Failure of The Canon Cat

Canon Cat V777 Work Processor

By Coco C. Dupepe 
April 30, 2020

“There’s a new cat in the office jungle...” 1 . In July of 1987, The Canon Cat was introduced to the world 2 . The creation of computer scientist Jef Raskin (the famous ‘father of the Macintosh’) 3 the Cat’s user interface was like nothing ever seen before 4 . The machine was primarily created to be used in the office space as a word-processor by the every-day office worker. With no plugins or any mouse attached, there was no hassle or confusion involved in using the computer. The Canon Cat contains only one screen. There are no icons and the user can only function on one page with only a “stream” of text 5 . With this machine, one could write, make calculator calculations, as well as some programming functions 6 . The intended audience or user of the Canon Cat was for office workers and or professional writers 7 . 

Marketing had a large impact on how the Canon Cat was perceived. Despite the way it was marketed, the product did not do well with consumers. In total, the Canon Cat was released for six months and it only sold 20,000 units 8 . Unfortunately for the Cat, there was a need for more in a computer than just a word-processor. Since the Canon Cat did not contain any icons, this made it very limited in its creation overall. The creators of the Canon Cat did not understand the potential for a home computer and only thought a computer was needed for “work” purposes. The Canon Cat helps us understand the history of computing in late 20th-century America by knowing what people wanted in a computer. 

  1. Cat Advertisement PDF, Canoncat.net, accessed March 30, 2020, http://www.canoncat.net/cat/Cat%20Advertisement.pdf

  2. "Canon Cat," oldcomputers.net, accessed March 29, 2020, http://oldcomputers.net/canon-cat.html

  3. "Jef Raskin," Britannica, accessed March 29, 2020, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jef-Raskin

  4. "The Canon Cat: The Writing Information Appliance," CanonCat.org, accessed March 29, 2020, http://www.canoncat.org/

  5. "Canon Cat Emulation," Internet Archive,  accessed March 30, 2020, https://archive.org/details/canoncat

  6. "Canon's Cat Computer: The Real Macintosh," Internet Archive, accessed March 4, 2020, https://web.archive.org/web/20141025053109/http://www.jagshouse.com/swyft.html

  7. "Canon's Cat Computer: The Real Macintosh," Internet Archive, accessed March 4, 2020, https://web.archive.org/web/20141025053109/http://www.jagshouse.com/swyft.html

  8. "Canon Cat," oldcomputers.net, accessed March 30, 2020, http://oldcomputers.net/canon-cat.html

The Canon Cat V777 Work Processor