notes, the commercial is clearly referencing George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, where humanity is ruled by a dictator. The commercial was trying to convey that the actual year 1984 would not be anything like the novel, as the Macintosh would be around to completely change the information age — and it did.
What started out as an idea to sell easy-to-use computers that the average person could own, ended up introducing a completely new way to work and live. Now, the Apple Macintosh is a thing of the past with portable MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, and tons of iterations of iPhones being a significant part of our daily life.
While not many people expected for the Macintosh Apple computer to blow up as much as it did, the commercial for it certainly did its job and had people buzzing. According to Business Insider, the commercial won numerous awards, such as TV Guide naming it the “Number One Greatest Commercial of All Time.” It also won the Grand Prix award at the 1984 Cannes Lions Advertising Festival.
“I guess what’s so cool is that when all the things come together, you have a computer with totally revolutionary technology, and then you create a commercial that is totally revolutionary in the world of advertising and is seen by a huge audience,” said Ken Segall, who worked as a creative director on Apple’s “Think Different” campaign. “It really helped launch Apple on this amazing trajectory.”
According to Forbes, Steve Jobs only had a six-word brief for what he wanted for the commercial: “Stop the world in its tracks.” It’s safe to say he got his wish!
— National Museum of American History (@amhistorymuseum) January 22, 2015