Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Macintosh: 25 Years (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

Macintosh: 25 Years (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox): "The Macintosh was introduced January 24, 1984. In fact, the Mac was originally manufactured in the Fremont, California building that now houses Nielsen Norman Group.

The Mac didn't pioneer any individual user-interface innovation. Its most prominent feature, the mouse, had been invented by Doug Engelbart in 1968. That the mouse took 16 years to move from the lab to popular use is a striking example of how slowly things move in the tech business — particularly when it comes to getting diverging designs into widespread use. . . . .

Going beyond such research, the Mac offered 3 breakthroughs:

  • The features were integrated: Users got them all in one package, rather than having to accumulate far-flung innovations. This was a case where the whole was much greater than the sum of its previously scattered parts.
  • The GUI was the platform's expected foundation, rather than an optional add-on. In fact, early Macs didn't even have cursor keys, so applications had to be mouse-driven — and a mouse shipped as standard with every Mac. Although users could buy mice for many other computers (Microsoft's mouse was launched the year before the Mac), most of their apps remained character-based for years because the GUI wasn't the expected UI and designers couldn't rely on users having a mouse.
  • It created a human-interface standard that independent software vendors had to follow in order to have their applications deemed "Mac-like." Because the resulting consistency reduced the learning burden for new applications, users were willing to buy more software. And indeed, Mac users purchased about two applications more per computer than DOS users did.
As is often the case, pure innovation was less important than making the new stuff work well. "


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