It’s MARCHintosh! The month of March when the vintage computing community shares projects, creations and other content related to the Macintosh, in the vein of DOScember and SEPTandy. It’s almost halfway through March 2023, and due to my increasingly busy work schedule, I don’t believe I’ll get to do a project of my own. However, back in 2022 I did do a small #MARCHintosh project on Twitter, documenting the brief history of the Mac in Yugoslavia, primarily through the lens of its appearance in the (then still nascent) Yugoslav computing magazines. Enjoy!
This mini project started when I found out that the first Macintosh commercials (other than the Super Bowl one) were first aired during 1984 Sarajevo Olympics coverage. I don’t have any actual examples of this, though it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a recording of ABC’s 1984 Olympics coverage. The first lead for this came from Steve Jobs’s Apple Macintosh premiere with the Mac team, at the Boston Computer Society General Meeting, on January 30, 1984. Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh, followed by a panel including Steve Capps, Andy Hertzfeld, Randy Wigginton, Bill Atkinson, Bruce Horn, Burrell Smith, Owen Densmore, and Rony Sebok. Steve Jobs doesn’t explicitly call out Sarajevo, but after showing one of the commercials, he says:
“So if you watch the winter Olympics, you’ll be seeing those about two or three times a night”
Unsurprisingly it took quite a long time for the Macintosh to make its way to Yugoslavia, aside from TV commercials during the Sarajevo Olympics. When the Mac was released in Jan 1984, Yugoslavs were still unable to directly purchase even the cheapest Western micros like the ZX Spectrum! The same month the Macintosh was released, Yugoslavs went to the newsstands to buy Računari u vašoj kući magazine, some of them learning about computers for the first time. In there they found instructions on how they can build a computer themselves: the Galaksija.
In the July issue of Računari u vašoj kući (only the second issue of this magazine!) there is a brief mention of the Macintosh in a short report from COMDEX 1984, humorously titled “nothing new in the West”:
There’s also mention of the Mac in the inaugural issue of Svet kompjutera in October 1984. This is 10 months after the Mac came out! News travels slow at this time. You can see the disconnect further down in the article. While the author (rather correctly) predicts that the Mac will be at least as influential as the Apple II was, they speculate the 256K version will be released in 1985, even though the 512K Mac was actually released in September:
If we pay attention to ads we’ll start to notice Velebit Informatika, which will soon grow into the main Yugoslav distributor for Apple:
Even though they sold different domestic and foreign computers, Velebit informatika increasingly focused on Apple in particular:
We can follow the actual arrival of the Mac to Yugoslavia through their ads. Here’s an event in May 1986 where Velebit Informatika plans to present the Macintosh Plus:
We can also see that they offer 30% discount for education and 20% discount for “working organizations”, the type of small and medium size organizations under Yugoslav self-management system:
But Velebit was more than just a reseller — here they are marketing an Apple II configured with a domestically developed electronic health record system called Hipokrat:
From what I can tell, the first review of the Macintosh in the Yugoslav press was in Moj Mikro in June 1984. The reviewer, Žiga Turk (who was later a minister in Slovenian government!), got to try it at IFABO expo in Vienna. He also mocked up Ljubljana’s Radio Student logo in MacPaint.
This same review was re-published in January 1985 when Moj Mikro started publishing a Serbocroatian edition. Žiga was impressed with the Mac, but somberly noted at the end that with current restrictive import policy it will be very difficult for anyone in YU to get one.
Another interesting ad – it wasn’t unusual for computer stores in Italy or Austria to advertise in Yugoslav magazines:
Another YU Macintosh memento. A “mini poster” from Feb 1985 Računari u vašoj kući. It might have been unobtainable for most, but you could still put it on your wall:
Velebit informatika published localized Mac applications through the 80s:
And on January 20th 1987 they opened their first Apple showroom in Belgrade, Yugoslavia’s first “Apple store”:
The Mac never achieved widespread usage in Yugoslavia, but these examples show that very soon after its announcement in 1984 it started showing up in the media. While there were very few Macintosh home users, Velebit informatika’s software ads show that there was an emerging market for the Mac in the business environment.