The Mac's graphical user interface (GUI) was actually developed by Xerox and introduced on its Star workstation in 1981. Apple borrowed heavily from the Star, and subsequently, others copied the Mac, moving the GUI down the line to Windows, OS/2, Unix and Linux.
The Mac interface was immediately popular with non-technical people. Instead of typing in a command to delete a file as in DOS, they could drag its on-screen icon to a trashcan. Although common today, it was a breakthrough on a personal computer in the 1980s.
The Mac also used consistent menus, and Apple's guidelines for application design were generally followed by developers. In operation, the operating system was practically hidden compared to DOS, and Apple kept technical jargon to a minimum. See Macintosh
and Macintosh models
MacPaint on the First Macintosh
The Mac's graphical ability made it a natural for design and desktop publishing. Although rather slow, it was more affordable than the workstations used for such purposes in the 1980s. (Image courtesy of Apple Inc.)
Today's Mac Desktop
Far more sophisticated than the first Mac in 1984, as with any computer, the larger the monitor, the more windows can be displayed side-by-side on screen.
Why Didn't the Mac Overtake the PC?
The Mac came out in 1984, three years after the DOS-based PC. Although its graphical interface was simple to use, and it eliminated the technical quagmire DOS users faced when adding a new device to their PCs, there were several reasons why the PC remained the predominant platform.
DOS Was Faster
DOS PCs were much faster. It takes much more CPU power to display graphics than text, and the early Macintosh hardware was underpowered.
Too Much Emphasis on the Mouse
The command languages that could automate myriad tasks in DOS were absent in the first Macintosh, which was very unappealing to the technical staff. In addition, Apple overemphasized the mouse and gave almost no attention to keyboard commands; hardly a way to gain acceptance in the business world where keyboard-intensive word processing was the largest application at the time. Even today, more than three decades later, mouse clicking is still required to complete many actions where pressing one or two keys would be faster and more logical.
However, Mac applications were eventually enhanced, and speed was dramatically increased, but the DOS world was too entrenched by the time those improvements came. Windows 3.0, which offered a graphical interface with many of the Mac's advantages, ran as an extension to DOS and was its natural successor. Windows 95 added more features, and by that time, the world was buying Windows.
Macs Cost More
The Mac was always much more costly than a PC, which purchasing agents found hard to justify. Although some employees brought their own Mac laptops to work, the company's technical personnel were not fond of supporting them. They sweated bullets dealing with DOS and Windows, and one more platform was not met with enthusiasm.
Unlike the PC, which is open architecture, the Mac is proprietary. Except for one brief period, there are no Macs made by other than Apple (see Macintosh clone
). Apple maintains its sole source status while the PC industry includes thousands of retail outlets that build PCs from scratch, let alone tens of thousands of individuals. There is no equivalent in the Mac world.
The Mac has been used sporadically in the corporate world but more so as a personal computer at home. It is however the de facto standard in the graphics arts industry. As of 2020, the Mac has approximately a 9% market share worldwide.