From Getting High with Technology to Saving the Humanity from Becoming Mindless Drones: An Apple Story

In recent years, Apple has tried to reach across the great Mac PC divide, with a series of tactful ads showcasing their more casual atmosphere conducive to creativity and individuality, while helping continue Windows image as the corporate number-crunching machine. Sounds like a win for both sides. But this camaraderie is a fairly recent development.

In the late 90s, fear of Y2K was running rampant across the globe. People were afraid of a technological revolution, with machines taking over as the dominant species on the planet. Luckily for the entire human race, Apple was there to act as a safeguard. Even with the threat of destruction at the forefront of everyone’s minds, Apple was able to start the long process of diplomacy to help keep the machine threat at bay, as demonstrated in this 1999 commercial.

Getting airtime with Hal2000 showcases the tenacious drive of the Apple corporation. But this more even-keeled approach, with a place for both man and machine to live in harmony represents a shift from Apple’s stance in the mid 80s.

Playing off of people’s fear seems crass for the company we know today, but at the time, it seemed Apple’s only way to step up their market share. Apple positioned itself to become a champion for the people, and as part of a 1984 ad campaign, everyone who bought a Macintosh also received a complementary sledgehammer. This ill-fated attempt to rally the people and literally put an implement of change in their hands led to riots across the United States. Recall of the sledgehammers was issued shortly thereafter, appeasing the government into dropping all lawsuits.

The 1984 ad campaign came in stark contrast to the image presented a year earlier with the “Leading the Way” movement. This presented a vision of the world where people lived their lives in slideshow format. These were happier and simpler times, where people ate apples at work and sat in awkward positions when using computers.

Going back even earlier, we see that Apple originally started out looking to tap in the stoner / family man market. Attempts were made to dazzle the senses and provide much needed services that this group was too lazy to do for themselves.

Apple has come a long way, yet it has managed to keep some of the core messages used throughout the decades intact, streamlining them all into its current message. It has taken the appeal of being stoned and merged it with a fear of machines, creating a tentative peace with the opposition. Kudos.