Harry McCracken was posted video of Steve Jobs’ first public demonstration of the Macintosh on Time.com.
Steve Jobs first demonstrated the Mac at Apple’s annual shareholder meeting on January 24th, 1984. However, many don’t know that he gave a public demonstration less than a week later for the monthly general meeting of the Boston Computer Society. The host of the event was Jonathan Rotenberg, a 20-year-old student at Brown University who co-founded the BCS in 1977.
McCracken managed to track down Glenn Koenig, a Boston-area videographer who had recorded the event on a now-obsolete format called U-matic. Koenig also mentioned that Dan Bricklin, the co-inventor of VisiCalc, had taped some meetings himself. McCracken’s query resulted in a collaboration between Rotenberg, Koenig, Bricklin and Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum to digitize the videos.
Fortunately for posterity, the production values on the video version of the meeting are quite good — far better than what Apple managed for the shareholder meeting. (In Cupertino, the lighting had been so murky at times that the only thing you can see clearly is Jobs’ white shirt gleaming from inside his jacket.) Apple sprung for multiple cameras, one of which was manned by the BCS’s Koenig. Moments with subpar camera work in the Cupertino video, such as when Jobs pulls the Mac out of its bag and boots it up, are nicely shot in this one.
As presented here, the video — which is a rough cut of the version which the Computer History Museum will preserve — has a few moments which have been reconstructed. The slides which Jobs shows are the same ones he presented in Boston, but they’re borrowed from the video of the Cupertino event. And when Jobs shows a blurry slide of the IBM PC — provoking mirth from the audience and prompting him to say “Let’s be fair” — the blurring is a recreation of what really happened. (To this day, Rotenberg isn’t sure whether it was a prank on Apple’s part or a bona-fide technical glitch.)
Notably, Jobs’ presentation is said to be more polished in this version.
“This one was Steve really selling,” says Bricklin, who has shown clips of the presentation in talks to students for years, in the only instances of it being seen in public since it was recorded. “This is the Steve that we’ve now known for many years announcing other products. This is that Steve, giving the talk he’s given so many times that he knows it cold. It really makes a difference.”
“You get to see Steve when Steve became the Steve Jobs. Seeing him smiling up there is the way a lot of us would like to remember him.”
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