Macintosh, Orwell and 1984

Julio de la Yncera

Apple advertisement from 1984. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES, October 17 — Film director and producer Ridley Scott has among his creations such classic films as Alien, Gladiator, Blade Runner, Legend, Black Hawk Down, Hannibal (the sequel to Silence of the Lambs), etc. But less known is his creation of a particular television commercial.

The TV ad I’m referring aired in 1984. It was a commercial for the Apple Company when it introduced its new line of Macintosh computers. This was the first commercially available personal computer to use a mouse and a graphical interface, while based on ideas that originated in the laboratories of the Xerox Corporation in Palo Alto, California.

The commercial drew on the ideas of the book 1984 by British writer George Orwell, who also wrote Animal Farm. In 1984 Orwell described living in a despotic society controlled by an elite class and with an oligarchy in power.  It is a study that reflects life under a totalitarian state.

In the commercial we see a heroine who represents the arrival of the Macintosh computer, a device that saves humanity from conformity and submission to the absolute control of Big Brother.

This documentary is perhaps prophetic.  It was precisely the advent of personal computing technologies that enabled the further development of the Internet, which we have seen has led in part to the defeat of totalitarian systems around the world.

The Internet would have been impossible had it not been for individual computers serving as its nodal points.  Nor would it have been possible if that technology hadn’t been affordable for the majority of people.

Thanks to these new technologies, the ability of elites to control information is much more difficult. Today an individual in the most remote location on the planet can communicate their ideas through the Internet to millions of people any other place on the earth.  Thus computers have changed the balance in favor of the individual and individual freedoms.

Today, in our electronically connected world, it’s not as easy as in the past to remain isolated or to hide information. If a country wants to development economically – and not go back to the Middle Ages – it needs of all these new technologies.

But these technologies are incompatible with totalitarianism and compatible with democracy because they are the very essence of freedom.  If a totalitarian regime acquires freedom it is no longer totalitarian.

Totalitarian governments can exist when they control information, when they penalize the free exchange of information, when you suppress dissenting voices or uncomfortable voices that raise the right questions and present different options.

When a society closes itself to different ideas it’s on the path to self-destruction because there’s no change – and change is the key to development.

Totalitarian governments are based precisely on the control of information, on eliminating uncomfortable information that doesn’t suit them and information that discredits them. They ignore contrary opinions and do not allow the seed of different ideas to germinate.

It doesn’t matter if these different voices are right or wrong since the object of a totalitarian regime is to maintain the hold on power by that elite class that controls the country, a class that enjoys rights that other citizens in the society don’t have.

The elite set themselves up as the owners of absolute truth by prohibiting the existence of different voices. If it were indeed true that they possessed the absolute truth then they would be immune to making mistakes. But not surprisingly, they’re equal to the rest of us. They have the same chances of making mistakes as any of us mere mortals.

The Apple commercial ends with a voice saying: “On January 24, Apple will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”

Perhaps in 1984 the claim of the commercial seemed far-fetched to us. It has taken us a little longer to understand that they were right. In fact now the existence of totalitarian despotic societies as described in Orwell’s 1984 is very difficult. All thanks to personal computers and the Internet.

Thank you, Steve Jobs!

Rest in peace.



3 thoughts on “Macintosh, Orwell and 1984

  • What a load of “good vs evil” cliche-ed bunch of crap. Your ‘experience’ counts nothing as your naivety is abismal. I fully agree with Grady on this one.

  • Grady,

    I have something you do not have.

    I have experienced both systems for a very long time about half of my life in each of them. More than 20 years in each.
    I can tell you that the US has problems but they are nothing compare to the problems that Cuba face.
    What you see as totalitarianism here in the US I perceived in a very different light. Maybe you should go live a few years in Cuba as a Cuban (I think it should take you about 7 years to begin to really understand it). I am sure such an experience will totally change your perspective about the evils in the USA.

    Believe me you have not idea how great is the Freedom we enjoy here in the USA.

  • It’s eerie Julio to see a former Cuban like you going on and on about totalitarianism, knowing that you believe the US–your adopted country–is democratic. You live in the heart of the Evil Empire, a seething, mind-control tyranny and military butcher all over the world, especially against poor nations, and presume to point the accusative finger of totalitarianism at socialist Cuba.

    It’s eerie . . . and that’s not all.

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