Apple celebrates its 40th birthday on April 1 and has shared a short video highlighting its major milestones. Join the party with our 40 favorite Apple moments.
1. "Hello, I'm a Mac."
Apple changed how we talk about computers. Traditional PC ads rely on tech specs to sell their wares. Apple presented deeper emotional choices through its advertising. You could join the revolution, become one of the crazy ones, snicker at John Hodgman as PC, or empathize with Ellen Feiss because the PC ate her homework. You weren't buying hardware. You were making a fundamental, life-affirming decision by buying an Apple product.
It wasn't the first webcam -- Connectix QuickCam got there first. But the iSight became the ever-present recorder of events, first as a separate camera you attached to your Mac and then as a built-in camera in Macs, iPhones, and iPads.
3. "She comes in colors everywhere."
The iMac brought simplicity to Apple's product line, because, upon its release, it became the only consumer desktop Mac. And it marked a clear break with the past: a CD drive instead of a floppy disk drive, USB instead of Apple's proprietary connectors. But the most visible change was how it looked. It was not boxy and beige. Its jet-age curves and Bondi Blue translucent plastic shell declared that computers could be attractive.
(Image courtesy Masashige MOTOE.)
4. 1,000 songs in your pocket.
Apple's first portable music player caught on in part because it hooked into Apple's larger ecosystem. The iPod pulled music from iTunes, and then later photos and videos from a Mac or (gasp!) Windows PC. The iPod become a spoke on a digital hub that connected seamlessly to your Mac.
Apple used to be more whimsical. The Mac was full of Easter eggs and inside jokes, such as the Sosumi ("so sue me") alert sound, a poke at Apple Corps. There was also the dogcow Clarus, who showed up in the Page Setup dialog box until Mac OS X and appeared regularly in Apple developer documentation and tech notes.
6. Ahead of its time.
The Newton debuted too early. The first personal digital assistant with handwriting recognition offered a portable means of organizing your life. Steve Jobs killed the project when he returned to Apple, but the idea didn't die: the iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil is the new and improved reincarnation of the Newton.
7. The event of the season!
Macworld Expo was the biannual center of the Apple universe. Apple planned product announcements to coincide with the conference, and Jobs' keynotes (aka Stevenotes) set the bar too high for many other tech execs to clear.
8. A personal shopping experience.
With Apple Stores, Apple created a relaxed retail environment that let folks try out Apple devices, attend summer camps, and talk to geniuses.
9. Heart transplants.
Apple has swapped out the Mac's processing architecture twice. In 1994 it moved from the Motorola 680x0 chips to the PowerPC platform designed by Apple, IBM, and Motorola. And in 2006, Apple adopted Intel CPUs. Both times, the transition was aided by an emulator, allowing users to run older software till developers could update their code for the new platform.
10. Use "skeuomorphism" in a sentence.
Thanks to Apple's insistent focus on design, we have some understanding of how typography works, what makes for a satisfying user experience, and maybe even how to distinguish between 3D, skeuomorphic, and realist design styles.
11. Swing and a miss.
Not every product Apple is a hit. The Pippen multimedia console never found a market. The failure of Copland -- codename of the star-crossed project seeking to replace Mac OS -- spurred Apple to acquire NeXT. The Apple III and Lisa both sold poorly, although the Lisa is a direct ancestor to the Mac.
12. The small screen.
From the video iPod to movies and TV shows in the iTunes store to Apple TV, Apple has helped clear the path for cord-cutters.
13. A rich neighbor.
Stories about Steve Jobs' visits to Xerox Parc are legendary. A favorite comes from Andy Hertzfeld's wonderful folklore.org website. Steve Jobs had just accused Bill Gates of stealing Mac concepts to use in the first version of Windows. Gates saw it differently: "We both had this rich neighbor named Xerox, and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it."
While some Mac fans vilify Microsoft, the company was an early supporter of the Mac. The Mac versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint all shipped several years before the Windows versions. And while inflicting Entourage on the Mac community is perhaps a war crime, the newest edition of Mac Office is in many ways on equal footing with its Windows sibling.
15. There's an app for that.
Out of the gate, the iPhone didn't support native apps. Instead, Apple wanted third-party developers to write Web apps using the Safari engine. But that's not what developers or iPhone owners wanted, and that's partly why jailbreaking became so popular. Apple relented a year later, opening the App Store and creating a vibrant app market for developers and users.
16. Remove the locks.
Initially, Apple probably had to embrace DRM to get music companies to sign up for iTunes. But then in 2007 Steve Jobs wrote an impassioned letter asking record companies to let Apple unshackle its songs. It took a few years, but in 2009 Apple announced all the major labels would sell songs DRM-free.
17. You don't have to choose.
With Boot Camp, Parallels, and VMware, your OS is not an either/or situation. You can run Windows and OS X on the same machine, booting into one or running both side by side .
18. "Sign me up!"
Siri is an amusing and often useful mobile companion, and not just because of the Prince Oseph commercial.
19. "Hello. I'm Macintosh."
The stories of how the Mac was made are confusing, contradictory, and in the end inspiring. The three-part TV series "Triumph of the Nerds" provides a solid overview of the start of Apple and Silicon Valley.
20. The Mac saves the world.
In Independence Day, Jeff Goldblum somehow uploads a computer virus from his PowerBook 5300 to the enemy mothership, taking down the alien defenses and demonstrating that even in the dark days of 1996, Apple was capable of great things.
21. Best Mac ever?
Lots of Macs could claim the title of best Mac ever: The Macintosh SE/30, for example, was a high-point of the first Mac design. The PowerBook G4 -- the TiBook -- paired computing muscle with a jolt of style. But I'd choose the Mac IIci. It was an incredibly capable, expandable workhorse that -- because of its popularity -- remained part of Apple's product line for three and a half years.
22. Go digital.
The iSight wasn't Apple's first camera. In 1994, Apple released one of the first digital cameras, the QuickTake 100. Built by Kodak for Apple, the camera could store eight photos at 640x480 resolution or 32 photos at 320×240. For comparison, macworld.co.uk estimates you can fit 19,125 photos on a 128GB iPhone 6S.
23. Tears of a clone.
For a decade, Apple resisted licensing the Mac OS to third-party manufacturers. But in 1995, as its market share dwindled, Apple signed up a collection of tech companies to manufacture and sell Macintosh clones, with the goal of growing the Mac market. The clone makers were nimble and scrappy ("You can take my Mac when you pry my cold dead fingers off the mouse!" read one Power Computing ad), and Apple soon saw that instead of expanding the market, the clones were largely taking sales away from Apple. When Steve Jobs returned, he ended the cloning experiment.
24. The return.
Following the Copland debacle, Apple saw the fastest way to replace its aging Mac operating system was to buy one instead of build it. Everything pointed to Apple's purchasing the BeOS, a modern, fast, flashy operating system developed by former Apple COO Jean-Louis Gassée. But in a "stunning move," Apple bought NeXT. With the purchase, the company got its replacement operating system and Steve Jobs.
As Apple's market share dropped through the 1990s, third-party developers began to look to other, more profitable platforms, especially at Microsoft, which heavily courted Mac programmers. As a defense against losing basic applications, Apple first created the iLife collection of apps to support its digital hub strategy, and then the iWork suite as an alternative to Microsoft Office.
26. In the cloud.
It's gone through a handful of names -- from iTools to .Mac to MobileMe and now iCloud -- but Apple has been offering cloud-based storage and tools since January 2000. All hail those with working .Mac email addresses!
27. And yet it moves.
In 1991, QuickTime seemed like magic. Inside the QuickTime player, which wasn't much bigger than a playing card, you could watch digital video. Microsoft's competing technology, Video for Windows, didn't appear till a year later and allegedly relied on code stolen from Apple's project.
28. Always an appropriate gift.
iTunes helps us find and organize our music. At 99 cents, songs are almost a no-brainer to buy. We can even purchase movies and subscribe to TV shows. But iTunes' greatest service might be that the iTunes gift card gives us a gift appropriate for any occasion.
29. A famous ancestor.
Following the handcrafted motherboard of the Apple I, which sold less than 200 units, the Apple II was wildly successful and for years was among the top-selling personal computers. It was even popular in business: VisiCalc, the first PC spreadsheet, shipped first for the Apple II.
From the start the Mac was designed to be portable. The original 128k Macs even came with a travel bag! And the first mobile Mac, the Mac Portable, shipped in 1989. But for more than 20 years, Apple's desktop Macs steadily outsold its laptop models. Starting in 2001, Apple released a series handsome titanium- and then aluminum-clad PowerBooks, colorful iBooks, and finally in 2006 an Intel-powered MacBook Pro, which pushed portables past desktops on Apple's sales charts.
31. Without wires.
It's swell that Apple's laptops look great. But what eventually made Apple portables a replacement for desktops was going wireless. By offering AirPort in iBooks in the summer of 1999, Apple opened the path to Wi-Fi networking.
32. Need input.
Except for the bewildering hockey puck that came with the first iMac, the Mac mouse is a perfect way to drive the user interface. Personally, I'd loved to have seen some of the alternatives in action, such as the knee-operated pointing device.
33. Why can't I touch it?
And as perfect as the mouse is, Steve Jobs was right about using your finger as an input device. That's part of the genius of the iPad: All you need is the tablet.
34. Is that a bedsheet?
Much is made of Apple's industrial design skills. But its fashion sense is strong as well, from Steve Jobs' iconic mock turtleneck to senior VP Eddy Cue's, err, unusual shirt choices.
35. "One more thing."
Apple's keynote addresses are a master class in how to present information. Apple executives keep slides simple and attractive, don't just read the slide text, and can keep an audience engaged up to the now almost cliche "One more thing" closing.
36. The desktop publishing revolution.
The Mac, in combination with Apple's LaserWriter printer and Aldus' PageMaker layout program, sparked desktop publishing in 1985. With the trio, designers could create professional page layouts with text and graphics and then print them accurately on Apple's laser printer, via PostScript.
37. For those who want to be alone.
In 1994 Apple launched eWorld, its Mac-only competitor to AOL. Apple's online community offered email, chat rooms, and access to Apple support files. But very few Mac users signed up, and two years later, Apple shuttered the online service.
38. April Fools!
On On April 1, 1976, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and their friend Ronald Wayne founded Apple Computer. Concerned about the new company's long-term prospects, Wayne sold his share back a few weeks later for $800.
39. The iTunes phone.
The iPhone wasn't the first mobile device to include Apple's iTunes player -- that was Motorola's Rokr, launched in the fall of 2005. Apple wasn't pleased and, two years later, using the lessons learned from the Rokr, released the first iPhone.
40. Gaming rig.
Many people got their introduction to computer gaming through the Oregon Trail. The game, in which you guide settlers cross country, was a cornerstone of elementary school education for 20 years. Mac gaming also spurred CD-ROM adoption, as the immersive CD-ROM game Myst was the top-selling title of its time.
Tuong Nguyen also contributed to this article.