The announcement of Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” has been a year-end tradition since 1927, when Charles Lindbergh was named “Man of the Year” following his solo flight across the Atlantic.

On Dec. 26, 1982, Time took a risk and placed not a person, but a “Machine of the Year” on the cover of its Jan. 3, 1983, issue: the computer. The cover featured a papier-mâché man sitting at a red table with a PC. Admittedly, this wasn’t Time’s riskiest pick — Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler had both been named “Man of the Year” in years prior.

The PC revolution

The “Machine of the Year” designation came at a time when PC sales were doubling each year: going from 724,000 in 1980 to 1.4 million in 1981 to almost 3 million in 1982. As publisher John A. Meyers presciently wrote: “Several human candidates might have represented 1982, but none symbolized the past year more richly, or will be viewed by history as more significant, than a machine: the computer.” Time referenced the PC revolution, which was bringing computers “down to scale” so “people could hold, prod, and play with them.”

The article referenced Lisa, Apple’s first foray into personal computing, which Apple would introduce to the marketplace in 1983. Despite this mention, Steve Jobs reportedly did not like the “Machine of the Year” issue. Not only had he expected to be named “Person of the Year,” but the article also had revealed that he had a daughter named Lisa, whose paternity he denied.

Interestingly, the journalists who worked on the “Machine of the Year” article used typewriters to write their stories. The Time newsroom upgraded to word processors in 1983.

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Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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