Apple Launch Mac in 1984

Apple’s launch of the Macintosh computer is associated with one of the greatest television commercials of the twentieth century: “1984”. The camera opens on a corridor in a futuristic city. Heavily dressed males march in unison past surveillance cameras and computer screens. A blonde athlete, wearing red shorts and a white Apple Picasso t-shirt, runs towards us carrying a hammer. We now see that the men all have shaven heads. One wears a gas mask. Riot police run towards us, batons in hands.

Women runs with hammer in Apple 1984 TV Ad

We’ve been hearing a male voice coming through the public address system. And now we see Big Brother’s face – with two sets of glasses – on a huge wall-sized screen. “For today we celebrate the first, glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directive! We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology, where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths.”

“Our Unification of Thought is a more powerful weapon than any fleet or army on Earth! We are one people. With one will. One resolve. One cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death. And we will bury them with their own confusion!”

The athlete runs into the auditorium, pursued by the security troops. She swings the hammer round and round, releasing it to go flying into the screen. “We shall prevail!” The screen explodes. The seated skinheads mutely gaze at the explosion, mouths agape. The text is displayed and spoken, “On January 24th Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like “1984.” The ad finishes with the six-color Apple logo.

Click on the image below to play the video.


The 60 second advertisement was created in a collaborative effort between Apple and TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles team which included creative director Lee Clow, art director Brent Thomas (now commercial director for Green Dot Films), copywriter Steve Hayden (now president of worldwide brand services at Ogilvy & Mather), and agency producer Richard O’Neill.

Filming was shot by director Ridley Scott via RSA Films with producer Nadia Owen, director of photography Adrian Biddle and set designer Mike Seymour.

Ridley Scott started filming With a budget of $900,000 he started filming in London’s Shepperton Studios. Local skinheads and actors were recruited in London. Anya Major, a local model and athlete with experience in discus, was taken on as the hammer thrower.

Editing was done by Pamela Power via The Film Editors, London.

Click on the image below to play the behind the scenes video.

Screening in 1983 and 1984

Contrary to common belief, ‘1984’ was shown more than once.

In October, 1983, the commercial was aired publicly for the first time to 750 delegates at Apple’s annual sales conference in Honolulu’s civic auditorium. The ad then ran in the 1 A.M. sign-off slot for KMVT, Channel 11 in Twin Falls, Idaho, so that it would qualify for the advertising awards for that year.

On January 17, 1984 the 30-second version of the commercial started weeks of airing in ScreenVision, an advertising medium played in movie theaters before previews and feature presentations.

On January 22, 1984, ‘1984’ was shown on television early in the third quarter of the Super Bowl XVIII. The ad then ran in the top ten television markets and in movie theatres.

There was some tension around the airing of the ad in the Super Bowl. Members of the Apple Board did not like it. The ad was too dark and didn’t even show the product. As a compromise the thirty second slot at the Super Bowl was sold to another advertiser but the sixty second ad went ahead.


IBM was about to launch the new PCjr computer for the home market. The Apple Macintosh would be launched later in the month, surpassing the Apple ][. This ‘teaser’ was designed to alert viewers to the new era in personal computers, long enough to stop them from investing in the IBM. The whole advertisement represented the capacity for the Apple color screen to outdo the monotone world of the IBM.

The 1984 theme comes from George Orwell’s novel, “1984”, originally written as an critique of Fascist government in the years after World War II. Orwell introduced the phrases, “Big Brother”, “thought police”, “two minutes hate” and “newspeak” and “telescreen”. The voice from the telescreen in the novel is expressed faithfully in the Apple ad. Apple, by providing an alternative operating system, was challenging IBM’s monopoly on the development of personal computers.

Where to view Apple 1984 online

Apple put the 1984 Ad on their web site to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Macintosh launch but have since taken it down.

Curt’s Media includes an excerpt Owen Linzmayer’s book, “The Mac Bathroom Reader” providing excellent behind-the-scenes material on ‘1984’.

Adaptations and Spoofs

For their 20 year anniversary, Apple digitally added an iPod to Anya Major, the actress who throws the hammer in the famous 1984 ad. Click on the image below to play the video.

The Royal We provide a satirical version of the ad, featuring iBrother, iPod wearing masses and soldiers, and a male hammer thrower. “In 2004, Apple Computer sold 8.2 million iPods. Remember 1984, when we said we wouldn’t be like “1984”? Whatever”

Click on the image below to play the video.

Sleepless Knights, a multimedia production company, provide another spoof in which the runner throws an i4, a ‘super iBrator’, at Big Brother Bill Gates.

Click on the image below to play the video.