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Geek Trivia: The Mac and the myth

When did Apple's famous "1984" television commercial first air -- an appearance that predates its historic "debut" during Super Bowl XVIII?

Despite what the YouTube obsession with "Mac vs. PC" spoofs might lead you to believe, the definitive computer commercial for all time is, has been, and probably always will be the Apple Macintosh 1984 Super Bowl spot. Directed by a fresh-from-Blade Runner Ridley Scott and boldly implying that IBM was the evil corporate equivalent of Big Brother from George Orwell's novel 1984, most consider this commercial one of the most daring and innovative advertisements ever put to the airwaves.

And yet, Apple's board of directors almost didn't let it air.

Despite the fact that the first large audience to view the commercial -- attendees of Apple's 1983 annual sales conference -- lauded the spot, members of Apple's board were less than enthused about Scott's artful final product. Unfortunately, Apple's sales team and advertising agency had already bought two commercial time slots for Super Bowl XVIII -- a 60-second position right after the second-half kickoff and a follow-up 30-second position later in the game, the latter of which would air a pared-down version of the "1984" spot.

Now, here's where the story gets murky, as there are various versions of subsequent events that have emerged over the years. Reportedly, the company's board of directors ordered Apple not to air the "1984" spot and sell back the Super Bowl time slots. (Steve Wozniak also supposedly offered to pay for the time slots himself if the Apple board wouldn't.)

Depending on whom you ask, Apple's advertising agency was either unable or unwilling (due to confidence in the commercial) to sell back both time slots. Instead, it unloaded only the 30-second follow-up position.

That left Apple with 60 seconds of Super Bowl airtime that had to be used. The board deferred to the judgment of its sales executives, who opted to air the "1984" commercial if for no other reason than to not waste the $1.6 million that went into producing the commercial and buying the airtime.

The rest, as they say, is history. The commercial grabbed the attention of millions, became an artifact of pop culture and a standard bearer for event marketing and Super Bowl commercial creativity, and launched the Macintosh line of personal computers -- even though it aired only once.

Except for one thing: Despite the legend, the spot didn't air just during Super Bowl XVIII, nor was the Super Bowl spot the commercial's first time on television.

WHEN DID THE FAMOUS 1984 APPLE MACINTOSH TV COMMERCIAL FIRST AIR?

Get the answer.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

20 comments
davidpowell
davidpowell

Aha - Now I remember where the spoof ad in Futurama comes from. The one where they defrost the guy from the 80's? I knew there was something tickling the back of my mind when I saw it... :)

sub_techrep
sub_techrep

when you think about the draconian rules that Apple Computers placed on Macintosh software developers and the control they exercised over what could and would not run on that platform, one might suggest that in 1984, Apple computers created a technological microcosm (emphasis on the micro, as it turned out) which bore a striking resemblance to the thought-control in Orwell's novel. Ironic.

dan.white
dan.white

Does anyone know who the woman with the sledge hammer is?

bfpower
bfpower

Hey - Twin Falls is NOT out of the way!!! Everyone in Southern Idaho rocks that town! LOL Actually I have been there quite a few times and find it quite an interesting place. It's quite metropolitan compared to where I live.

K Winn
K Winn

The word is linchpin. I don't even want to contemplate what a "lynchpin" might be.

seanferd
seanferd

For something that supposedly aired only once, the ad sure does get around.

fallout330
fallout330

Never been to Twin Falls, but I'm sure it was "slightly" different back in 1984........maybe.

Quicklynx
Quicklynx

According to Miriam Websters, Lynchpin is a varaint of Linchpin.

rohitkaveeshwar
rohitkaveeshwar

The Apple Mac ad was one of the rarest ad you could ever see in your life time. It changed the whole computing era. Apple deserves everything it does. Look at iPhone, Apple announced they will give iPhone to the world in 2007 nn they did n wat a fantastic job they have done... its just amazing... even amazing, fantastic n bla bla bla are an under statement

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

Not sure what that was all about. First time I tried to view it, I got "this video no longer available". Tried again now, and watched it fine.

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

...who pulled it, and why? :-( I've never seen this ad, only ever heard about it (and passing references, at that)

dan.white
dan.white

Thanks. She looks like my seventh grade math teacher. Guess she's not.

raul62
raul62

makes not such a big reference for me. It would be completelly different if we talk about Merriam-Webster's dictionaries... ;o)) (Nice joke guys, nice joke...)

knucklhead
knucklhead

Given the meaning and etymology of the word I think that Webster has erred. Just because a mistake happens often enough doesn't make it right.

seanferd
seanferd

but I've seen that ad more times than I can count. And I don't mean on the 'net.

seanferd
seanferd

was actually to the Futurama riff on the ad. After the hammer smashes the screen, this dude in the front stands up and says, "Hey, I was watching that". How oddly coincidental that you had an issue viewing the ad on YouTube. That's funny. :D

Montgomery Gator
Montgomery Gator

If I had a math teacher who looked like her when I was in the 7th grade, I would definitely be Hot for Teacher.

GSG
GSG

Speaking of 1984 Knucklehead... I lived in Lompoc in 1984, and while I didn't live on base, I lived on the grounds of the "other" federal property right by the base. Not as a resident of that installation, but in the family housing for those that worked there. Can you still go and walk around Surf Beach?

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