Aldus delivered the first Macintosh Killer App
1985 was the year a small software company named Aldus launched a page layout application called PageMaker and Macintosh as a sustainable computer platform was assured. It’s hard to believe that the first Mac ‘Killer App’ was born thirty one years ago. Aldus and PageMaker are long gone, acquired by Adobe, the producer of the second most important ‘Killer App’ during the infant years of Macintosh, PhotoShop.
Without PageMaker, the entire concept of Desktop Publishing may never have developed. I hesitate to think what the landscape of personal computing would look like had the product failed to see the light of day. There is no doubt that PageMaker and the concept of in-house Desktop Publishing single handedly saved Apple from its original flirtation with “Doom and Gloom.”
PageMaker unlocked the potential of the graphic user interface. Prior to its introduction, Macintosh was seen as not much more than a “cute graphics toy.” Sure, black type on a white background was more natural. After all, no one thought text viewed on amber or green screens was visually appealing. But until PageMaker, and the subsequent introduction of Apple’s $7,000 LaserWriter, output on dot matrix printers was at best ugly. It certainly had no professional utility. WYSIWUG (What you see is what you get) was born!
Desktop Publishing became the avenue via which Macintosh computers found their way into corporate locations. The Postscript language made the visual quality of the PageMaker produced output compelling. It also led to an enterprising young executive getting his hands on an ignored Mac dirt cheap. That’s exactly what happened with me while I was the general manager of NV Philips U.S. Hearing Instruments division.
Sometime in 1988, someone in the advertising/marketing department of Philips Electronics purchased a Macintosh.SE, FDHD for nearly $4,000. Unfortunately for Philips (but great for me), the associate responsible for buying the Mac took a job with another company. That Mac sat on a shelf for more than eighteen months.
It seemed no one ever took the time to install the MacOS on the computer’s 40 MB hard drive. The MacOS was on a set of floppies. The disks were in a pocket inside the canvas Apple computer bag. Every time someone tried to start it up, nothing happened other than a blinking folder with a question mark. Since Philips used their own PCs as nodes on their FORTRAN system, that Mac was relegated to an inglorious fate until it was rescued by yours truly.
I had purchased a Macintosh IIci, along with a Personal LaserWriter to use at the hearing instruments division. One day, the CFO of Philips Electronics and I were discussing the Platform Wars between Apple and Microsoft. Out of the blue, he told me Philips Electronics had an Macintosh that no one knew how to use. He told me he thought it was defective and offered it to me for free. I maintained my cool in order to let him think I was just taking a hunk of junk off his hands.
I immediately took that computer and put it in the trunk of my car. That evening, I installed the software including MacWrite II and my own copies of PageMaker and PhotoShop. I used it for about six months. Ultimately, I took it out to Denver where it found a home in the office of my best friend’s Hearing Aid business. He would eventually upgrade it to a Mac SE/30. That became the first of many Macintosh computers I gifted to friends, family and other associates.
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