Thirty Years On…

This morning’s Observer column.

Thirty years ago (on 24 January 1984, to be precise), a quirky little computer company launched a new product and in the process changed lives and maybe the world. The company was called Apple and the product was named after a particular type of Californian apple – the Macintosh.

With astonishing chutzpah, the company announced the product to the world via a single advertisement screened during the Super Bowl on 22 January. The film was directed by Ridley Scott and showed a dimly lit auditorium in which ranks of drably clad zombies are being harangued by a despotic figure shown on a huge screen. Into this auditorium comes a beautiful female athlete who runs towards the screen carrying a large hammer, pursued by goons attired in riot police gear. Just as the despot’s rant reaches a climax, the athlete stops, whirls the hammer four times and then launches it at the screen. When it strikes, the screen explodes and the camera pans to the zombies, whose mouths gape in bewilderment. “On January 24th,” intones a voice over the closing scene, “Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

Most people who saw the ad were probably baffled by it. But for some of us, the symbology was clear…

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