We’ll start with Apple, for obvious if un-alphabetical reasons. Why name a computer company after a fruit? Was it to be at the start of all computer lists in the same way that business telephone directories start with swathes name such as of AAA111 Taxis? Apparently not, and anyway Acorn jumped in ahead of it.
A-Z of Apple
One story has it that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs used to pick apples while at a commune and chose this rather loose connection as inspiration (source: ‘The Little Kingdom’ by Michael Moritz).
Another story is that Fab Four fan Jobs nicked the name from the Beatles’ label Apple Records – a decision that would later involve it in endlessly boring legal wrangles when Jobs and co released iTunes and so forth.
Other names thrown in the ring for the two Steves’ fresh new computer company included the mouse-swallowingly bad Executek and Matrix Electronics. (Source: ‘Apple Confidential 2.0’ by Owen Linzmayer)
Woz has said that "to a marketer Apple was an odd name. It came from the days when you picked an interesting, fun name for a company. You do that when you're on a hobby basis. The ad agency kept telling us the name had to be changed. We had to have a name that suggested technology, number crunching, calculations, databases. We took the attitude that Apple is a good name. Our computer would be friendly-everything an apple represents, healthy, personal, in the home. We had to hold our ground on that one."
Whatever the story Apple was a great name for the new startup, and the antithesis of the old guard of Hewlett-Packard, Fairchild, etc. As Michael Malone writes in his Apple history ‘Infinite Loop’ the Apple name was “smart, funny, antiestablishment, unforgettable, friendly but hip.” It wasn’t just a name “it was the culmination of the Age of Aquarius”.
Once a great ally of Apple and partner pioneer in desktop publishing’s marriage of PostScript and Apple’s Mac and LaserWriter Adobe fell from grace when the once-faithful design software partner apparently abandoned Apple at its lowest moment.
Adobe jilted the Mac from key program upgrades (most notably with its Premiere video-editing software), forcing Apple to create its own alternatives (Final Cut, which it bought from Macromedia before Adobe bought that company itself - it's incestuous industry, isn't it, which means perceived slights and public proclamations often lead to nasty little tit-for-tat battles such as this one).
Steve Jobs saw this as a revolting betrayal from the company that Apple once owned a 15% stake in.
He is now wreaking his revenge by denying Adobe’s Flash access to its new wonderproducts the iPhone and iPad.
The 10kbps Apple Desktop Bus was Apple’s main connector for decades. The company needed a simple, inexpensive connection system. Co-founder Steve Wozniak needed something to do, so he went away for a month and came back with ADB.
First seen on the Apple IIGS in 1986 it wasn’t superseded until 1998’s Bondi Blue iMac, which moved to Intel’s USB 1.0.
Older Apple users will remember that the one problem with ADB was that you weren’t supposed to unplug your mouse or keyboard while the Mac was powered on, although most of us risked frying the keyboard every now and again. Life’s too short, and all that.
Except maybe banging an inter-cap in its names Apple loves nothing more than a smart but dull pun, and so picked AirPort as the title for its Wi-Fi products in 1999. Confusingly the first AirPort Base Station actually resembled a UFO. It has to be admitted, however, that it's catchier than the more formal IEEE 802.11.
(Or aluminium as we outside of the US jauntily like to call it) “We're turning to aluminum and glass” Steve Jobs announced in 2007.
Apple has something of a crush on aluminum – making most of its hardware products out of the silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements, and even simulating the stuff indiscriminately with its brushed metal software and across its website.
Apple even named some of its products after the lightweight and durable metal.
There’s plenty of it, too – aluminium is the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust, and the third most abundant element after oxygen and silicon. It makes up about 8 percent by weight of the Earth's solid surface, and about the same on the average active Mac’s screen.
When you think of Apple leaders you probably recall the visionary legend that is Steve Jobs or his cuddly ewok-like co-founder Woz. But for over a dozen dark years Steve was absent from the company he founded and lesser men stood in his place.
At its lowest point Apple’s board of directors appointed the cost-cutting CEO of National Semiconductor Gil Amelio as the company’s new boss in order to return Apple to profitability. Receiving $100,000 for use of his private jet while on Apple business wasn’t the best start in Amelio’s austerity measures – nor was his $1m salary or nice little $5m loan he procured from the ailing giant.
But Amelio did cut costs, slashing the Apple workforce by a third. In scrapping the next-generation Copland operating system Amelio did his best work bringing back Steve Jobs via Apple’s acquisition of his NeXT OS in 1996 – which turned out to be the business world's most successful takeover but also the most expensive career suicide. Jobs wasted little time turfing out the garrulous Amelio and taking back his company – and for that we should be eternally grateful.
Long before Time Warner and the Internet boom Apple replaced its unwanted AppleLink online service with a joint venture with a company called Quantum, then rebranded America Online. As part of the deal it acquired 2m shares of AOL stock at a cost of $12.5m – 5 percent of the company. Apple sold the shares in 1996 at a profit of $39m. If it had waited till 1999 when AOL’s stock peaked those same shares would have been worth … wait for it … $24.5 billion. (Source: ‘Apple Confidential 2.0’, Linzmayer)
Exactly like an "application" but cuter sounding and much easier to squeeze puns from. Some people probably think Apple invented them, too. There was also once talk of "applets", but thankfully this never really caught on.
Following on from the primitive Apple I Apple produced what was to become one of the most successful personal computers ever. The Apple II, the real brainchild of Woz, was the product that launched the company, and made the majority of Apple’s revenue throughout the 1980s despite its fancy focus on the sexier Macintosh.
Before the Apple Store came (or rather didn’t come) the Apple Café – a 1996 proposed chain of themed restaurants featuring video-conferencing units and a range of Apple T-shirts and software. The food was to have been eclectic and nutritious but the idea expired when the licensee grew too worried about Apple’s failing health.
Not yet selling Apple coffees the luxuriously appointed Apple Store looked like an act from the last days of Rome when first shown off by Steve Jobs in 2001, but there are now over 300 spread across the world generating millions of sales and forcing envious but doomed copycat moves from the likes of Microsoft. The two largest Apple Stores are both in London, for some reason.
April Fools’ Day
Not an auspicious day to found your company but in 1976 at least in keeping with the cheeky nature of Apple co-founder and noted trickster Steve Wozniak, and Steve Jobs’ knowing smirk.
Aqua just used to be one of the few words you knew when you went to Europe on holiday, but for most of us it’s also the shiny, translucent, sometimes pulsing visual theme of early versions of Mac OS X. Describing Aqua's glossy aesthetic Steve Jobs said: "One of the design goals was when you saw it you wanted to lick it." Nowadays there’s not as much to tongue in the Mac interface but some elements persist, such as the traffic-light Close, Minimize and Open buttons at the top-left of folder and document windows.
Now the exclusive and hated US iPhone mobile carrier AT&T was once in negotiations to merge with Apple in a deal pushed by Apple’s then CEO John Sculley in 1993. It very nearly happened but AT&T felt burned by its botched buyout of PC maker NCR and walked away – “Boy, you have a phenomenal company. You have exactly what we need. But we bought the wrong company,” CEO Bob Allen told a devastated Sculley – over the phone, of course. (Source: ‘Apple: The Inside Story of Intrigue, Egomania, and Business Blunders’ by Jim Carlton)
Steve Jobs worked for arcade games company Atari before growing up and founding Apple. He got his pal Woz to help him design a prototype of the later legendary Breakout game for the company.
Bill Atkinson was one of the original developers of the Macintosh, responsible for the QuickDraw toolbox that underpinned the new graphical user interface – making him the “principal designer of the Macintosh UI”. He also created the computer Menu Bar, MacPaint and the Marching Ants selection animation (which he based on a tasteless beer sign he spotted in a bar; the sign was tasteless, not the beer). He is now a noted photographer.
Click on these letters to continue the Apple A-Z.