January 28, 2009


Twenty five years ago, one of the most memorable commercials in history aired during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. It was a teaser for the debut of the Apple Macintosh computer called "1984" in which a bleak, futuristic, Orwellian setting is broken by an athletic heroine representing non-conformity. Despite its landmark status today, that was the only daytime airing. But the impact on viewers led to massive amounts of free airings in news coverage afterward. (It had aired once before in Twin Falls Idaho on December 31, 1983 so that it would qualify for awards competitions, and it also aired for several weeks in movie theaters.) While often thought to be a statement against IBM's domination of the computer marketplace, Chiat/Day writers Steve Hayden and Lee Clow and Apple actually meant it to symbolize the Macintosh as a means of empowerment and originality. Ridley Scott, who had recently finished shooting 'Blade Runner' directed the spot, which was shot in England. (Local skinheads made for a perfect casting of the Orwellian population in the spot). In December 1983, Steve Jobs and Apple CEO John Sculley screened the spot for Apples Board of Directors, who hated it. Jobs supported the spot regardless, and Steve Wozniak offered to pay for the spot if the board refused. My Dad posted the spot on his blog a few days ago, and what most amazes me is how well the spot still holds up today, 25 years after it first aired. (Which makes me realize that my nephews and nieces have never lived in a world without a Macintosh. How weird is that?!) Below are links to the original ad as well as a couple other videos I found on YouTube. One is an interview with Ridley Scott about making the commercial, which includes shots of the original storyboard (though the audio is difficult to understand); and the other looks to be 'making of' footage clips probably sent out as a video press release to media organizations that someone added music to. I got my first Mac six years after this spot aired as a graduation present from Mom & Dad. I still have it.
  • Apple's '1984' Macintosh debut/teaser commercial
  • Ridley Scott interview on the making of Apple's '1984'
  • Apple's 1984 'making of' raw footage
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