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Steve Jobs: Surprising things you didn’t know about the 1984 Apple ad

There is one legendary TV commercial that is responsible for pushing Apple Computers ahead of the pack. With the new film Steve Jobs hitting theaters, we take a look back at the ad from 1984.

1. It aired on television only twice

The revolutionary ad ran once in December 1983 at 1 a.m. on KMVT, a local TV station in Twin Falls, Idaho, so that it would be eligible for advertising awards in 1984. It ran the second time during the third quarter of the Super Bowl XVIII in 1984. It was viewed by 96 million people.

2. Inspired by the George Orwell book, 1984.

We’ve all heard the term “Big Brother.” Before it was a silly reality TV show, it was a term from George Orwell’s book, 1984, and took on the meaning of the government or another nefarious source that spies on its citizens. Written in 1948, the book showed a dark, dystopian future where not even a person’s thoughts were kept private. Advertising agency Chiat/Day thought the book’s theme of rebellion against an oppressor would serve as a metaphor for finding the freedom technology should offer. The commercial’s tag line was, “Why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”

3. Ridley Scott directed the ad

Having just directed the classic sci-fi film, Blade Runner, Ridley Scott was the perfect director to create this frightening, Orwellian landscape. Scott recently directed the box office hit, The Martian.

More: The Martian: Everything you didn’t understand in the movie, explained

4. Real skinheads

Ridley Scott wanted the actors in the commercial to look alike to show how the masses have been forced to conform. Shot in London at the height of the punk rock era, he hired real skinheads to be in the ad. It’s unclear if the skinheads were simply into the punk style or were white supremacists.

More: 13 Mind-blowing things in Trainspotting you never noticed

5. Anya Major was the woman who threw the sledgehammer

1984 Apple ad
Image: Apple Computers/Chiat/Day

A real discus thrower and very beautiful, she beat out all the other actresses auditioning for the role. One actress nearly injured another person at Hyde Park when she couldn’t control the heavy object. Major went on to star in Elton John’s music video, “Nikita.” She also recorded music and released several singles. She lives in England.

6. David Graham played the Big Brother-type character on-screen

David Graham is a British character actor and eerily drones on in the commercial until the hammer breaks the screen. This is his speech:

“Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology — where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests purveying contradictory truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death, and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!”

7. A whopping $750,000 budget

While it may not be quite such a large budget by today’s standards, back then, spending that amount of money on a TV commercial was unheard of.

More: Jaws: 19 Secrets behind the making of the most frightening movie of all time

8. Big Brother was really IBM

In 1983, Steve Jobs said this, “It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers initially welcoming IBM with open arms now fear an IBM dominated and controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple.”

9. Awards

The commercial won numerous awards, including Best Super Bowl Spot (in its 40-year history), in 2007, and the Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

The film, Steve Jobs, starring Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet, opens today in limited release and expands nationwide on Oct. 23.

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