5 Vintage Computing Moments from 'Macworld' Issue 1 (April 1984)

The Internet Archive
The Internet Archive / The Internet Archive

Just over a year ago, Macworld magazine stopped printing new issues. Its run was epic, starting in 1984 with the launch of the Mac and running for more than 30 years. Macworld lives on online, though the print version is done. Today, let's look back at the very first issue, recently posted on The Internet Archive.

1. Explaining the Mouse

On page 28, Macworld Assistant Editor Daniel Farber begins a deep dive into Apple's new mouse. He gives plenty of context—rightly crediting Doug Engelbart for the original invention, and mentioning that Apple's Lisa computer used a mouse before the Mac. Farber proceeds to explain how the mouse is an extension of the innate human ability to point, which was actually the kind of thing that had to be explained using words in 1984. The article explores the vocabulary of the Mac mouse, with its single button, precise scrolling (including cleanable ball), and the "double-click" action.

Retro moment: "The juxtaposition of a mouse and a computer on a modern office desktop or your cozy office at home might seem strange indeed. Is it some kind of marriage between high technology and the rodent population, or an example of the arcane Silicon Valley sense of humor?" Ah, mouse jokes, the staple of '80s computing. I don't miss them.

Prescient moment: "The mouse may not be the ultimate device for interfacing with computers, but for the time being it's the best system yet devised for making computers more compatible with the people who use them."

2. Chart of Typefaces (Fonts)

On pages 106-107, Macworld presents a rundown of the best fonts available when using MacWrite, noting the point sizes that are most legible in print.

Retro moment: Printing the "outline" version of each font, even though it looks awful.

Technically impressive moment: Including eight (!) fonts in the list: New York, Geneva, Toronto, Monaco, Venice, Chicago, Athens, and London. Many of those are proportional, as opposed to the typical monospaced fonts of the day. (Note that the Mac shipped with more fonts, but the list included a "ransom note" style font, a dingbat font, and a handwriting font. They weren't particularly beautiful in print.)

3. Interview with Bill Gates

Longtime Mac users remember that Microsoft was always a big player on the Mac, even in the early days. Even Microsoft Excel debuted on the Mac, and Microsoft Word was the go-to Mac word processor for many users through the 1980s and 1990s. Bill Gates was such a huge part of the Mac's software story that he appeared at early Mac events, and Macworld devoted pages 42-45 of its first issue to an interview.

Retro moment: "You can configure a PC with one of the better graphics boards and add a Microsoft mouse and the necessary software, but that's not the thrust of the machine. The PC is used primarily in its text mode, and to date it's used mostly without a mouse; you couldn't get performance or graphics like the Mac's out of the PC at a comparable price." -Bill Gates. Oh, how times changed. (Note: I'm using a Microsoft mouse right now. It's awesome.)

4. Giant Microsoft Ad

Microsoft took out a full-page ad—actually, two of them—promoting its best-in-class software. (The magazine also had two detailed articles featuring Microsoft Multiplan, the spreadsheet that preceded Excel.)

Retro moment: "MICROSOFT BASIC. The industry standard. Plus special commands for the mouse and bit-mapped graphics." Yes, you could run BASIC on a Mac, though it didn't exactly take off like it did on other platforms due to the Mac's graphical user interface.

5. The Mac Team Congratulates the Macworld Team

When the Mac launched, Apple's Mac team took an iconic photograph (pictured above, right) showing the team behind the computer. When Macworld launched, the team posed for a similar photo of the group behind the magazine. Apple took out this two-page ad congratulating the magazine team.

Retro moment: The fashion, the hairdos, the beards.

(All images courtesy of The Internet Archive. For a large collection of Macworld scans, check out their new Macworld Magazine collection.)