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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. Er, wow. Look at the spreads on that…1984 eh? Thats some pretty durable creative direction in there and out designs manuals made today. Robots cant do everything.

    Man those guys make the digital future so much more appealing.

  2. Ahh wonderful. My 128 (converted to a 512k-E later) is still working as is every 400k floppy I ever used with it. One day it’ll come out of the cupboard and have it’s own little shrine. That photo of the mac in a case on the bicycle brings back memories!

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

    Comments about PC’s are fine, but the PC comments could go away. #28, I’m looking at YOU.

    Intellectual diversity — the only kind that matters — isn’t usually visible in a picture.

  4. You guy’s and all the political correctness! Give me a break. I find it arrogant that anyone knows how difficult it is for women and minorities to purchase things twenty years 25 years ago. Also, Apple was really struggling financially. It also had a poor image to the buying public. I find it insulting for individuals to force privately owned organizations to advertise diversity images than to specific customers. That’s like selling Catholic bibles to Muslims. Besides, if diversity is more important than the actual message of the product, than what is the purpose of advertising, propaganda or honest information to help individuals make purchasing decisions.
    -E

  5. Mike, the creative direction is really solid…Tom Suiter and Clement Mok, not much more needs to be said. I think Clement was the AD the day Chapter Three spread was shot in our office at our office in the China Basin building in San Francisco.

  6. I was a member of the original Mac team (involved mostly with Inside Macintosh, but I also had a hand in the user doc), and after reading these messages I feel like a relic ;-). There was nothing deliberate about choosing only white males for the photos; it was a mistake that was corrected in the next printing. Steve Jobs was so careful about some things — for example, we could not refer to pizza in our examples because it was too “regional” — but not others. Don’t get me started…

  7. I never owned a 128K Mac, but my girlfriend’s brother used her academic discount to buy one for $1250, I think (1984 dollars, remember, for a machine with no hard drive and 1/8 of a Megabyte of memory!) The user interface was new and different, but what absolutely blew me away was seeing black letters on a white background, instead of evil, bilious green on black. Great memories, man; Thanks!

  8. If manuals today were this good at explaining stuff or more people read them then we’d lose all those incompetent user jokes! but seriously the quality of life would experience a sharp rise if we could see more stuff like this.

  9. I’m less concerned with Apple’s apparent lack of diversity in a 1980’s brochure (a time BEFORE political correctness was invented) and more disappointed with the largely narrow-minded, prejudiced and semi-racist tones of the PC-naysayers on this post. It’s not really about “PC” guys, it’s about being sensitive to the people around you and that “maybe” the world isn’t as “white” as you’d like it to be.

    And for your information, both females and minorities purchased Apples in the 80s much as they do today. Asking a company to recognize its customer base is not that big a deal. Frankly, the fact that Apple (and many American companies) still don’t get that is evident in their largely Caucasian marketing efforts. As if white people are the only race that buy things. But it’s clearly a reflection of the fact that narrow-minded intolerance and indifference is still alive and well in the USA, as you people have almost unanimously proven. Pathetic.

  10. that was intresting,did you note the way those blokes were smilling as they were using their macs.that all seemed very moderen at the time when i was in school computers were great big things with wheels on them and stuff and it took at least two men in white coats to work one,diddent do computer studies then as i never thought computers would come to mutch.

  11. Very nice indeed. You got me thinking that I should go and scoop up some manuals also. Are you on Flickr? It would be great if I can see these as a slideshow 🙂

    Cheers,
    See-ming

  12. Fantastic. My 10th grade English teacher had one in 1985/6 and carried it to/from school almost daily. We were in awe.

    Thanks for this.

  13. i had this exact macintosh, first family computer. we had a shit load of classic games on it. no internet, no numerical key pad, and an even older printer than which is shown here. but it was awesome. i remember reading this user manual. i laughed at the portability thing though, because even then, (i was a kid) the computer was too heavy to lift.

  14. Ah… the memories! A friend in college (thanks Piner!) gave me his Mac Plus that looks just like this so that I could do IRC on it. God forbid that I would be without IRC … hee hee (The MacPlus was definitely a step up from the Apple IIe that I started college with) I think I may even still have the MacPlus here in the house, complete with carrying case. I must look into that… Thanks for the nostalgia 🙂

  15. This manual was written by Carol Kaehler, whom I knew through her husband Ted Kaehler with whom I worked in Xerox PARC’s Smalltalk group.

    Carol & Ted & I eventually all ended up at Apple, working on Hypercard.

    Anyway — this manual is so strikingly simple & beautiful because Carol was on fire with the mission to make it so. The manual was seen as an essential part of the Macintosh product — not separate, but integral. The essence of purity & beauty was manifest in the machine and in the manual; both were just incarnations of that essence. How pure could we make it? How much white space? How few words? How simple? This is what Carol articulated and strove for.

    I later wrote Apple’s interface book, HyperCard Stack Design Guidelines, which used a book design derived from this. Still clean. Still a pleasure.

    rachel

  16. I have (and still use) a (upgraded to 512K)128K Mac, and a Full white document case with manuals, demo tape, decals for car, etc. It continues to define what computers are: 72dpi white screen, wysiwyg, OS with utilities included, network, plug n’ play, mouse. It was the ultimate sales tool when coupled with Thunderscan. And it worked, and Multiplan did not bomb, and no IRQ’s nor DMA’s, and you could really do something.

  17. The trash can in the overhead view of the desk is the same trash can sitting in the Dock today. That’s a great example of the persistence of the Apple design philosophy (or a fortuitous coincidence).

  18. I recognize the Stanford Quad in the Appendix photo!
    …maybe that’s where all the (male) models were recruited?

  19. I’d get all nostalgic, but then I remember that teeny, tiny little screen and compare it to my 22″ widescreen of today.

  20. This is awesome, I was 4 yrs old in 1984, my neighbour had a an old Mac similar to this one… I was fascinated by it. I’m a designer now, still digging the Mac, the benchmark of personal computers.

Comments are closed.

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  • Techy-Feely » links for 2007-09-01 March 17, 2008

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  • links for 2007-08-31 « Treat with Jermolene March 17, 2008

    […] 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 March 17, 2008

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

  • Ruminate » Blog Archive » The Beginning of Macintosh March 17, 2008

    […] […]