This Day In History – 1/22

January 22, 1984: Macintosh “1984” computer commercial aired during Super Bowl XVIII

As an audience of men in gray sack uniforms stare at a vast screen where Big Brother is lecturing about the “first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives,” a female athlete carrying a sledgehammer sprints down the center aisle pursued by Thought Police in riot gear. She spins three times and hurls the hammer into the screen and Big Brother’s face disintegrates into shards of glass and a blaze of lightning.

This ad for Apple’s Macintosh computer played during the 1984 Super Bowl. It has been awarded “The Best Commercial of All Time” more than once. I’m sure its legend was only enhanced by the difficulty of ever seeing it if you weren’t watching the game. The George Orwell estate considered the commercial to be a flagrant copyright infringement and had a lawyer send a cease-and-desist letter to Apple and the Chiat/Day advertising agency a couple of months later. The commercial was not televised again for years.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

6 thoughts on “This Day In History – 1/22

  1. I certainly wasn’t watching the game, but I’m sure I saw the commercial, and not just read a description of it, when it was new. So maybe the injunction didn’t come around immediately, or maybe for a while it was ignored, as it certainly should have been.

  2. The Wikipedia article about the commercial says it also played on news broadcasts the night of the Super Bowl, and in theaters. The lawyer letter came in April.

  3. I read somewhere that the skinheads sitting looking at the giant telescreen were actual London skinheads, who knew nothing about computing and computers, because they already looked the part and didn’t need head shaving or skullcaps.

    Jobs’ introduction to the Mac at the development conference was exciting as all hell and truly inspirational. I just wish that Pirate Flag/Revolutionary spirit was in existence at Apple today.

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