Make Canoe my Homepage

Apple’s famous 1984 Super Bowl commercial aired 30 years ago today

- January 22nd, 2014

 

Super Bowl Sunday XVIII was thirty years ago today. And for football fans it will be remembered as the day the AFC’s Los Angeles Raiders lambasted the NFC’s Washington Redskins by a score of 38-9 in front of a massive crowd of 70,000+ at Tampa Stadium. For gadget geeks like me it was the day that Apple formally launched their iconic Super Bowl commercial “1984″.

It was not just a commercial but also a masterpiece, the likes of which had never been seen before. It was like taking a page out of George Orwell’s 1949 novel Nineteen Eight-Four in a time and place ruled by “Big Brother”.  Conceived by agency Chiat/Day, it was directed by Hollywood film producer Ridley Scott and not surprising, it also had a feel of Blade Runner, Scott’s blockbuster released two years earlier.

If you haven’t seen it, it features an athletic nondescript heroine wearing red shorts and a white tank top emblazoned with a Picasso-styled image of a Mac. She was carrying a sledgehammer running down the aisle through a crowd of conformists as a televised “Big Brother” was speaking. As she drew nearer to the screen, she spun around several times before letting the massive sledgehammer fly and sending it crashing into the screen. She symbolized saving humanity, just as Big Brother announces, “we shall prevail”.

As the commercial came to a close a scrolling text accompanied a confident voice-over.

“On January 24, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984’.”

I’ve probably watched the commercial 100 times, and each time I do a little more digging as there are so many stories, misinformation and much controversy surrounding the ad and its creation.

According to Wikipedia, the heroine was actually an athlete and actress named Anya Major, a mere teen at the time. It turns out that in 1983 when Apple’s advertising agency Chiat/Day put out a casting call in London, Major was more or less a shoe-in. Not only could the other candidates not swing and throw the hammer, most of them could barely even hold it. It looks like Major’s experience as a discus thrower came in handy.

Big Brother’s voice as it turns out, is played by David Graham, an English character and voice actor who is known for his voice characterizations in the 1960s for the Thunderbirds and Dr. Who.

Earlier, when I made reference to “formally introduced” it’s because it wasn’t the first time the commercial had aired.   It actually aired the previous month, in December, so it could be eligible for awards and recognition for 1983. The agency decided it would air it once late at night in a small town, so it wouldn’t lose the impact of a Super Bowl debut. This was long before the Internet (or more appropriately the World Wide Web) and today’s technology, where nothing can really hide.

When did the ad really first air?

Here too is another twist, the commercial’s first true airdate. It’s accepted that the commercial aired one-time late at night on Channel 11 KMVT in Twin Falls, Idaho, but doing a search you’ll see reference to two different dates and times – December 15th, 1983 at 1:00AM and just prior to midnight, December 31st 1983.

So which do you think it is?

In January 2009, MagicValley, the website for the Twin Fall Times-News ran a story indicating, “The ad first ran on Twin Falls’ KMVT-TV at 1 a.m. on Dec. 15, 1983, in order to qualify for advertising awards given in 1984.”

More recently, on Mental Floss.com in How Apple’s ’1984′ Ad Was Almost Canceled, they quoted Andy Hetzfeld’s recollection via Folklore.org with the same date and time, but then crossed it out with an editor’s note.  Fortunately, Tom Frank, the station’s operator who actually ran the ad, wrote in, which spawned another story – The True Story of Apple’s “1984″ Ad’s First Broadcast…Before the Super Bowl.

Frank indicated that he was given strict instructions to ensure it was aired it at the last possible break before midnight Sat. Dec 31, 1983 and confirms it aired correctly. Puzzle solved, I guess. Imagine if something had gone wrong and it had not aired. Hate to think what would have happened.

1984 in 2004

Fast forward two decades and the ad was slightly modified and rebroadcast in 2004 for the 20th anniversary of the Macintosh. It was also shown during Steve Jobs’ keynote at MacWorld Expo that year. The only difference is that Anya Major is wearing a set of white Apple earbuds.

There’s no debate that the Official Macintosh launch was January 24, 1984.  So on January 24th, 2014, I’ll have to say, “Happy 30th, Macintosh!”

==============================================

Greg Gazin is the Real Canadian Gadget Guy.

Follow me on Twitter @gadgetgreg or Empire Avenue (e)GADGET1.

==============================================

 

"Apple's famous 1984 Super Bowl commercial aired 30 years ago today", out of 5 based on 3 ratings.
Subscribe to the post

2 comments

  1. John | January 26, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Nice little article, but if you’re going to claim yourself as the Real Canadian Gadget Guy and a “geek”, then you really should be more aware that the Internet was alive and well by 1984, going on 20 years old itself. Methinks you mean the World Wide Web was not invented by 1984.

  2. Greg Gazin | January 27, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Good catch, John. Thanks That’s exactly what I meant, the Internet as it is commercially today. I was thinking mid 1990′s and beyond.

Leave a comment

 characters available