A Daring Machine →

Harry McCracken has written an interesting column about the ways the original Mac was and wasn’t influential in its day:

Compared to other PCs of the time, the Mac’s small size and unified design offered several benefits. First, it took up little desk space and made the computer easy to tote around: It even sported a handle for that purpose. Second, ensuring that every Mac user had the same crisp 9-inch monochrome display gave the experience a consistency that was lacking in most other computers, which users plugged into whatever monitor (or TV set) they chose.

Beyond those advantages, the Mac was just plain approachable, back when many competitors still had a faint whiff of industrial equipment to them. Remember, most people had never touched a computer in 1984, and more than a few were intimidated by the prospect. The Mac’s unassuming hardware mirrored the user-friendliness of its software.

What the first Mac didn’t turn out to be was timeless. Thanks in part to its success and influence, computers didn’t stay scary forever. More and more people craved ones with larger displays, room for expansion, and new features such as CD-ROM drives—attributes that were at odds with the Mac’s diminutive sealed case. As laptops became popular (including Apple’s own PowerBooks), the whole notion of a desktop computer needing to be small felt outdated.