A Legacy of Thinking Different
Whether you love Apple or hate it, there's no denying the impact the company--and its leader Steve Jobs--has had on the tech industry over the past three decades. In light of his resignation, we thought we'd take a few moments to reflect on the many products Apple introduced under his guidance during his two stints on the job--products that changed the face of tech, as well as a few that didn't.
Before there was the Mac, there was the Lisa. This computer, released in 1983, had much in common with the original Macintosh--both used a graphical user interface, for example. But the Mac was far more successful, probably because it was far less expensive: The Mac cost around $2500, while the Lisa cost nearly $10,000.
Photo: Personal Computer Museum
The Original Mac
This is the little machine that started it all for the Mac platform. Steve Jobs led much of the design and development of the first Macintosh, and its legacy can be seen in today's Apple products: The original Macintosh was a sealed, nonupgradable box with a built-in monitor--and as later accounts would indicate, even then Steve Jobs saw products as works of art.
This is the computer that reversed Apple's fortunes. Released in 1998, the original iMac was a radical departure from other computers of the era. Instead of a tower desktop and a bulky CRT, the iMac was a sleek all-in-one desktop, clad in turquoise and white translucent plastic (Apple referred to the colors as "Bondi Blue" and "Ice," respectively). It also had no floppy drive (gasp!)--a sign of things to come, perhaps. Thirteen years and many revisions later, the iMac lives on as Apple's flagship desktop Mac.
Power Mac G4 Cube
In 2000, Apple released the Power Macintosh G4 Cube. This Mac was intended to be an in-between machine for people who wanted more power than an iMac had but who didn't need a full-blown Power Mac. In our opinion, it was a stunning piece of design. Encased in a clear plastic case, the entire computer fit into an 8-inch cube, giving the illusion that it was suspended in midair. Ultimately, the Power Mac G4 failed to catch on, but its design was one-of-a-kind.
Mac OS X
Apple had long struggled to find a replacement for its aging Mac operating system, but after countless failed attempts, the company finally released its new OS--christened Mac OS X--in March 2001. It had a rocky start: Mac OS X was slow, lacked features, and had little app support. Within a few years, however, OS X was a solid alternative to Windows--quick, full of features, and boasting lots of available software.
If you’re a music nerd (emphasis on the nerd) like us, you probably remember the day you got your first iPod. So long, clunky Discman! It was incredible to be able to listen to multiple albums in succession without having to lug around a heavy book of CDs. And the ability to take those albums, mix them up, and make playlists? Awesome. The iPod certainly wasn’t the first MP3 player, but its small size, its easy-to-use navigation wheel, and its large LCD screen made it a hit with consumers.
With its glass multitouch display, fun operating system, and consumer-friendly design, the first iPhone was a breath of fresh air among the stodgy BlackBerry, Palm, and Windows Mobile handsets. The iPhone’s all-touch interface inspired multiple copycats, and changed the way we use our phones. It showed us that smartphones could work for more than just making calls or checking email--they could also be music players, gaming machines, and Internet browsers. After its original 2G (EDGE) incarnation, we saw the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 3GS, and the iPhone 4. The iPhone 5--or whatever it may be named--is rumored to launch this fall.
Like Mac OS X, the MacBook Air didn't exactly light the world on fire when it debuted. Sure, it was cool, but it was also expensive and underpowered. But in fall 2010, Apple released an overhauled MacBook Air that was lighter and more powerful--as well as less expensive--and it still has PCWorld senior editor Jason Cross, our laptop expert, wondering why PC manufacturers haven't quite been able to catch up to it.
The iPad was perhaps the most heavily speculated-on Apple device of all time, and at first we weren't quite sure what to make of it: Isn’t it just an oversize iPod Touch? Once we actually had one in our hands, though, tablets suddenly made a lot more sense. Playing our favorite games on the iPad’s larger screen was way more fun than playing them on the iPhone. And being able to watch movies or TV shows in bed without lugging our laptop around was unbeatable. The iPad is still the tablet to beat and, like the iPhone, it truly set the standard for competitors.
Love it or hate it, chances are you probably have iTunes installed on your computer. Cover Flow, iTunes DJ, Library Sharing, and an easy-to-use store are a few of the features that make it so popular. On the downside, iTunes has its annoyances, including constant software updates, limited audio file support, and its complicated history with DRM. But there’s no denying it: The iTunes Store changed the way we purchase music--as well as movies, audiobooks, and podcasts.
The most important spin-off of iTunes--the App Store--deserves its own slide. Even more than the original iPhone itself, the App Store truly changed the way we use our phones. With all of its apps, the iPhone could be your personal assistant, a portable arcade, an organizer, a set of encyclopedia volumes, or a workout buddy. Today, apps are an essential part of the mobile world, and as we saw with the decline of WebOS, a lack of apps can make or break a phone. We most certainly have to credit Steve Jobs and Apple for that.