Why Apple's Macintosh Super Bowl ad from 1984 is more relevant now than ever

Apple's 1984 Super Bowl commercial
(Image credit: iMore)

Back in January 1984, Apple was on the cusp of debuting its successor to both the Apple II and the Lisa - called the Macintosh. But it was a commercial during the Super Bowl that already convinced a bunch of its users to buy one, before it had even been shown in public.

As a break began during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII, a George Orwell-inspired ad showed a lady running through a futuristic citadel, all directed by Ridley Scott of Alien and Gladiator. She throws a sledgehammer at a screen, to the shock of its citizens, telling viewers to prepare for the Macintosh.

It was a huge success, and it's due to its ongoing regenerations that you can go to an Apple Store today and look to buy an iMac, a MacBook Pro, a Mac mini and more - they all originated from that day in January 1984.

However, you could argue that the messaging that the commercial gave, brings more relevance now than ever before, due to where Apple is going with the Mac for Apple Silicon chips and rumored plans to take more control over what's inside the iPhone in the coming years.

We shall prevail

The aim of Apple and advertising agency Chiat/Day, was to show a form of empowerment against IBM, as it was the company's biggest competition at the time, way before Microsoft brought out Windows 3.0 in 1990 which overtook both companies.

Fast-forward to 2023 and some users are saying Apple has become the very thing it had been rallying against for so long. This feels wrong to me. 

Take Apple TV Plus for example - original shows are abound here, such as Ted Lasso and Severance, and everyone's welcome to watch. You've got a breadth of choice here, and with the option of watching MLB and the MLS games as well, it's all there in one place.

Even with accessibility, while Microsoft and Google are making progress in their efforts, Apple is introducing features like hand gestures on an Apple Watch, so you can pinch and clasp your hand into a fist to navigate around the wearable without ever touching the screen.

It's inclusiveness for everyone, and it even applies to no layoffs, in an industry where plenty are reducing headcount by a significant amount.

However, the ad has also inspired others to make their own takes, such as Valve.

Flattering parodies still live on

Valve announced Half-Life 2 and Steam for macOS back in 2010, by parodying the commercial with Alyx Vance, a character from the games, taking the place of the unnamed woman. The commercial heralded the arrival of more games coming to Mac.

Fast forward to 2023, and Steam has been left to the wayside for Apple Silicon Macs, I hope that we see a return of the platform coming back to the Mac soon. Games such as Resident Evil Village have proven that these can shine on Apple's computers and be a real showcase for the M2 chip for example, instead of the demos of 2D puzzle games.

Regardless, Apple set the standard of how one commercial could be so relevant almost forty years on, and create different meanings for the company, and others like Valve who go against the norm, while trying to make everyone welcome in their own way.

Daryl Baxter
Features Editor

Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use everyday to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.

Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64 and Daily Star.