Seemingly the opposite of the Mac and everything Apple, of course the term PC or Personal Computer applies just as much to Apple as it does Microsoft, Windows and the legion of dull, beige (now slightly plasticky grey/silver) boxes called PCs. In fact there’s no computer more personal than one of Apple’s, be it a Mac, iPhone or iPad – for all are personal computers. Unlike Microsoft, Dell, HP et al Apple somehow builds in not just personification but personality into its computers and its brand.
DOS and Windows PCs are faceless. The Mac not only had a face, it even said “Hello”.
But the term “PC” will forever be damned as the rather lousy beige box, after 1981’s IBM Personal Computer. Its only real rival was the Apple II.
The IBM PC was still at heart at business machine, albeit one that could fit in a house if you took it home from work. IBM tried to emulate the success of the IBM PC with a January 1984 home computer it casually titled PCjr – admittedly better than its nickname, Peanut.
It had joystick ports and even an infrared wireless keyboard, but it cost twice as much as the Commodore 64 and the keyboard had just 62 keys to the PC’s 83. Apple’s almost simultaneous announcement of the Mac at the start of 1984 took away any glamour IBM had hoped for at its launch, and Apple reduced Apple II prices to undercut it. It was discontinued in March 1985.
Aldus PageMaker was the Mac’s first professional killer app, combining with the Mac, LaserWriter and Adobe’s PostScript to form the Fabulous Four of desktop Publishing. The WYSIWYG page-layout program was introduced for the Mac in 1985 but not for Windows until 1987, by which time the Mac had become the de facto computer platform for DTP.
The first thing you saw when launching PageMaker was a picture of a strange-looking Renaissance dude – one Aldus Pius Manutius (1449-1515). What the hell was he doing at the forefront of computer-based desktop publishing?
Well, PageMaker’s software developer Aldus was named after the founder of the Venetian Aldine Press. Manutius was the inventor of italic type and established the modern use of the semicolon. Dude! He also invented inexpensive, small-format, vellum-bound books that were the ancestor of the modern paperback. Double dude!
Aldus, the company not the dude, was eventually bought by Adobe in 1994 and stagnated while upstart DTP program QuarkXPress stole the market from it. The last full version, PageMaker 7.0, was released in 2001. Eventually Adobe got its act together and launched InDesign to steal back the DTP crown in 2004.
Patents protect inventors from other people stealing their ideas. But the world wouldn’t move very fast if that meant only the person or company could ever make use of the invention.
Technologies such as Wi-Fi, 3G, USB and Blu-ray need to have wide adoption to become standards, so there are licensing obligations that ensure compatibility and interoperability of devices manufactured by different companies whereby anyone can license a patented technology as long as they pay a fee. This is known as the FRAND agreement: that patents be shared and licensed on Fair, Reasonable, And Non-Discriminatory terms.
This arrangement was working pretty well until all hell broke loose with most of the big tech firms fighting each other in the mobile Patent Wars.
Previously companies used their patents to defend themselves. Now they’re using them as weapons, and deploying them all over the world. The war’s gone nuclear.
It’s difficult to tell who started the Patent Wars but there’s little doubt it’s already got ugly and is getting nastier by the day.
Apple and Samsung are suing each other in several countries. Apple is also fighting Motorola and HTC. Indeed the bulk of the patent battles are effectively Apple vs Android, with Google letting its smartphone and tablet hardware partners slug it out with the iPhone and iPad maker.
Patents are big money. Google bought Motorola’s Mobility division for $12.5 billion, ostensibly for its 17,000 registered patents.
Meanwhile Microsoft has quietly done deals with Android makers regarding its own patents, and is raking in the dollars rather than paying them to intellectual property lawyers. Microsoft earned an estimated $444 million in 2012 for licensing.
And who ends up paying for all these licence and lawyer fees? You guessed it… you and me, the consumer.
You’ve heard of the Newton and the iPad but did you know about Apple’s other tablet PC, 1993’s PenLite? Unlike the contemporaneous Newton this was no PDA but closer to the iPad, except – as the name suggests – with a stylus input device. It ran the normal Mac OS and was based on the innovative PowerBook Duo with a built-in floppy drive (eat your heart out iPad!), but sadly never made it out of Apple’s prototype labs.
Just like IBM’s PCJr in the mid-1980s Apple felt the need to market a home version of the Mac in 1992. Thankfully it was not called the Macjr. Less thankfully it was named the Performa – you know, like it can sure ‘perform’ but it’s not a professional ‘performer’, more a, er, ‘Performa’… man.
Unlike the PCjr the Performa range of Macs were not new at all, but rebadged versions of Apple’s equally badly named Centris, Quadra, LC and Power Macintosh models.
But they did have their own special versions of the Mac OS, eg. System 7.5P1, which featured functions such as the Launcher – which later made it into the pro Mac OS, too.
Performas came bundled with software, like ClarisWorks, typing tutors, encyclopedias with little QuickTime movies of spaceships, eWorld, and pinball games.
There were multiple models of Performa, in all shapes and sizes (all-in-one, pizza box, tower,
One forgotten part of Apple advertising history is the fictional family, the Martinettis, that Apple created to market the Performa range. Check out The Martinettis Bring A Computer Home videos. You’ll rush out to get a Performa for your home, too.
Except that you can’t because Apple scrapped the Performa range in 1997, after it and the Martinettis failed to capture the public’s imagination.
A year and one CEO later Apple released the iMac.
At the end of the 1970s former IBM man and later political maverick Ross Perot blew the chance to buy Microsoft from Bill Gates for as little as $15 million – a decision he recalled as “one of the biggest business mistakes I've ever made”.
He did manage to bankroll Steve Jobs when he left Apple in 1985, investing in his NeXT company. That wasn’t a great money-making decision either, as Perot had sold most of his NeXT shares by the time Apple came knocking with its wallet open.
However, without Perot’s millions NeXT wouldn’t have got as far as it did with the software that would eventually become Mac OS X and return Jobs to lead Apple back to world tech domination.
Perot once sprang some of his EDL employees out of an Iranian prison during the revolution there (a story later dramatised in Ken Follett’s ‘On Wings of Eagles’), and bought a copy of the Magna Carta – as you do.
Steve Jobs’ keynote comedy sidekick Phil Schiller also has a day job at Apple, as senior vice president of worldwide product marketing. He presented several Apple keynotes himself when boss Steve was ill, including the last ever Apple keynote at a Macworld Expo in January 2009.
Always smiling, Phil is a much-loved and cuddly member of the Apple executive team – see him here holding a Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger DVD. I once had lunch with Phil, and he was lovely.
If you thought IBM’s PCjr or Apple’s own Performa range were dismal failures then let me introduce you to the Pippin – another laboured apple-pun product name, alongside the Macintosh, Newton and Granny SmithPad.
It’s not officially an Apple product, as it went out under the Bandai brand, but it was designed by Apple, ran on PowerPC and used a stripped down version of System 7.5.2 as its operating system.
The Pippin was a 1995 attempt to create a games console that was also a network computer, or was it a network computer that was also a games console?
It doesn’t matter as it was too expensive to be either, and was discontinued after selling around 40,000 units in the US and Japan.
It didn’t even do very well in a round up of the "25 Worst Tech Products of all Time", dragging its sorry little self in at number 22.
Addressing the Mac development team in January 1983, a year before the eventual launch, team leader Steve Jobs announced that “It's better to be a pirate than join the navy”.
Jobs wanted to keep the Mac team as a rogue unit within Apple, despite its growing numbers that were forcing the group to move to a larger building off Apple campus, known as Brandley 3.
Mac software programmer Steve Capps took Steve at his word and sewed a Jolly Roger with a skull and crossbones touting an Apple logo eye-patch created by Mac iconographer Susan Kare. The flag was hoisted above Brandley 3, and stayed there a year, with only one incident when the Lisa team kidnapped it.
Full story of the Apple pirate flag at Folklore.org.
Steve Jobs didn’t hang about after getting pushed out of Apple by lesser men in 1985. A few months later and he was in charge of a new computer company he’d founded, NeXT. The next year he acquired for $5m the Computer Division of Lucasfilm from Star Wars maker George Lucas. Steve invested another $5m in the company now to be known as Pixar.
Five years later Jobs flogged off the unsuccessful hardware side of the business, and one year after that in 1991 the struggling company signed a three-movie deal with Disney, which resulted in the phenomenally successful Toy Story – released in 1995, making $350m.
Pixar's first five movies grossed more than $2.5 billion – the highest per-film average gross in the industry.
After some wrangling over share of profits and story rights Steve Jobs sold Pixar to Disney for $7.4 billion, making him the largest shareholder in Disney with 7 percent of stock and a seat on the board of directors.
Apple’s fancy way of saying "grey" from Mac OS 8 to OS 9. (Quick question: why isn't it called Platinium in the UK?) If you think Platinum is a little bit boring, take a look at some other themes Apple had for the Mac OS 8.5 look and feel.
At the same meeting where Steve Jobs told the Mac team that he wanted them to act like pirates he demanded a “Mac in a book by 1986”. As Steve himself was gone in 1985 the whip wasn’t cracked enough until 1989 when Apple shipped the Mac Portable. This wasn’t so much a “Mac in a book” as a Mac in a bookshop. It weighed a colossal 15.8lb (7.2kg), owing to its sealed lead-acid batteries, and cost $6,500 on release. It was swiftly nicknamed the “Luggable”. Like the Pippin it made the list of Worst Tech Products Of All Time, this time at number 17. It does have the honour of being the first off-the-shelf portable computer used in space and the first to send an email from space in August 1991.
Another Apple prototype that never saw the light of day, the – woeful name alert – PowerBop was a French WiFi PowerBook from 1993.
If NASA had waited a couple of months it could have left the Luggable back at base and taken a shiny new Apple PowerBook, which was launched in October 1991.
Realising that the Mac Portable was anything but, Apple sent the schematics to Sony to see if it could do a better job, which it did in spectacularly. The PowerBook 100 was a miniature revelation, with built-in trackball and side palm rests, plus its distinctive gun-metal grey casing.
After Mac this and Mac that Apple finally hit on a brilliant product name with the PowerBook, and still use an inferior variant, MacBook (from 2006), today.
Perhaps the most original of the PowerBooks was the PowerBook Duo. This more compact, ultraportable subnotebook was smaller than today’s MacBook Air but considerably fatter. Like the Air it didn’t boast many ports but enjoyed the benefit of special Duo Dock, Mini Dock and Micro Dock docking connectors.
The first and best of the Mac cloners from the era just before the return of Steve Jobs, who did a Terminator on the whole project, was Power Computing from Austin Texas.
Power Computing followed a Dell-like direct, build-to-order sales model. It shipped 100,000 Macs with revenues of $250 million in its first year, and was the first-ever company to sell $1 million of products on the internet.
The trouble with Power Computing was it was too successful for its own, and more importantly Apple’s, good. It undercut Apple pricing and offered faster, better Macs, and that was never going to go down well with the returning Jobs who sanctioned a $100m buyout before closing it and the whole Mac clone business in 1997.
"Apple has to let go of this ghost and invent the future," he intoned.
Apple waited to follow the PowerBook name for its desktop computers until it started equipping them with PowerPC processors, and it stuck to the name from 1994 till 2006, when the Intel-based Mac Pro was introduced.
The first Power Mac, the 6100, was an ugly box but arrived alongside a deeper, better-looking 7100 and squat 8100 tower. The 5200 was a TV-like all-in-one, the 9100 a taller tower that pretty much became the standard look for top-end Power Macs thereafter.
In 1999 the Blue & White Power Mac G3 brought iMac colouring to the pro side, but a more muted (but sexier) Graphite colour scheme came in with the Power Mac G4. 2004’s Power Mac G5 ushered in the cool aluminium look that even today’s Pro Mac still enjoys.
Up until 1994 Apple’s computers ran on Motorola 68000 processors but in order to attack the dominant Intel-based Windows PCs in a straight-out performance battle Apple joined forces with old enemy IBM and existing supplier Motorola to create a new alliance called AIM (Apple, IBM, Motorola) and a new breed of RISC-based computer chip, the PowerPC.
Everything went swimmingly until IBM told Steve Jobs that a year after it’d produced a 2GHz G5 it would have a 3GHz G5 in a Mac. Jobs publicly announced just that on stage during his June 2003 WWDC keynote. Three years later and it had peaked at 2.7GHz. Despite blowing scorn on the “Megahertz Myth” Apple was hurting at this perceived performance gap between its pro Macs and Pentium PCs.
You don’t make Steve look like an idiot without serious consequences, and in 2005 Apple announced that it was dumping IBM, Motorola, AIM and PowerPC to use Intel processors just like everybody else.
“It’s been ten years since our transition to the PowerPC, and we think Intel’s technology will help us create the best personal computers for the next ten years,” said a pissed off Steve.
Apple products aren’t cheap, are they?
Puma was one of the big cats that Apple named its Mac OS X versions after that remained just a codename and not a pretty picture on the box, following OS X 10.0’s Cheetah – another great lost naming opportunity. 10.2 was the first version of OS X to ship as default operating system on Macs.
Click on these letters to continue the Apple A-Z.