MacPaint (1984) online


My uncle had an original Mac. I was entranced with it in general, and with MacPaint in particular. When I got my first MacBook in 2007, I was sad that it didn’t include MacPaint. Turns out they stopped bundling it in 1985. :frowning: Seems like an odd choice for a system targeted at creatives…

I still don’t understand how people make actual art with just the mouse, though. :slight_smile: Wish my hand was that steady. I mostly made fort plans and battling stick figures.

1 Like

I was bummed when they stopped including the full Hypercard development stack in favor of Hypercard Player. And then they dropped Hypercard entirely.

Hypercard was one of the best gateway drugs to programming that I’ve ever seen. It was also fun to point out how crappy GW Basic was to my friends when they saw Hypercard in action. Of course Microsoft doesn’t ship any form of Basic with Windows anymore either. I guess it’s not so bad since the Internet makes it so easy to get equivalent tools these days, but I still feel a bit sad that the focus is so heavily on media consumption instead of media creation these days.


I miss Hypercard too. Sure, you can get close with some scripting environments. Or with multimedia tools like Powerpoint/Keynote/Present. But I really loved writing scripts, attaching them to buttons, and then putting buttons on a page. I do think, though, that it was really HTML and web browsers that finished off Hypercard.


It looks like a simplified version of Photoshop. Did MacPaint come first?


“Brings out the artist in everyone”, even with exactly two colors. Those dithered sample images were always very impressive back in the day. I remember wrestling with a scanner trying to find exactly what ridiculously-low resolution was necessary to properly replicate them for importing into Hypercard.

See also , complete with source .

D’oh, can’t save Cloudpaints without Facebook.

this brings back memories. from the days when a 800k floppy set you back $5. good times.


Photoshop 1.0 came out in 1990, 6 years after MacPaint.

I think the market for photo manipulation on hideously expensive 128kb monochrome machines was pretty limited. The hardware had to mature for several years before Photoshop made sense.

1 Like

Or a megabyte of memory cost as much as a good used car? Computers are one of the few fields where people will regularly refer to the bad old days.

Nobody, but nobody, paid $195 for the Write/Paint bundle. So far as I know, it came with the system.
You could, with small challenges (removing some fonts and desk accessories) get Write, Paint and the System and Finder all on one 400K floppy (which cost $5 apiece in 1984-5), with no room to save documents. Saving a file on a one-drive Mac resulted in about three or four disk swaps: nerrrrt nerrrrt chunk (spin then eject), ca-chak (insert next disk), nerrrrrrt nerrrrt neeeeert chunk (spin at different speeds then eject), etc.

I found MacPaint’s somewhat woodcut look to be very nice for reproducing Tarot cards. Later, I managed to make a couple grand selling a Hypercard stack for doing Genealogy called Genealogy Explorer – it was a relatively (ahem) simple thing to do the sorts of relationships that were impossible at that time without extensive database libraries.


The 128K days were very brief. By the time the Mac got any real traction, most machines had 1 MB (Mac Plus) and there were some 512 K ones kicking around. But I only remember ever seeing one 128 K machine, apart from an unsold stack of boxes in the store.

Somewhere around 1987 I got a little device called Thunderscan (originally released 1984) that plugged into the ribbon cartridge carriage in an Imagewriter II (and into a port on the Mac). I was too young and stupid to make it really sing, much less make money from it, but what a fun toy that was. And in more capable hands I’m sure it was used to beautiful effect.

Then in 1986 there was SuperPaint. Brilliant program that had both bitmap and vector drawing layers – MacPaint and MacDraw juiced with steroids then rolled into one. A must for anybody running a Mac up to OS9. I think I still have a copy kicking around somewhere, and it even ran well in Classic on my last G4 machine.

Yeah, the 128kb machines were crippled by the memory limitations. Apple was in a tough spot through, because they were already charging an arm and a leg for the machine and memory was hideously expensive. It’s really remarkable when you think about all they accomplished on those early macs with so little working memory and no virtual memory. The fact that something like a word processor worked at all is something of a miracle, even if it did tend to run out of space after a couple dozen pages.

There is a real WTF factor when you consider that a Commodore 64 released 4 years before the Mac and had a full 1/2 of the memory. Steve should have sucked it up and gone with 256kb right from the start.

The design of the original Mac motherboard made either 128k or 512k reasonable. To achieve 256k, they would have had to put in 32 DRAM chips, making the board more dense and therefore more expensive. That’s what they did a few years later with the Plus, using the old 30 pin SIMMs.

:fishing_pole_and_fish: I’m pretty sure he was being sarcastic.

LightningPaint* > SuperPaint > MacPaint for me personally but they are all lovely and MacPaint certainly the most important.

MacPaint creator Bill Atkinson’s dithering algorithm for Hypercard is one of the most beautiful achievements in computing and fortunately can be recreated with this free (OS X) app. I just wish it was a photoshop/after effects plugin. -

*here (if you’ll excuse me spamming it somewhat tenuously) is an abstract harsh noise graphic novel I wrote using LightningPaint and my old G3 a few years back:

1 Like

If you like this i HIGHLY recomend this book Zen & the Art of the Macintosh

Tons of amazing and fantastic early Mac artwork!!!

1 Like

Oh man that bring back lots of memories. My uncle had a Mac back then, and I spent hours making dragons and shit with Mac Paint.

There weren’t many people out there with scanners or digital cameras either. I don’t think I even saw a scanner in person until the mid-90s.

Check out Livecode - it’s basically a HyperCard descendant, with a ton of improvements and modernizations. It’s cross platform, deploys to mobile, and there is a server version (sort of like php, but with X-talk syntax). It’s also free as in beer and speech.