Alan Freedman -- The Computer Language Company - Computer Desktop Encyclopedia
Computer Desktop Encyclopedia
Longest-Running Tech Reference on the Planet

A CDE Definition

You'll love The Computer Desktop Encyclopedia (CDE) for Tech Term of the Day (TTOD)


Macintosh history

The Mac's graphical user interface (GUI) was actually developed by Xerox and introduced on its Star workstation in 1981. Apple borrowed heavily from the Star, and subsequently, others copied the Mac, moving the GUI down the line to Windows, OS/2, Unix and Linux.

The Mac interface was immediately popular with non-technical people. Instead of typing in a command to delete a file as in DOS, you could drag its on-screen icon to a trashcan. Although common today, it was a breakthrough on a personal computer in the 1980s.

The Mac also used consistent menus, and Apple's guidelines for application design were generally followed by developers. In operation, the operating system was practically hidden compared to DOS, and Apple kept technical jargon to a minimum. See Macintosh and Macintosh models.

MacPaint on the First Macintosh
The Mac's graphical ability made it a natural for design and desktop publishing. Although rather slow, it was more affordable than the workstations used for such purposes in the 1980s. (Image courtesy of Apple Inc.)

Today's Mac Desktop
Far more sophisticated than the first Mac in 1984, as with any computer, the larger the monitor, the more windows can be displayed side-by-side on screen.

Why Didn't the Mac Overtake the PC?
The Mac came out in 1984, three years after the DOS-based PC. Although its graphical interface was simple to use, and it eliminated the technical quagmire DOS users faced when adding a new device to their PCs, there were several reasons why the PC remained the predominant platform.

DOS Was Faster
DOS PCs were much faster. It takes much more CPU power to display graphics than text, and the early Macintosh hardware was underpowered.

Too Much Mousing
The command languages that could automate myriad tasks in DOS were absent in the Mac. There was sound reason for the expression, "real programmers don't use mice."

In addition, Apple initially overemphasized the mouse and gave little attention to essential keyboard commands. This was hardly a way to gain acceptance in the business world where keyboard-intensive word processing was the largest application.

Mac applications were eventually enhanced, and speed was dramatically increased, but the DOS world was too entrenched by the time those improvements came. Windows 3.0, which offered a graphical interface with many of the Mac's advantages, ran as an extension to DOS and was its natural successor. Windows 95 added more features, and by this time, the world was buying Windows.

Macs Cost More
The Mac was always pricier than a PC, which purchasing agents found hard to justify. Although many employees bought their own Macs due to their aversion to PCs, technical personnel were not fond of supporting them. They sweated bullets dealing with DOS and Windows, and one more platform was not met with enthusiasm.

Proprietary Technology
Unlike the PC, the Mac is Apple's proprietary technology, and except for one brief period, there is no real Mac clone industry (see Macintosh clone). Apple maintained its sole source status while the PC industry has numerous vendors.

In Summary
As a result of these combined factors, the Mac was used sporadically in the corporate world, but due to its natural bent, became popular in desktop publishing and graphic design. The Mac quickly became the de facto standard in graphics arts.

Apple moved to Intel chips in 2006, and since then, many Windows users have switched to Macs. With the Mac's ability to run Windows applications, but primarily due to the increasing use of platform-independent Web applications, Mac usage has expanded. By 2016, the Mac had approximately a 7% global share and 14% U.S. share of the personal computer market.

Personal Use Only

Before/After Your Search Term
machine languageMacintosh models
machine learningMacintosh models - early
machine readableMacintosh on Intel
machine safetyMacintosh Portable
machine to machineMacintosh Toolbox
machine visionMacintosh User Group
macho programmerMacintosh versions
Macintosh cloneMacLink Plus
Macintosh extensionMacNeal-Schwendler

Terms By Topic
Click any of the following categories for a list of fundamental terms.
Computer Words You Gotta KnowSystem design
Job categoriesUnix/Linux
Interesting stuffPersonal computers
InternetIndustrial Automation/Process Control
Communications & networkingAssociations/Standards organizations
HistoryDesktop publishing
ProgrammingHealthcare IT
System design