Of all of the things that came out in 1984 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spinal Tap, The Karate Kid, Transformers and the first John Hughes film, among others – an iPhone (or more appropriately – a Macintosh Phone) was not one of them.
However, 1984 was also the year that Apple ran their iconic 1984 Apple Macintosh commercial which was directed by filmmaker Ridley Scott and aired nationally on television only once – during the third quarter of the 1984 Super Bowl football game.
Based closely on George Orwell’s novel of the same name, the commercial subtly compared a bleak and monotone future controlled by a “Big Brother” presence – such as IBM’s Personal Computer – to a more colorful and inspirational option that was the Macintosh:
While the Macintosh computer would later become a top-selling computer as well as an icon for the future of computing and content creation, what would have happened if Apple had turned their focus towards making a product that would later make them the most valuable company in the world … what if they had turned their focus towards making their very first Macintosh into a phone?
This is the exact question that industrial designer Pierre Cerveau asked himself one day – and to answer it, he set about reimagining Apple’s flagship product into what he is calling the “Macintosh Phone Concept”.
With a striking resemblance to the original Macintosh, the Macintosh Phone features a hybrid rotary/click wheel that can both be used to dial numbers or scroll through menu options on the tiny CRT display. While TouchTone phones existed during this time, the decision to use a rotary wheel is a clever take on interacting with the device – similar to the rotary digital crown on the new Apple Watch that is used to quickly scroll through menus and contacts. As for switching between the two functions on the Macintosh Phone, an included switch enables the user to switch between dialing mode or scrolling.
With the goal of including as many original Macintosh design elements as possible into the Macintosh Phone, Cerveau even sculpted the back casing to mimic the back fan vents of the original Macintosh – however the number of ports have clearly been reduced!
Would the Macintosh Phone have been as big of a hit as the iPhone was when it was it was released over a decade later? Who knows – at least this is fun to look at.