“I like to claim that I bought the second Macintosh computer ever sold in Europe,” writes actor, comedian, writer, wit, and die-hard Apple enthusiast Stephen Fry in a Telegraph essay marking the Macintosh computer’s 30th anniversary. “My friend and hero Douglas Adams was in the queue ahead of me. For all I know someone somewhere had bought one ten minutes earlier, but these were the first two that the only shop selling them in London had in stock on the 24th January 1984, so I’m sticking to my story.” Fry had found the only computer that made him want to write; “I couldn’t wait to get to it every morning,” he remembers. He didn’t even need convincing from “1984,” Ridley Scott’s “legendary commercial” above, which he didn’t see “until it crept onto English television screens way past its dramatic Super Bowl debut.”
Now that we’ve come upon the 30th anniversary of that dramatic Super Bowl debut, why not get a little insight from the man who directed it? In the clip just above, Scott, who by that time already had the rich and troubling futuristic visions Alien and Blade Runner under his belt, talks about his experience bringing the storyboards — audacious by the television commercial standard of the era, let alone for personal computers — onto the screen. He discusses looking to the past for his “slightly decadent-looking” future, hanging jet engines on the set as an act of “good dramatic bullshit,” putting out a “frightening” casting call for a background full of skinheads, getting the totalitarian text for Big Brother to intone, and finding a young lady who could swing a hammer. And what would he have done with an even bigger budget? “Not very much. I think we nailed it.” As, Fry and his fellow user-enthusiasts agree, did Apple.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, literature, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Facebook page.