Apple and the History of Personal Computer Design



I'm Ed Tracy, a graduate student at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto. This web page is part of a course I took in 1997-8 through the Department of History at U of T, Topics in Material Culture (HIS 1543Y). It was designed for a specific academic setting and its use is intended to remain limited. For such a restricted project, sorting out amorphous net-copywright issues seemed both pedantic and hopelessly unproductive (though I did request permissions, I received no response). Many of the images of computers here were taken from other web sites, acknowledged only in the image sources. So, images as well as text must remain read-only -- use of this site or of any of its content without permission is prohibited. emailEd!

If you have any suggestions, please write me!

The microcomputer has quickly taken up a large place in daily lives, having gone from a novelty, hobby item to a routinely used tool in less than 20 years. The design of a machine expresses the intended relationship of the user to its functions, a relationship with strong emotional content and corresponding values. Computers are regarded with some ambivalence by most, being sources of frustration and anxiety as well as pride and fascination. Developments in computer technology are common knowledge, though changes are frequent, often little understood, and usually have very little impact on the work of most people. Clearly, computers are regarded as more than tools - these machines encourage a great expenditure of time and money for very little change in productivity. They are objects of desire, subject even to brand allegience and snobbery. This attraction and attachment to particular computers is most vividly seen for Apple products. A sense of community is often shared by those who own, or even just use, an Apple computer, inciting frequent comparisons to a religious cult.

This web page is dedicated to the study of the personal computer as a cultural artifact rather than simply as a tool or technological accomplishment. Our proximity to and increasing reliance on computers has made it difficult to regard them as material culture. My project is to examine microcomputers, and in particular the products of Apple Computer in the 1980s, as objects developing within a social as well as technological context.

Follow these links to look through my project:

IntroductionHistoriographyEarly formsEmerging standardsMacintosh revolutionDesign revolutionCorporate focusConclusion

Bibliography and links

Apple tech. at work