Watch the One-Minute Ad That Sparked a Revolution

Source: YouTube
Source: YouTube

In case you missed it, Wednesday was the anniversary of a revolution.

Imagine if 30 years ago (only a few years after Al Gore invented the Internet), someone had envisioned a future in which there would be a personal computer in every home. Well, the geniuses at Apple saw it coming, and their iconic "1984" ad was a milestone event in a revolution that would fundamentally change our generation.

Aired during Super Bowl XVIII (when the Los Angeles Raiders blew out the Washington Redskins 38-9), this legendary spot opens in a dystopian metropolis, where swarms of drone-like citizens march to the solemn intonations of a televised Big Brother. As they take their seats, a female athlete wielding a brass-headed hammer springs into the room, trailed by an army of helmeted police officers. Before they can stop her, she throws her hammer at the giant screen on which Big Brother is reciting his speech, resulting in an explosion that snaps the masses out of their spell while the narrator reads:

On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like "1984."

This clever reference to George Orwell's classic novel may go over the heads of Americans today, but the main implication resonates as clearly as ever. Indeed, it runs even deeper than what Steve Jobs intended. Although he explained in his speech unveiling the commercial that Big Brother was meant to symbolize how "it appears IBM wants it all," and "Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money." Jobs inadvertently unearthed a narrative far more resonant than the tale of one corporate giant's attempt to dethrone another.

Instead, he discovered how personal computers can turn every citizen into a creator — a disseminator of information, of creative media, of unconventional opinions. The PC revolution ushered in by the "1984" ad has smashed Big Brothers everywhere, whether the authoritarianism in question is manifested in a government concealing information about unethical programs, a production company controlling artistic works or simply the unchallenged consensus of "general public opinion."

In short, the "1984" spot didn't merely signal the rise of Apple as America's premiere computer company. It wasn't simply the most significant Super Bowl spot ever aired. Its release, and the first popular personal computer shortly thereafter, signaled the dawn of the modern digital age we all inhabit today.

Perhaps nothing better symbolizes that fact that without this era that we're living in, I would not have been able to write this article — and you wouldn't have been able to read it, or comment on it, or riff off of it to write your own.

Jobs unlocked the creativity of people with a personal computer. A device that most of us now carry wherever we go. And from the U.S. to the Ukraine, it's a symbol of our growing power.

On behalf of all of us, who are among the innumerable beneficiaries of the achievement prophesied 30 years ago today, I say thank you, Apple.

Now let's kick some ass.

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Matthew Rozsa

is a Ph.D. student in history at Lehigh University as well as a political columnist. His editorials have been published in "The Morning Call," "The Express-Times," "The Newark Star-Ledger," "The Baltimore Sun," and various college newspapers and blogs. I actively encourage people to reach out to me at matt.rozsa@gmail.com.

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