Apple’s “1984” Macintosh Commercial Ran 40 Years Ago Today
40 years ago on January 22, 1984, Apple ran the famous “1984” advertisement for the Macintosh during the Super Bowl.
The commercial features an unidentified heroine wearing a Macintosh tank top who runs into a gathering of enthralled sycophants staring up at a screen of a droning Big Brother, wherein the protagonist tosses an anvil into the screen to destroy the spell. The tagline “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 wont be like ‘1984.’” then appears on screen and is spoken. Quite a commercial eh? If you’ve never seen the commercial, it’s embedded below and worth a watch.
While 1984 wasn’t much like “1984” (though 2024 is well into dystopia so Orwell was off by a few decades, but hey we’re here to celebrate an iconic commercial, not be distressed by the weird modern world!), the commercial made quite an impact, and the Mac launched a few days later on the 24th of January, 1984.
Going further, Bloomberg shared a fascinating four minute video some 9 years ago titled “The Real Story Behind Apple’s Famous 1984 Super Bowl Ad”, embedded below:
A little insight in the 1984 commercial, according to the description accompanying the Bloomberg video:
“1984” is an American television commercial which introduced the Apple Macintosh personal computer for the first time. It was conceived by Steve Hayden, Brent Thomas and Lee Clow at Chiat/Day, Venice, produced by New York production company Fairbanks Films, and directed by Ridley Scott. Anya Major performed as the unnamed heroine and David Graham as Big Brother. Its only U.S. daytime televised broadcast was on January 22, 1984 during and as part of the telecast of the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. Chiat/Day also ran the ad one other time on television, in December 1983 right before the 1:00 am sign-off on KMVT in Twin Falls, Idaho, so that the advertisement could be submitted to award ceremonies for that year.
In addition, starting on January 17, 1984 it was screened prior to previews in movie theaters for a few weeks. It has since been seen on television commercial compilation specials, as well as in “Retro-mercials” on TV Land. The estate of George Orwell and the television rightsholder to the novel 1984 considered the commercial to be a flagrant copyright infringement, and sent a cease-and-desist letter to Apple and Chiat/Day in April 1984. The commercial was never televised as a commercial after that.
It has been 40 years since the debut of Macintosh! Time flies eh?