In Memoriam: Domesticity, Gender, and the 1977 Apple II Personal Computer

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Journal Article
Design and Culture, 2011, 3 (2), pp. 193 - 216 (24)
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This paper considers one of the first personal computers to be marketed to a mainstream American audience in the late 1970s: the Apple II. Lewis Mumford's notion of "ideological and social preparation" is adapted to describe this period as a preparatory phase for the later ubiquity and absorbing quality of our relationship with personal computers. In examining the Apple II's design alongside a key marketing image we can discern that domesticity and gender were crucial points of negotiation during this period. In the late 1970s marketing for Apple the image of idyllic domesticity quickly became a major context for computer promotion, a development that had gendered implications. The example of 1930s streamlining in the design of domestic household appliances is used as a parallel with the Apple II's startling application of a plastic case: the concealing plastic exterior simultaneously simplified and obscured the device, transforming it from a "machine" into a "personal appliance."
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