This Day in Tech History

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Big Brother Smashed


January 22, 1984: Apple Debuts Super Bowl Ad

Apple Computer broadcasts their now-famous “1984” commercial during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII introducing the Macintosh. It was the first and last time the ad was truly broadcast. However, it is a little-known piece of trivia that the ad was aired one other time at 1 AM on December 15, 1983 in Twin Falls, Idaho. It was aired so the advertisement could be submitted to award ceremonies for that year.


macintoshThe Macintosh was the first mouse-driven computer and Graphical User Interface (GUI) machine. The machine would have a release date of Jan 24, and held a 8 MHz Motorola 68000 microprocessor. It had 128 KB DRAM and came with a 9″ black-and-white CRT with resolution of 512×342. The price of the machine was $2495.

The Redskins entered the game as the defending Super Bowl XVII champions, and finished the regular season with a league-best 14–2 record. The Raiders were in their second season in Los Angeles since moving from Oakland in 1982, and posted a 12–4 regular season record in 1983.

As the favored team, the Redskins’ 38–9 defeat at the hands of the black-jerseyed Raiders led Super Bowl XVIII to be known as “Black Sunday”. Raiders running back Marcus Allen is named Super Bowl MVP with a then-record total of 191 yards and two touchdowns.



The average cost for ad space: $368,000. Apple’s budget on the commercial – $900,000. Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) directed it. The Board of Directors did not like the Spot, but Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak did. Woz even stated that if the board was to reject the commercial, he would pay for the spot out of his own pocket.

The ad was a huge success, so much so that the marketing guru behind it believes it was more successful than the Macintosh itself. In an interview with the marketing magazine Ad Age, Regis McKenna says the 1984 commercial inspired people to rebel against the status quo, and that it became bigger than the Mac itself:

“The ad was more successful than the Mac itself. The Mac was expensive to build, and Apple’s margins went negative in 1986. That conflict led to Steve’s ouster from Apple. The ad had some negative effect on corporate buyers, who were flocking to IBM. They didn’t like seeing themselves as mindless [followers]. “

When director Ridley Scott held casting calls for the female role, the sledgehammer was too unwieldy for the actresses who showed up. One almost hit a passerby with it during a screen test in a park. Discus thrower Anya Major was discovered working out at a gym and got the gig.




2007: Best Super Bowl Spot (in the game’s 40-year history)

2003: WFA—Hall of Fame Award (Jubilee Golden Award)

1999: TV Guide—Number One Greatest Commercial of All Time

1995: Advertising Age—Greatest Commercial

1995: Clio Awards—Hall of Fame

1984: Clio Awards

1984: 31st Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival—Grand Prix


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