With Steve Jobs' departure from the helm of Apple, we decided to take a look back at one of his early successes: The Macintosh. When Consumer Reports reviewed the computer back in January 1985, we declared that "Apple has accomplished what it set out to do," and called the Mac "a computer that's both exceedingly serious in its capacities and exceedingly easy to use." But that doesn't mean we didn't find some faults with the computer.
While we liked the idea of using a "mouse" and "icons" (yes, we put the then-uncommon terms in quotes), we found that the original Mac's 128K of memory limited its capabilities: "After you've loaded the Macwrite program and its operating system, there's only enough room left in the computer's memory for about 8 1/2 single-spaced typewritten pages. By contrast, you could type some 12 pages in the inexpensive Atari 800XL."
In speed tests, we found the Mac to be a mixed bag compared to the PCs of the era; while it was slower at some disk operations, the graphical user interface made quick work of word processing chores that required users to wade through menus on a PC.
Testing Macwrite against Wordstar, we found that the latter loaded a nine-page document in 19 seconds, vs. 27 seconds for the Mac and exited the program in just 5 seconds, while the Mac took 16 seconds. On the other hand, the Mac's graphical user interface allowed our testers to adjust the right margin in a test document in 7 seconds on the Mac, vs. a whopping 84 seconds on the PC.
In the end, we declared the Mac to be, if not "the computer for the rest of us," definitely a major step forward in usability:
The Apple Macintosh is far and away the easiest computer to learn and use that we have ever seen. The combination of mouse, pull-down menus, windows and icons is more than a dazzling display of technical wizardry. It's a logically thought-out system that deserves the careful consideration of anyone about to buy a computer to work on at home or in a small business, away from formal training programs and office gurus.
While we currently recommend many Windows-based computers, Macs still rank highly in our Ratings, especially among laptops -- a category that didn't even exist when Steve Jobs unveiled that 128K desktop Mac back in 1984.
The Apple Macintosh: Is this the computer you already know how to use? [Consumer Reports PDF, January 1985]