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Thoughts on (and pics of) the original Macintosh User Manual

I recently purchased an original Macintosh User Manual (thanks eBay!). I had seen one at a garage sale, and was struck by how it had to explain a total paradigm shift in interacting with computers. I figured I could learn something about helping make innovation happen.

It’s been an intriguing read. It’s a remarkably handsome manual, beautifully typeset, which, considering par for the course at the time was probably Courier with few illustrations, is saying something.

Also, even back in 1984, there was no definite article. You get phrases like “With Macintosh, you’re in charge.” No “the”s or “a”s.

One of the more striking things was how every
Chapter is introduced with a full-color photo of Macintosh being used. Here they are (click on them to see bigger sizes):

Macintosh User Manual - <br />Chapter 1″ /><br />Chapter 1</a></p>
<p><a href=Macintosh User Manual - <br />Chapter 2″ /><br />Chapter 2</a></p>
<p><a href=Macintosh User Manual - <br />Chapter 3″ /><br />Chapter 3</a></p>
<p><a href=Macintosh User Manual - <br />Chapter 4″ /><br />Chapter 4</a></p>
<p><a href=Macintosh User Manual - <br />Chapter 5″ /><br />Chapter 5</a></p>
<p><a href=Macintosh User Manual - <br />Chapter 6″ /><br />Chapter 6</a></p>
<p><a href=Macintosh User Manual - Appendices
Appendices

The first thing I appreciated was how Macintosh is set within somewhat normal (and quite varied) contexts of use.

Then I noticed that, with the exception of
Chapter 5, every photo shows a preppy white male using the computer. Women and people of color need not apply! (The dude in
Chapter 4 even has a *sweater* around his shoulders!!!)

And
Chapter 5 exudes preppiness with the glass brick backdrop.

Also, why is the keyboard in
Chapter 3 positioned like that? Why on earth was it posed that way?

Anyway.

The thing you’ll notice in
Chapter 6 (and maybe you saw it in the Appendix) was the infamous Mac carrying case. There’s a page about it, which I photographed:

Macintosh User Manual - Carrying Case
Carrying Case – On The Go!

The introduction of the manual greets you with this image:

Macintosh User Manual - Introduction
Introduction

Dig that reflection! Apple returned to the reflection as a visual element a few years ago…

Some of the best stuff, of course, is explaining how the thing works.

Macintosh User Manual - Clicking
Clicking and Dragging (pretty straightforward)

My favorite is scrolling. I can imagine the discussion: “Well, it’s called a scroll bar… I know, let’s use a drawing of a scroll!” Yes. Because people in the mid-80s were all about scrolls…
Macintosh User Manual - Scrolling

And, hey, Where Does Your Information Go?

Macintosh User Manual - Saving
You’ll probably want to click for details

Oh! That’s where that metaphor comes from…

Macintosh User Manual - Desktop

And perhaps the strangest sentence: “The Finder is like a central hallway in the Macintosh house.”

Macintosh User Manual - Finder Rooms

(And the disk is a… guest? Someone looking for the bathroom?

It’s been surprisingly delightful flipping through this little bit of computer history. The pace, and deliberateness, with which the system and its interface are explained are quite impressive.

108 Comments

  1. Still have my first Mac the original 128 complete with 2nd floppy drive, Image write, Mac Paint, Write, Macsessories, boxes, manuals and invoice. Unfortunately the screen does not light up, but you can hear it boot up. Hope there is still someone that can fix the old monitor.

  2. awesome find. brings back memories. our family bought a 128K Mac in 1984 (from Macy’s at Stanford Shopping Center no less) and these pictures bring back memories. 3 grand just to use MacPaint!

  3. Apple still uses its product names as proper names. It’s not “using an iPod,” it’s “using iPod,” or “using Macintosh,” or “making calls with iPhone.” That’s a deliberate marketing vocabulary choice.

  4. “…perhaps the strangest sentence: ‘The Finder is like a central hallway in the Macintosh house.'” Ah yes — the concept there is that in the days before multitasking, when you could only run one program at a time, quitting one program always returned you to the finder, from which you could then start the next program – eg, MacWrite -> Finder -> Multiplan -> Finder -> Dark Castle and so on. The Finder was where you had to go on your way to anywhere else, at least until Macs got more RAM (I maxed out my Mac Plus with 4MB!) and stuff like Switcher, Multifinder and DiskTop came along.

  5. Not every owners manual needs to have a Noah’s ark of every shape and color of every ‘race’ in existence. The fact that 5 Caucasians are depicted probably just means that it was a sixth caucasian wno put the manual together. Six white people, (gasp!) oh, what are the odds?

  6. One of the things I find so interesting about many early ‘setup’ shots for Macintosh is the assumption that the mouse would be used, roughly half the time, by the left hand. I can’t recall if the cut-copy-undo shortcuts were defined for the first iteration of the mac (I came along ~sys v3), but if they were, it seems oddly counter-intuitive. Our fundamental assumptions about what constitutes ‘computer literacy’ have certainly changed a lot since the mid-eighties.

  7. I see it more like a foreshadowing because that’s how much it can be now a days. Apple was always a bit ahead of the curve, I’m glad I have one. PC get luvs too. 🙂

  8. I see the placement of the keyboard in the photo for chapter 3 as completely natural! To me, the guy using the mouse is visiting the “lady of colour” who works at the desk and she’s swivelled the screen around slightly to him and passed him the mouse.

    When I look at the orientation (and placement) of the architectural drawings and equipment placed on the desk, I just get that feeling!

  9. “The Finder is like a central hallway in the Macintosh house” – maybe that sentence inspired Microsoft BOB!

  10. You gotta love the 80s hair and clothing styles. Especially those skinny ties!

    The original Mac and carrying case is slightly smaller than the rolling suitcases that people attempt to bring on airplanes as carry-on luggage these days.

    Apple was using definite articles when referring to “The Apple IIc”, as seen in Chris Casciano’s flickr photoset.

  11. I still have my original 128K manual. I love that it details concepts like what is a mouse and how to use it. Manuals today expect a certain level of understanding that doesn’t always exist, resulting is users who are made to feel dumb.

    An interesting tidbit about this manual: If you look at the screenshots, whenever the letter ‘a’ appears in the standard Geneva font, it’s a single-story ‘a’ (circle with line on the right). In the actual computer, even the first shipping 128K macs, Geneva has a double-story ‘a’. The typeface was changed between when the manual and the operating system went final.

  12. Wow, absolutely fantastic! Especially the carrying case, I had no idea such a thing existed!
    I am a bit disappointed, though, that even Steve didn’t realize at the time that computers were for women, too!

  13. A subtle dig at IBM in the chapter 4 image: in the background on the left is an IBM Selectric under a cover… Perhaps because it is gathering dust?

  14. Actually, I know a few people for which such documentation on what a computer GUI means would be very helpful: what scrolling is, where the files are going, etc.

  15. This is so cool. I want to switch badly from a PC to a Mac. I just need the money though. That is a sweet manual. Apple has always been a leg up on the competition over the years. Even on it’s manuals.

  16. Chapter 5 shows an onscreen date of 1/19/84…

    Any significance?

  17. I was an undergrad at Carnegie Mellon from 1982 to 1986. The IBM PC (and PC XT!) were advertised in the school newspaper.

    CMU was in the process of installing a Campus Computer Store (one of the first in the country!) and was an Apple Consortium member. I walked into the office that was the makeshift “computer store” solely to pick up the price list for the IBM PCs (the clacky keyboard was a big draw, and ironically eventually led to RSI).

    The only reason I didn’t buy a PC on the spot was because I was in the process of selling a TRS-80 (Model 1), along with its Expansion Interface and GOBS (48K) of RAM and Level II BASIC in ROMS. And a whole boatload of software. And a printer.

    I totally lucked out and sold it for $1800 to someone in 1983.

    Anyway, I got the PC price list and turned around to leave. Right next to door, there sat some tiny computer with an Apple rainbow logo on it. I saw the mouse, I saw the bitmap display. I saw MacPaint! I was sold.

    If it hadn’t taken me as long as it did to sell that TRS-80, I would have ended up with a PC instead of a Mac. I got my Mac on Feb 7, 1984. Haven’t owned a PC….EVER.

  18. Heh – what a Mac lovefest … just testing to see if writing a comment on a PC will make me spontaneously burst into flames! 😉

  19. hey guys, dont be hatin on this here mac.
    i’m in grade 11 now, but i DEFINITELY remember how fun math circus was on those macs i used in 3. they were freakin sweet. i’m actually tryin to get my hands on one of those antiques! any ideas?

  20. [@John I Clark, @Marc] The 80s version of the Macintosh Guided Tour (indeed accompanied by an audiocassette, as mentioned elsewhere in the comments) was a custom application.

    The 90s version, called Macintosh Basics and which I remember fondly from my shiny new PowerBook 520c, was a Director presentation (compiled into a standalone app) rather than a HyperStack.

  21. Let’s put the diversity issue to rest; how many women bought the 1984 Mac? I am guessing zero.

  22. I agree with cocobende. It’s such a paradigm shift, like trying to explain modern medicine to a Roman doctor. As a child I remember playing with my parents’ the TRS-80, an ORIC, and then coming across a Mac. I couldn’t understand it as there was nowhere to type code (BASIC, etc). And I, as a child, didn’t get the paradigm shift (but all this was unsupervised comp tinkering).

  23. on the go…

    i did carry an se30 in a backpack like that… ouch!
    (fortunately it was pre homeland security check points at the airports… imagine… “can you please turn your computer on?”)

    lookm carefully… i bet the pack was empty when they shot the model for the manual!
    (his left shoulder would have been a few inches lower…)

    henry

  24. Re: Scroll explanation: I wish more write-ups would explain the etymology of the terminology. I find it really useful to know why something is named the way it is – it tends to shed light on its purpose and/or history.

  25. “Then I noticed that, with the exception of chapter 5, every photo shows a preppy white male using the computer. Women and people of color need not apply!”

    That’s because women and minorities couldn’t afford computers back in the 1980s.

  26. I just purchased MacBook Pro and it did not come with a manual (!) so I went looking for one on the internet.

    Upon finding your web page via a cool new social network called Prodigy, and after a few minutes of printing the manual to Macintosh on my Guttenberg mimeographical printing machine, I dare say that I do not think this manual is current with today’s line of Apple computational devices.

    Nevertheless, the manual posted here on your site did help me understand a bit more about using a “mouse” and using “Finder” and what a “disk” is.

    And bleached preppy hair.

  27. A scroll is a great metaphor and that’s where scrollbar comes from. It’s a great way of thinking about a permanent object that disappears on the screen.

  28. Is there any possibility to download it in pdf? I am crazy about it…

Comments are closed.

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    […] peterme.com :: Thoughts on (and pics of) the original Macintosh User Manual Wow – even then: style is everything. (tags: Culture History Apple manual macintosh design InformationDesign photos lang:en Illustration technology) […]

  • » Original Macintosh manual from 1984 September 4, 2007

    […] If you’re new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!I came across this article just now. Someone has bought an original 1984 Macintosh instruction manual on ebay. […]

  • RTFM « Mac-A-Doodle September 4, 2007

    […] I believe I once actually had a manual for the first Mac, but of course it’s been filed away in the Twilight Zone. If you’d like a chance to see how user’s manuals for the first Macintosh looked like (yes, Virginia, there were paper instruction books back in the day, made of real paper), check out this Flickr album from a guy named Peter Merholz, who found an original manual in a garage sale somewhere. He blogs about it here. […]

  • Original Macintosh User Manual with Pictures. on El Blog Geek September 4, 2007

    […] Thoughts on (and pics of) the original Macintosh User Manual… One of the more striking things was how every chapter is introduced with a full-color photo of Macintosh being used. Here they are (click on them to see bigger sizes)…read more | digg story Links: Trackback link Permalink RSS for comments Del.icio.us Digg Technorati […]

  • Techy-Feely » links for 2007-09-01 September 4, 2007

    […] peterme.com :: Thoughts on (and pics of) the original Macintosh User Manual Love these images of the original Mac manual. I imagine trying to explain these brand new terms..like mouse and scroll bar. Fun. And, I had one of those carrying cases they show for my Mac SE!! (tags: 1984 mac apple history manual macintosh documentation) […]

  • links for 2007-08-31 « Treat with Jermolene September 4, 2007

    […] peterme.com :: Thoughts on (and pics of) the original Macintosh User Manual Oooh, this brings back memories; I had one of the first 128K Macs, and was mesmerised by the way that Apple blithely repositioned computers as a preppy fashion accessory (tags: apple macintosh documentation ui userinterface history) Posted by jermolene Filed in Uncategorized […]

  • links for 2007-08-30 : Christopher Schmitt September 4, 2007

    […] The Original Macintosh User Manual (tags: apple history macintosh marketing book manual mac) […]

  • Ruminate » Blog Archive » The Beginning of Macintosh September 4, 2007

    […] […]