Steve Jobs is dead; Mac’s 1984 ad lives on
In honour of the death of probably the most influential business leader since Henry Ford, it’s worth looking back once again at probably the most influential TV ad ever made.
The irony, of course, is that the closed nature of Apple products and their adulation by masses of consumers mean the company now more closely resembles the video screen’s totalitarian Big Brother than it does the hot shotput athlete. “A garden of pure ideology … secure from the pests of contradictory thoughts … we are one people, with one will, one resolve, one course … our enemies shall talk themselves to death, but we shall prevail!” Sounds a bit like Apple’s business plan, really.
But there’s no denying that Jobs revolutionised computers by demasculinising, denerding and deodorising them. It’s astounding to think nobody thought of making the physical boxes pretty until Jobs introduced the iMac.
And the 1984 ad is undeniably thrilling, the voice at the end promising a mystery and wonder about the future that is conspicuously lacking in our attitudes today. It epitomises what at that time was the relatively new concept of “positioning”, without even having to name the enemy (which was not yet specifically Microsoft, but rather the “IBM clone”, or generic PC). Plus, it totally pwned the entire cultural trope that had grown up around Orwell’s 1984, right in the heart of the Cold War – thus associating Apple with freedom, rebellion, the virtuous west and hot shotput babes all in one go.