Happy 30th Birthday, Macintosh

Happy 30th Birthday, Macintosh

The personal computer revolution took off like an ICBM with the introduction of Apple’s Macintosh 30 years ago today. Two days before, during the Super Bowl, Apple broadcast its “1984” commercial, still the most famous ad ever.

At the time, the “Big Brother” in the ad was not the government, but IBM, whose PC was introduced in 1981, and conquered most of the business market and much of the home market. The PC, like Apple’s previous Apple I and II computers, was command-based. You typed in something like “wp.exe,” to start the Word Perfect program.

Based in Cupertino, Apple ripped off the graphics-and-mouse interface from Xerox, perfected it, reduced it from large computers to the desktop, and put it in the Mac. Nothing has been the same since. It took Microsoft six years to get something fairly decent, Windows 3.0.

In the 1990s, it seemed that Microsoft had replaced IBM as “Big Brother,” a point made in the amusing 1999 film, “Pirates of Silicon Valley.” But in 1998, the real Big Brother, the U.S. government, launched an absurd antitrust suit against Microsoft. The feds alleged that Microsoft, by “tying” its free Internet Explorer browser into Windows for free, was destroying the competition, specifically Netscape’s browser.

Sixteen years later, it’s silly that anyone would think browsers that important. As the development of Google, Facebook, Twitter and other companies has shown, what’s important is what the browser brings up, not the browser itself.

And now we have the proliferation of “aps” on mobile devices, tablets and smart phones.

The judge in the case was so dumb he didn’t even know how to turn on his own Windows computer. It would be like an automobile antitrust lawsuit presided over by a judge who rode a horse to the courtroom.

Meanwhile, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (born a couple of months before me in 1955), who had been fired in 1985 after pushing the Mac into production, returned in 1997 to save Apple from its impending demise. The rest is legendary: the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad revolutionized computing once again, before Jobs died in 2011.

The Real Big Brother

Meanwhile, the real Big Brother, the U.S. government — in particular the National Security Agency — began scooping up just about ever bit of information it could, including millions of emails and phone numbers every day. Almost all of it violated our Fourth Amendment rights:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Even the feds’ own Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board just found the NSA’s unlimited sping program was illegal, and should end.

It’ probably won’t. But to turn an aphorism by Nietzsche: If the Government Abyss gazes long at you, you will gaze back at the Government Abyss.

It’s now quite easy to check the statements and actions of our government officials. In the future, the youthful Twitter and Facebook comments of our leaders will be scrutinized. Currently, most politicians are to old to have engaged in social media when they were young; and they have been careful in their adulthood. Youthful indiscretions sometimes pop up, but can be covered over by “spin.”

That won’t work for a college-age political rant — right or left — that breaks some taboo, but pops back up during a campaign in 2020 or so.

Political discussions also have broken the bounds formerly placed on them by earlier technologies. No longer are people limited to reading national and international news based on AP and New York Times daily stories, plus the three weekly magazines and the three old TV networks.

It’s a wild world out there of Internet news, of which CalWatchDog.com is a part. And it’s just going to get better, as computer technology gets cheaper and cheaper.

The political news we report sometimes seems the same old thing: stories of government scandals, waste, abuse and fraud. But the truth is out there, as they said on the old “X-Files” TV show, there’s more of it, and it’s now basically free to deliver.

The freedom revolution is just beginning.

Happy Birthday, Macintosh!

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John SeilerSteve JobsMacintoshApple Computer

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