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25 years of the Apple Mac

Highs and lows of a quarter of a century

As Apple celebrates its 25th anniversary, we look at the company's five greatest successes and the five biggest mistakes that have helped shaped the Apple we know today.

Technology enthusiasts live for significant anniversaries, which allow us to take a retrospective view of something in the news and look back on events which, in the moment, might not have seemed so momentous.

Twenty-five years ago, Apple took the wraps off the first Macintosh, with a Ridley Scott-directed advert that aired in the US during the 1984 Super Bowl, and went on to become iconic.

In these heady days when Apple seems to be gaining ground in a number of places and ways, it's important to remember that everything that followed from the first Mac was not a success. If things had gone differently, maybe Microsoft would be the cool, hip upstart now.

Microsoft Windows remains by far the world's most popular operating system, but it's showing its first signs of weakness, with Apple's OS achieving a 10 percent market share for the first time since analytics firm Net Applications records began.

Whichever way you look at it, the original Mac has had a significant impact on the modern Windows-based PC market, with Apple devotees claiming Microsoft's interface and basic PC productivity software owes a lot to Mac developments in the 80s.
So what did Apple do right in the early days, and which mistakes allowed Microsoft to capitalise? Here's a collection of five successes and five mistakes Apple has made over the past 25 years.

Apple's smooth moves

We've checked out Apple's five biggest successes of the past 25 years.

1. The Human Interface Guidelines
What did computers look like in 1983? When you turned them on, what did you see?

The chances are, it was a green cursor on a black screen. You had to know how to do what you wanted to do, and then were limited to what you knew how to do - a vicious circle of limitation.

The first Mac, in 1984, was something totally new and different to almost everyone in the computer and non-computer worlds alike. The windows/icons/mouse/pointer (WIMP) interface, first pioneered at Xerox PARC, was intelligible at a glance and set the paradigm for almost every personal computing interface to follow.

Still, it all could have gone bad if not for the coherence and progressive discovery offered by the carefully designed Mac user interface.

That was the result of a lot of work, both theoretical and practical, by Apple's Human Interface Group on how people looked at and reacted to various parts of an interface. They codified and published the principles and applications of the Mac interface as the Human Interface Guidelines (HIG), showing everything from how to make a button to where the drop shadows should go on screen to how quickly a visual cue should appear after a user click.

The public HIG encouraged developers to produce applications that looked and acted like the familiar Mac interface. Users weren't confused with a whole new way to save, or move, or do anything, each time they loaded a new program.
Of course, things change, and there have been blips along the way - especially when Apple moved to Mac OS X.

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NEXT PAGE: Even more of Apple's biggest successes of the past 25 years

  1. The highs and lows of a quarter of a century
  2. Even more of Apple's biggest successes of the past 25 years
  3. The iPod, the iPhone and the iTunes Store
  4. More ways in which Apple went wrong
  5. The original Mac concept


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