40 years ago, this ad changed the Super Bowl forever

An oral history of Apple’s groundbreaking '1984' spot, which helped to establish the Super Bowl as TV’s biggest commercial showcase


Four decades ago, the Super Bowl became the Super Bowl.

It wasn’t because of anything that happened in the game itself: On Jan. 22, 1984, the Los Angeles Raiders defeated Washington 38-9 in Super Bowl XVIII, a contest that was mostly over before halftime. But during the broadcast on CBS, a 60-second commercial loosely inspired by a famous George Orwell novel shook up the advertising and the technology sectors without ever showing the product it promoted. Conceived by the Chiat/Day ad agency and directed by Ridley Scott, then fresh off making the seminal science-fiction noir “Blade Runner,” the Apple commercial “1984,” which was intended to introduce the new Macintosh computer, would become one of the most acclaimed commercials ever made. It also helped to kick off — pun partially intended — the Super Bowl tradition of the big game serving as an annual showcase for gilt-edged ads from Fortune 500 companies. It all began with the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’s desire to take the battle with the company’s rivals to a splashy television broadcast he knew nothing about.

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