A-Z of Apple
Steve Jobs dated former Bob Dylan girlfriend and Queen of Folk Joan Baez during the late 1970 and early 1980s. He apparently once considered marrying her, but was put off by her age: "If only she were of child-bearing age, I'd marry her" he is quoted as saying in 'iCon: Steve Jobs' by Young & Simon.
Keep in touch with your email, impress girls in Starbucks, or replace your desktop entirely – these are just some of the fine things that an Apple laptop can do for you. One of the things you don’t want your trusty portable device to do is burst into flames. Really. Think about it – should your laptop explode you probably won’t have time to finish watching that hilarious YouTube video or save that Word document you were working on.
At the very least it’s embarrassing having to throw your laptop into the air as it crackles and pops with flames licking the screen, jumping around screaming like Steve Ballmer. At its worst you might have neither a lap nor a top.
The PowerBook 5300 was the butt of many laptop insider jokes after some of its new lithium ion batteries burst into flames on the assembly line. The phrase “battery life” took on a whole new meaning.
Steve Jobs might not be a big gamer but he loves music – especially stuff from the Sixties, being an old hippy (albeit a hard-nosed, business visionary, billionaire hippy) at heart.
He loves Bob Dylan’s music, and holds a particular affection for The Grateful Dead (urgh…) and The Beatles.
His love affair with The Beatles is one just as acrimonious as that within the Fab Four itself.
Apple’s name is almost certainly an homage to The Beatles, whose corporate arm was Apple Corps. And this got the fledgling company into its first spat. In 1978 The Beatles Apple sued Steve’s Apple for trademark infringement over the similar name and logos. In 1981 Apple was forced to pay The Beatles a sum of cash (initial speculation had this between $50m and $250m, but it turned out to be a paltry $80,000 according to BusinessWeek) and promised never to dip its techno toes into the music business while The Beatles agreed not to launch any computers.
This led to another trip to the law courts in 1986, when The Beatles argued that Apple adding MIDI and music-recording capabilities to the Apple II contravened that agreement. Apple had to back down again.
Another little music thing cost Apple $26.5 million in 1991 when a system sound called Chimes appeared in the Mac OS. Later Apple renamed this sound “Sosumi” – “so sue me”, geddit? This time they reached another agreement that allowed Apple to include music-making technologies but not to distribute anything musical on physical media such as vinyl records or CDs.
In turn this started The Beatles’ 2003-6 case against Apple when it announced its iTunes Music Store. Apple argued that iTunes didn’t distribute physical materials, just digital downloads. (Apple had originally offered The Beatles $1m to use the Apple name as part of the Music Store.) This time The Beatles lost the case, but they vowed not to allow Apple to sell its rich catalogue of songs and albums on the store.
Suudenly remembering that as good hippies they should all be making love not war the two sides decided to give peace a chance. The whole messy trademark dispute was ironed out in 2007 under an agreement in which Apple would own all of the trademarks related to “Apple” and would license some of those trademarks back to The Beatles’ Apple Corps for their continued use. There was some speculation that this agreement cost Apple up to half a billion dollars.
Jobs was delighted: “We love the Beatles, and it has been painful being at odds with them over these trademarks. It feels great to resolve this in a positive manner, and in a way that should remove the potential of further disagreements in the future.”
Neil Aspinall, manager of Apple Corps, agreed: “It is great to put this dispute behind us and move on. The years ahead are going to be very exciting times for us. We wish Apple Inc. every success and look forward to many years of peaceful co-operation with them.”
But it was not until 2010 that the previous year’s remastered Beatles catalogue hit the iTunes Music Store as digital downloads.
Remember when all computers were beige? Apple may have starting the trend with the Apple II, but it was the millions of IBM-compatible PCs that bred the boring beige box. Beige just fitted in with the dull, brown offices of the 1970s and the common colour stuck.
The first Macs were also beige – Pantone 453 to be precise – but in 1987 Apple switched to a greyer colour it optimistically called Platinum, although it was really just light beige.
That all changed with 1998’s translucent Bondi Blue iMac, which redefined almost everything about the personal computer. As ever playing catch up, even Windows PCs stopped being beige about 10 years later.
Apple struggled for years to build its own brand-spanking-new Mac OS operating system, starting in 1987 but throwing in the towel in 1996 (see Copland). Eventually the company decided to just buy an existing better operating system from someone else and make it work on Macs. One of the prime candidates was the BeOS, a new multimedia system that ticked all the boxes Apple wanted for its new OS.
It had all the long-winded system thingamajigs that Apple had failed to pull together itself – symmetric multiprocessing, pervasive multithreading, preemptive multitasking and 64-bit journaling – and even worked on the same PowerPC processors as the latest Macs.
Better yet Be was founded by Jean-Louis Gassée, who had once been head of Apple’s advanced product development and worldwide marketing. It appeared a match made in heaven.
The only problem was that Gassée wanted more money for his fledgling BeOS than Apple was willing to part with. Apple originally bid $120m, then $200m, but Gassée demanded $400m. Apple instead bought NeXT for $429m, when it threw in original founder Steve Jobs as part of the package. The result - a rather lovely operating system called Mac OS X.
We’re all used to calling our Apple PCs “Macs”, even though it’s a pretty random name taken from a type of apple and then misspelled to avoid litigation.
But would we be so at ease talking about our Apple Bicycles, installing Bicycle OS X or reading Bicycleworld?
That’s right, for a short hushed moment in time Steve Jobs considered calling the Mac project “Bicycle”. Gulp.
Mac OS X might look lovely but it sounds rather dull. Back in the carefree days of System 7 Apple gave us a bunch of silly sounds for alert noises. Many had onomatopoeic names like Clink-Clank, Wild Eep, Uh Oh, Bip, and, for the purposes of this list, Boing.
The rather odd colour (RGB: 0, 149, 182) that changed the world, presumably named after the clear waters of Australia’s Bondi Beach – where the company now has its own Apple Store. Bondi is an Aboriginal word meaning either “water breaking over rocks” or “a place where a flight of nullas took place”. No hints there about why Apple chose this particular colour for its first iMac, apart from the fact that it's so weird there was no chance that anyone else had bothered with a product the same colour.
When you open an application its icon bounces in the Mac’s Dock while it launches. The longer the bouncing goes on, though, the more annoying it becomes.
For example, you need to check your emails at the start of the day and after you start up your Mac you blearily click on Microsoft Entourage. The little purple ‘e’ icon jumps up and down like a kid on a trampoline, and then keeps doing so while you regret not making a cup of tea while you were waiting. Watching that kettle boil would be more productive than sitting waiting for Entourage to get on with it and display your emails. You start to will the icon to bounce a little faster – maybe even a little higher.
But most annoying of all is the attention-seeking bouncing icon that wants you to do something (usually install yet another update to Acrobat Reader). This bouncing can carry on for hours if you don’t attend to the needy app, tempting you to bang your own head repeatedly into the ceiling. Bouncing is meant to be fun, not a constant nagging nudge in the ribs.
While it pioneered the use of the mouse with personal computers – the Apple Lisa and then Mac were the first mass-produced systems to come standard with a mouse – Apple has consistently been attacked for being so damn minimalist with the handy pointing device.
For over 20 years Apple’s mouse had just one button, while everyone else’s ended up with more than one hand could physically press – possessing more buttons than the outfitters of the Chinese Red Army.
Clearly under severe duress – and possibly while Steve Jobs was on holiday – Apple eventually partially relented with grudging invisible right clicks and clickable scroll wheels but today’s Magic Mouse is a clear example of the company’s hatred of mouse clutter.
Ever own a Power Mac G5? Then you know what I’m talking about. (Also unrelatedly a character in Pixar's Toy Story series.)
Click on these letters to continue the Apple A-Z.