It’s the 25th anniversary of the Apple Macintosh, but Steve Jobs’ eyes are dry. At the company headquarters in Silicon Valley, where he was presenting a set of new laptops to the press last October, I mentioned the birthday to him. Jobs recoiled at any suggestion of nostalgia. “I don’t think about that,” he said. “When I got back here in 1997, I was looking for more room, and I found an archive of old Macs and other stuff. I said, ‘Get it away!’ and I shipped all that shit off to Stanford. If you look backward in this business, you’ll be crushed. You have to look forward.”
– Steven Levy, in “25 Years of Mac: From Boxy Beige to Silver Sleek” in Wired, 2008
Here’s one difference between Steve Jobs’ Apple and Tim Cook’s Apple: The company is not only acknowledging that today is the 30th anniversary of the announcement of the original Mac, but is celebrating it with a fun, lavish timeline and video.
Why the new willingness to get nostalgic? Psychoanalyzing a corporate entity is dangerous business, but for Jobs, looking back at the history of the Mac meant revisiting his own past efforts, in an unavoidably personal way that would spook someone so otherwise focused on the future. (It’s also possible that he had no particular desire to look back at his ouster and the 11 years of Apple history that happened while he was in exile.)
Now that he’s gone, the Macintosh’s past may feel less like yesterday’s news to the company, and more like history — something that doesn’t threaten the future and may, in fact, help inform it.
Even if you agree with the gist of Jobs’ sentiment, I think you’d have to be a churl to begrudge Apple this brief walk down memory lane. And I’m glad that it didn’t choose not to do this simply because Steve Jobs surely wouldn’t have.
Thirty Years of Mac [Apple.com]