Steve Jobs knocked their socks off (if in fact “they" were wearing socks) when, as Megan Garber of the Atlantic writes:

Thirty years ago today, [he] did something he would go on to do many times over: He strode onto a stage and introduced the public to a product that would do its damnedest to dent the universe.

The product was, of course, the Mac which had been the star of a memorable television ad that appeared during the television broadcast of the super Bowl a couple of days earlier. The year was 1984 and the ad sold the notion that this little computer was more powerful than Big Brother. It was the technology of personal freedom and liberation.

George Orwell knew something about the possibility that technology might do that even as he was imagining his dystopia, 1984, and rule by Big Brother. In a 1945 essay about the atom bomb – new technology at the time – he wrote:

It is a commonplace that the history of civilization is largely the history of weapons. In particular, the connexion between the discovery of gunpowder and the overthrow of feudalism by the bourgeoisie has been pointed out over and over again. And though I have no doubt exceptions can be brought forward, I think the following rule would be found generally true: the ages in which the dominant weapon is expensive or difficult to make will tend to be ages of despotism, whereas when the dominant weapon is cheap and simple, the common people have a chance. Thus, for example, tanks, battleships and bombing planes are inherently tyrannical weapons, while rifles muskets, long bows and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons.

The Mac, undoubtedly, made a lot of people feel empowered.

Next Page