40 Years of Mac: A Salute to Mr. Macintosh

The Apple Macintosh was first released on January 24, 1984 — 40 years ago today. Wishing the Mac a happy birthday, the Folon Foundation shared a little-known anecdote: That Steve Jobs once commissioned Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon to come up with an illustrated character that would “live” in every machine and surprise the owner: Mr. Macintosh, aka Mac Man. Mac designer Andy Hertzfeld recalled hearing the idea from Steve Jobs in 1982 in these words:“Mr. Macintosh is a mysterious little man who lives inside each Macintosh. My personal favorite: This original Mac Mac circuit board with Folon’s Mac Man emblazoned next to its copyright notice.

The Apple Macintosh changed the world of computing when it was first released on January 24, 1984 – 40 years ago today. To celebrate this milestone, the Folon Foundation shared an interesting anecdote about the early days of the Mac.

<img src="macintosh.jpg” alt=”The original Apple Macintosh”>
The original Apple Macintosh released in 1984.

According to the foundation, Steve Jobs had a vision for the Mac to have a playful and mysterious character living inside each machine. He wanted this character, known as Mr. Macintosh or Mac Man, to surprise and delight the owner. Jobs commissioned Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon to bring this idea to life.

Hertzfeld recalled hearing about the idea from Jobs in 1982:
“Mr. Macintosh is a mysterious little man who lives inside each Macintosh. He pops up every once in a while, when you least expect it, and then winks at you and disappears again. It will be so quick that you won’t be sure if you saw him or not. We’ll plant references in the manuals to the legend of Mr. Macintosh, and no one will know if he’s real or not.”

Folon didn’t actually enter the picture until a few months later, according to Hertzfeld. He writes, “The software team was swamped with more essential work, so we deferred implementing Mr. Macintosh for a while.” But after meeting Folon and seeing his artwork, Jobs believed he was the perfect fit for the project.

Despite Folon’s fascination with the Mac and multiple visits to the Cupertino headquarters, the project was eventually put on hold due to constraints such as limited ROM, disk space, and development time. However, this early collaboration between Jobs and Folon has left behind some highly desirable collectibles.

Apple buttons with Folon's artwork
Apple buttons with Folon’s artwork.

Apple created buttons featuring Folon’s drawings and gave them away at trade shows. A Mac poster with his artwork also exists, as well as a rare auctioned letter showing Jobs and Folon’s friendly relationship.

But perhaps the most coveted item is an original Mac circuit board featuring Folon’s Mac Man next to the copyright notice. These items are not easy to come by, but you can still take a trip through Mac history by exploring the links and images.

As we celebrate the Mac’s 40th birthday, let’s remember the influential people, like Folon, who helped bring this revolutionary computer to life.

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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