Thirty Years of Apple’s Mac

Apple’s graph of how the Mac is used today.

On the thirtieth anniversary of the Mac, Apple has released some data showing when people first interacted with the iconic computer, and what they do with it.

According to Apple’s Website, “Education/Teaching” and “Desktop Publishing” were the top ways people used Macs in 1984, followed by “Gaming,” “Programming,” and finally “Business/Finance.” Education stayed strong through 1995 or so, when more people began to use Macs primarily for “Internet & Email” and “Graphic Design.” (Actual methodology behind the company’s attractive-looking graphs remains unclear, but presumably it keeps tabs on such information.)

Over the next ten years or so, “Education/Teaching” and “Internet & Email” traded places as the most dominant category, with “Photography” emerging as a key use around 2005. Today, Apple lists “Internet & Email” as the Mac’s top use, followed by “Photography” and “Business/Finance” (which run at about even), “Engineering,” and “Programming.”

Many people who grew up in the 1980s will recall the heavy presence of Macs in elementary and middle schools, the direct result of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ decision to market the then-new devices to educators. (Apple has begun to refocus its efforts on schools, primarily via textbooks for the iPad.) Designers were also drawn to the Mac’s graphical interface, assuring the computers’ presence in artists’ studios and design firms across the country.

That explains the Mac’s usage patterns throughout the 1980s. The rise of “Internet & Email” as a category in the mid-1990s, of course, is a reflection of the increasing ubiquity of the Internet. The later rise of “Business/Finance” is a sign of Apple’s increased presence within small and midsize companies, as well as the enterprise; and as Macs have become more powerful, more people are using them for photography, engineering, and programming tasks.

In a new interview with Macworld, Apple executives suggested the company would continue to devote significant energies to the Mac despite the increasing prevalence of the iPad and iPhone.

Craig Federighi, senior vice president of Apple’s Software Engineering, also claimed that no plans are afoot to merge iOS with Mac OS X, despite the latter adopting certain features (such as an App Store) from the former. “To say [OS X and iOS] should be the same, independent of their purpose? Let’s just converge, for the sake of convergence? [It’s] absolutely a nongoal,” he told the magazine. “We have a common sense of aesthetics, a common set of principles that drive us, and we’re building the best products we can for their unique purposes.”

So how will Apple evolve the Mac from today’s sleek, black cylinder (the Mac Pro), tiny aluminum box (Mac mini), and sleek laptop (the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Pro with Retina Display)? Apple, in keeping with yet another longstanding tradition, remains tight-lipped about that.

And just for the anniversary’s sake, here’s the video of Steve Jobs introducing the original Mac in 1984:


Image: Apple