From 1974 up until the other night (with a brief NeXT/Pixar interlude), Steve Jobs powered the company that brought the world some of the most innovative products we’ve ever known. (Screw you, wheel!) These are his greatest hits.
1983: The Apple IIe
First introduced in January of 1983, this is the computer that catapulted Apple into people’s homes. It came standard with a whopping 64KB of RAM! (For those of you playing the home game, you’d need 62,500 IIes to match the standard RAM of one MacBook Pro.) The IIe has the distinction of being Apple’s longest-lived product; its form factor barely changed in the 10 years before it was discontinued, in late 1993.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Apple2gs[imgclear]
1984: The Macintosh
This first time I saw one of these as I was blown away. Graphical input! You just click on something and it opens stuff! Amazing! And what is this “mouse” you speak of? This computer would be the template for generations to come (think Windows and, you know, all other modern operating systems). It was also one of the first all-in-one computers (with the screen and brains all in one case), and it was very, very fast for its time.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Grm wnr
1985: The LaserWriter
Didn’t see that one coming, didja? The LaserWriter wasn’t just some printer, it was the printer that opened a new frontier for desktop computer publishing. It had a tight resolution of 300 dpi and a printing speed of eight pages per minute. It worked with Apple’s PageMaker software and was among the first to utilise the image processing of Adobe PostScript interpreter — a major game-changer in indy publishing. It was $US6995 when it launched.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/All About Apple
1985 – 1996: The Dark Ages
Steve was gone. Apple sucked hard and almost died.
1998: The iMac
I’ll admit it, I didn’t like it. I thought it was the Volkswagon Beetle (the new one) of computers with its bright colours and big round arse. But damnit if consumers didn’t love it, and this is where Apple began making its way back into people’s homes bigtime. This was the original all-in-one Macintosh’s great-grandson, and it gave Apple a major foothold with students — one they haven’t given up since.
1999: Final Cut Pro
I hadn’t used an Apple computer since my childhood IIe; Final Cut Pro is the product that brought me back. It was a major leap forward in non-linear video editing, not just for its features, but for its accessibility. Microscopically budgeted filmmakers could buy Final Cut Pro and a reasonably powerful Apple computer for thousands less than it cost for an Avid system. It made independent movies much, much better. Today some of your favourite movies and TV shows — No Country for Old Men, The Social Network, a gabillion others — are edited in FCP. True story.
1999: The Power Mac G4
When the G4 came out (and for years after) it was illegal to take it out of the country because it was classified as a supercomputer. How crazy it that suddenly we were living in an era where supercomputers were available to consumers? Suddenly musicians, photogs, image/video video editors could realistically work from home and they wouldn’t have to spend a million hours waiting for something to render. It was majorly major for artists.
2001: The PowerBook G4
Remember all that good stuff I just said about the Power Mac G4? This was the laptop equivalent. Nicknamed TiBooks for their titanium bodies, these laptops weren’t just for travel, they were a legitimate replacements for desktop powerhouses. Before the PowerBook you really had to sacrifice a lot of speed to make a computer portable. Now you could do some very CPU-intensive work (video/image editing and rendering) while you were sitting on an aeroplane. Amazing. These evolved into the little beast that is the modern MacBook Pro.
While Steve Job’s was away from Apple he wasn’t just sitting around with his thumb up his butt; he started a computer company called NeXT. While NeXT was somewhat ill-fated, they had some extremely good ideas, and when Jobs returned to Apple he brought those ideas (and patents) with him. NeXT’s OS, called OPENSTEP, would eventually become OSX, the operating system that would lead Apple’s resurgence. Each iteration has borne the name of a different big cat, starting with Cheetah leading all the way up to the current version, Lion (what’s next, Liger?). It also spun off iOS, which we’ll get to in a minute.
2001: The iPod
(Yes, 2001 was a big year for Apple.) Let me put this very plainly: the iPod changed the way we consume music. Did digital music files exist before? Yes. Did portable MP3 players exist before? Yes again. What’s significant is that the vast majority of the general public didn’t give two rat-farts about those things until the iPod. It brought geek tech to the common people, and together with iTunes (which radically changed the way we purchase music), it reshaped the music industry, sending it into careening into the 21st century.
2007: The iPhone
The original iPhone is unquestionably most significant — and influential — phones ever built. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it was the first smartphone that didn’t require a smart person to operate it. It was, and still remains, elegantly laid out and extremely intuitive. It, and its successive models, became the phone by which all other phones are measured, and every smartphone that’s come since that’s actually worth a damn has taken at least some inspiration from it. It augmented the way we interact both with each other, with the web, and with technology (and this is coming from an Android user).
2010: The iPad
The iPhone begat the iPad; together, they ushered in a new era of people staring at things in their hands. Tablets certainly existed before the iPad; Apple had even made previous attempts with the Newton MessagePad 100, which came out way back in 1993. The thing is that tablets weren’t nearly as functional or cool before the iPad. The cool-factor can’t be understated; it’s become so popular that some people *CoughHP’sCEOLeoApothekerCough* point to it as killing the PC industry. I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s basically created the consumer tablet market, which really didn’t exist before it and is now absolutely exploding — almost entirely on the strength of, well, iPad sales. Damned impressive.
2011-?: The Great Wide Open
While Steve Jobs has stepped down as CEO, his DNA is deeply fused with Apple’s (and he’s still Chairman of the Board). People selling their Apple stock based on this news are cretins of the highest order. Do you think Apple only plans a week in advance, and next Monday they’re going to start from scratch? No. Steve has already directly overseen the development of devices we will not even see for years. They’re still his babies, even if he’s left the village. They may have many different surrogate parents, but they’ll have their daddy’s nose.