[SIGCIS-Members] First instructional videos for Macintosh?

James Sumner james.sumner at manchester.ac.uk
Wed Sep 10 00:45:51 PDT 2014

Great question. I'd endorse what Michael says here: there will not be 
much overlap between "new and incredible" language and "instructional 
videos supplied with the machine". Promoters focused their efforts very 
strongly on the potential consumer who hadn't taken the box home yet: 
producing video material to support existing users wasn't generally seen 
to be worth it till it could be treated as a routine exercise, ie, until 
computers were already widely familiar.

I'm mainly familiar with the British case, and there /could /be a 
difference here in that the VCR reached critical mass earlier in the US. 
No producer in Britain in the early 80s would have packaged a 
videocassette with the machine, because the typical user wouldn't have 
anything to play it on. An audio cassette would have been a possibility, 
but I'm not aware of any. The earliest machines were largely sold to 
technically capable enthusiasts (compare hi-fi or CB radio) and rarely 
had any documentation aimed at the general user. Probably the first 
affordable machine to seek a broader market over here was the Sinclair 
ZX81 of 1981: the package contained only the machine, its cables, a 
programming manual for the Basic language, and a software catalogue. The 
more powerful BBC Micro, launched the same year, came with a data 
cassette containing a series of introductory demo programs, guidance 
being provided on-screen and through minimal print documentation.

"New and incredible" was, however, certainly a major trope in promotion 
of computers in the 70s and early 80s -- but it came mainly through 
other sources such as TV commercials and print magazines, and also 
through broadcast documentaries and educational resources, including 
audio guides and film, which basically served to promote home computers 
by taking a line that said "new information technology is transforming 
our society; we'd better be prepared for it". Again a rather specific UK 
case, but the BBC Computer Literacy Project which endorsed the BBC Micro 
developed a whole range of TV, radio and adult education materials (see 
for instance <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtMWEiCdsfc>): it could be 
taken for granted by 1982 that the average newcomer to computing had had 
some exposure to this kind of material before going out and buying a 

Hope this helps

On 09/09/2014 16:37, Michael Newman wrote:
> Hi Luisa, in my research on home computers from the 1970s I haven't 
> found that the idea of personal computing was always represented as 
> something new and incredible. Computers were familiar to people (many 
> of whom had a negative impression of them as instruments of 
> institutional control) and it wasn't clear what needs a home computer 
> would satisfy. One persistent question in articles about home 
> computers in magazines like /Esquire/ was: what are you actually going 
> to do with it? A frequent answer was that you would use a computer to 
> learn how to use a computer. Probably the most common use for many 
> people who bought a computer for the home was playing games, which 
> wasn't so different from using something like an Atari VCS. In 
> advertisements for home computers on TV, you will find some of that 
> "new and incredible" tone -- they're selling a product, after all, 
> though what they're selling is as much a platform for games as it is a 
> computer for programming or other more "productive" uses. The "Atari 
> brings the computer age home" campaign would offer some nice examples 
> of this, and some (in poor quality) are on YouTube.
> michael z. newman zigzigger <http://zigzigger.blogspot.com/> | 
> @mznewman <http://twitter.com/mznewman>
> assoc prof, journalism, advertising, & media studies, uw-milwaukee
> On Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 10:28 PM, Luisa Emmi Beck <emmi.beck at gmail.com 
> <mailto:emmi.beck at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     Hi SIGCIS members,
>     I'm working on a radio story about the history of personal computing.
>     I would like to find instructional videos for the first Macintosh
>     or other personal computers. The goal is to give listeners a sense
>     for how new and incredible the idea of personal computing was in
>     the 1970s. Does anyone on this list know of where I could find
>     such videos? I haven't been able to find anything on YouTube but
>     I'm hoping to be able to track down a few instructional videos (or
>     at least the audio portion of the videos).
>     Thanks!
>     Luisa
>     (510) 856.7475 <tel:%28510%29%20856.7475>
>     http://luisabeck.com/
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