Apple’s Guided Tour to Using the First Macintosh (1984)

“Smart­phones and lap­tops seem so ubiq­ui­tous to us all,” writes expe­ri­ence design­er Jin­soo An. “But in real­i­ty, the ubiq­ui­tous­ness we expe­ri­ence every day is based on a series of learned behav­iors. Some­one once said that, ‘The only intu­itive inter­face is the nip­ple. Every­thing else is learned.’ ” This, he points out, holds for the sim­ple mag­a­zine as much as it does for the com­put­er mouse — a device which cer­tain gen­er­a­tions use even more intu­itive­ly than they do any­thing involv­ing the print­ed word. But, many com­put­er users found the mouse, just a few years before it achieved ubiq­ui­ty, hard­ly intu­itive at all. “If you can point, you can use a Mac­in­tosh,” insist­ed an ear­ly Apple ad for that inno­v­a­tive desk­top com­put­er.

If, con­vinced, you went on to buy a Mac of your own, and you received with it a print­ed man­u­al includ­ing a sec­tion explain­ing the mechan­ics of mouse usage. “Every move you make with the mouse moves the point­er in exact­ly the same way,” goes one of its sen­tences that would now seem com­i­cal­ly unnec­es­sary. “Usu­al­ly the point­er is shaped like an arrow, but it changes shape depend­ing on what you’re doing.“And for those who found the book too intim­i­dat­ing, Apple also includ­ed a cas­sette tape con­tain­ing a pro­duc­tion called “A Guid­ed Tour of Mac­in­tosh,” in which friend­ly voic­es explain such impor­tant sub­jects as “Mou­s­ing Around,” “What’s the Find­er?,” and “Why Do I Have Win­dows?” to a sound­track by artists from the pow­er­house new-age music label Wyn­d­ham Hill.

An’s post includes the audio of this tech­no-edu­ca­tion­al jour­ney, and at the top of the post you can watch it syn­chro­nized with video of the accom­pa­ny­ing appli­ca­tion that came onboard the com­put­er. We can all have a good laugh at this sort of thing now that we’ve ful­ly inter­nal­ized once-con­fus­ing con­cepts like win­dows, the find­er, and the mouse — but isn’t it more star­tling, in this era when so few peo­ple even con­sid­er read­ing man­u­als that many com­pa­nies seem to have stopped print­ing them entire­ly, to imag­ine any­one, before they dare use their new com­put­er, pop­ping in a tape?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Steve Jobs Demos the First Mac­in­tosh in 1984

Hunter S. Thompson’s Edgy 1990s Com­mer­cial for Apple’s Mac­in­tosh Com­put­er

Rid­ley Scott Talks About Mak­ing Apple’s Land­mark “1984” Com­mer­cial, Aired 30 Years Ago on Super Bowl Sun­day

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Kev says:

    There was a tuto­r­i­al that came with the SE-30 that taught the use of the mouse in an ani­mat­ed cityscape, involv­ing click­ing to dis­turb pigeons, drag­ging let­ters to a cin­e­ma mar­quee etc. I remem­ber it clear­ly but I’ve nev­er found any record of it exist­ing. Nice to know that it had a pre­cur­sor.

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