Watch Steve Jobs compare the Mac to the invention of the telephone in this video not seen since 1984

(Head to 37:40 in the video to see the telphone comparison)

Harry McCracken tracked down this video from the launch of the Macintosh that hasn’t been seen since 1984. It turns out there was a second ‘launch demo’ a week after the original launch at the shareholder meeting and the videographer forgot he had the video of that (woops!) in his garage. The audience this time wasn’t wasn’t Apple shareholders but actually members of the  Boston Computer Society and the general public, which made for a different type of presentation. The quality and tone of the video is often much different than the one given a week earlier at the Flint Center on the De Anza College campus near Apple’s then HQ.

Over at YouTube, you can watch the Cupertino presentation, along with a sort of a rough draft held as part of an Apple sales meeting in Hawaii in the fall of 1983. As for the BCS version, all 90 minutes of it are there in the video at the top of this post, available for the first time in their entirety since they were shot on January 30, 1984.

The Cupertino and Boston demos may have been based in part on the same script, but the audience, atmosphere and bonus materials were different. In Cupertino, Jobs spoke before investors, towards the end of a meeting which also included dreary matters such as an analysis of Apple’s cash flow.

What’s particularly interesting to me and not part of any other videos I’ve seen was Jobs’ comparison of the Mac (and eventually by extension GUI interfaces) to the invention of the telephone. Fast forward the video above to about 37:40 to see it. As McCracken puts it, the Mac wasn’t necessarily competing with IBM machines but competing with no computer at all.  This metaphor is striking in hindsight.

The video also has a Q&A with the original Mac team which is also pretty interesting if you are into that kind of thing.

McCracken has much more on the video here which is definitely worth a read.

The transcript of the Telephone/Telegraph bit pasted below:

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Now, if you go back about a hundred years, to the 1880s, there were approximately twenty, twenty-five thousand trained telegraph operators in the United States. And you really could send a telegram between Boston and San Francisco, and it’d take about three or four hours and go through the relay stations. It really worked. And it was a great breakthrough in technology that had been around for about thirty or forty years.

And there were some people that talked about putting a telegraph machine on every desk in America to improve productivity. Now what those people didn’t know was that about the same time, Alexander Graham Bell filed the original patents for the telephone — a breakthrough in technology. Because putting a telegraph on every desk in America to improve technology wouldn’t have worked. People wouldn’t have spent the twenty to forty to a hundred hours to learn Morse code. They just wouldn’t have done it.

But with the telephone, within ten years there were over 200,000 telephones on desks in America. It was a breakthrough, because people already knew how to use it. It performed the same basic function, but radical ease of use. And in addition to just letting you type in the words or click in the words, it let you sing. It let you intone your sentences to really get your meaning across.

We are at that juncture in our industry right now. There are people suggesting that we should put a current generation box on everyone’s desk to improve productivity. A telegraph, if you will. And we don’t believe that. We don’t think it’ll work. People will not read those damn 400-page WordStar manuals. They won’t carry around these cards in their pockets with 150 slash-W-Zs. They’re not going to do it.

And what we think we have here is the first telephone. And in addition to letting you do the old spreadsheets and word processing, it lets you sing. It lets you make pictures. It lets you make diagrams where you cut them and past them into your documents. It lets you put that sentence in Bold Helvetica or Old English, if that’s the way you want to express yourself.

Read more: Steve Jobs Unveils Mac at Boston Computer Society, Unseen Since 1984 |

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  1. sardonick - 9 years ago

    Absolutely love this video. The old faces, the real pioneers and the wonderfully exciting introductions into the future. I miss that. True, today’s products are excellent improvements on the foundations, but that era was the ground floor of innovation and competition. That “insanely great” catchphrase was never more fitting than in each of the huge milestones presented. I love the initial anticipation from something really new, not just something better. I’m also biased since I like the old geeks better than the new geeks. :) I like these videos so much more than what’s shown today.

    • compumd - 9 years ago

      I agree, great video, I remember seeing the commercials for the first time – the price of the Apple IIe and Macintosh were above my ability so instead I bought a VIC20 and later a Commodore fun but useless computers, I desperately wanted this computer in 1984 to be “insanely great and a game changer”. Thanks for posting.

      • sardonick - 9 years ago

        I was never one to complain about the prices back then because it was clearly for a market of which I wasn’t a member (in the early days). I just remember thinking “this guy is a marketing genius and he’s surrounded by technical genius”….little did I know how true that was. Burns me up we’re not going to see that again any time soon. I know, there’s “versions” out there but it’s not the same as the “greats”. As subjective as that is, you just can’t follow some things as well as the original. Doesn’t hurt to try though….:)

  2. That was just insanely great.

    R.I.P Steve. We all want to change the world as kids. You actually did it.

  3. Thomas Bechard - 9 years ago

    I’m addicted to Apple keynote presentations. I love having another one from Steve Jobs to watch. I love the panel discussion when he says he wants to put Mac in a book and it will certainly be black and white to start. Amazing to see what Apple has accomplished in the last 30 years.

  4. I always loved apple keynotes but this one where they marked the history is wonderful, although its funny that how everyone was excited about hearings the speed in bits but in those times i can understand that was real fast, and also the high resolution printers and screen of Macintosh, which are crap in todays world, I miss the magic man, he always steals the show, RIP Steve, World will miss you, when they introduced Macintosh i was just 8 years Old.

  5. Larry Harris - 8 years ago

    OK. I never could have afforded the 128k back then, but my son always wanted one. 30 years later he has one right where he wants it and he can’t stop raving about how what he calls post-modern products like the Retina Display iMac and MacBook Pro are almost all sizzle for someone who needs things simple, and they only have steak for someone who needs the ultimate in specs. The 128k however is nothing but steak, so you can sell sizzle for it all day long and it won’t fail to disappoint if you outfit it with all the right peripherals. Most people couldn’t afford to do that back then and so they were disappointed. But if you wait long enough, usually good things will happen.


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