What with Apple cancelling its failed AirPower mat, some folks might have felt a little… sad. We’ve decided to look on the bright-and-shiny side, and cast our snoots back on Apple’s best tech from the era when Steve Jobs still steered the ship.
Apple’s history is one of innovation, failure (which often goes hand-in-hand with innovation), and some brilliant tech. We’ve compiled a list of some of its most iconic and memorable hardware products from its relatively short, but oh-so-rich history.
The Macintosh (128k) was released in 1984, and changed the way people thought about personal computers at the time. It was the first relatively inexpensive computer to use a graphical user interface (GUI), 3.5in disks, featured a consistent look-and-feel among applications, and true WYSIWYG printing — all of which are taken for granted today. This was the first personal computer to allow users to actually focus on using the hardware, instead of struggling to get it to work.
Apple’s LaserWriter was one of the premier laser printers of its time, empowering small businesses, and general consumers to create and print their own designs. The printer/Macintosh combo made it possible for anyone to print basic typesets without the need for an expensive office printer.
Apple PowerBook 100, 140, and 170
Although the PowerBook wasn’t Apple’s first mobile computer, (let’s not mention the Macintosh Portable), it was certainly its most successful. The PowerBook featured a 9in monochrome display, a 640 x 400-pixel resolution and a trackball built into the keyboard. With this device, Apple managed to climb into the hearts of travelling business folk, proving they created one of the best first laptop iterations in history.
The Newton MessagePad is likely the first device to feature a ‘primitive’ version of Siri. ‘Twas Apple’s first personal digital assistant, able to recognise voice commands and run simple tasks based on vocal cues. The MessagePad ran on the Newton operating system, came with a stylus to use on its touch-sensitive display, and featured handwriting recognition. Many see the device as an early precursor for the iPad we know and love today.
Apple iMac G3
With its quirky design, translucent body and bright colour options, the iMac G3 helped lift Apple from (what seemed to be at the time) impending financial doom. It also marked the first mass-marketed device from Apple after the return of Steve Jobs as CEO in 1997 and ushered in the company’s emphasis on industrial design. Although the iMac G3 didn’t necessarily offer better specs than other PCs on the market at the time, it was marketed as an ‘internet’ computer, with a built-in telephone modem. It was… popular.
Taking after its big brother, the iMac G3, Apple described the iBook to the general consumer as a portable iMac. It was Apple’s first device that featured WiFi-capabilities which didn’t just cement Apple’s ability to innovate technologically, but helped usher in what would become the new standard for internet connectivity. It’s also around the time Apple started really pushing the use of its media app, iTunes.
Apple PowerBook G4
The PowerBook G4’s debut kickstarted a dramatic change in how notebooks were viewed. They didn’t have to be bulky boxes that were as portable as box of bricks… but that’s Apple’s influence for you. The G4 sported a stylish new titanium enclosure, which was only 1in thick, 0.7in thinner than its predecessor, the PowerBook G3 (FireWire). Little did we know that the G4’s design would pave the way for all of Apple’s designs to come.
While it was not the first MP3 player, the original iPod was both smaller and easier to use than many of its competitors. Although it garnered exceptional demand, users still had to upload music from CDs or transfer downloaded music, because iTunes only officially launched in 2003. When it first launched, the iPod stored up to 1,000 songs (which still made you the coolest kid — new or otherwise — on the block back in the day).
Apple Power Mac G5
The Power Macintosh G5 was Apple’s long-awaited fifth-generation PC tower, clad in Apple’s (now) signature brushed aluminium design. This probably makes it one of the best-looking PCs of its time, never mind the insane power output thanks to the PowerPC 970 Processor (publicly referred to as the G5). All-in-all, the 64-bit Power Mac G5 represented a huge leap forward in both processor and machine design.
Apple Mac Mini
Apple really kept it simple in 2005 with its Mac Mini, a minimalistic mini computer that was packaged without any accessories or peripherals. Though it wasn’t the most popular device from the company, it took off with users who liked to customise and modify their computers or needed home-entertainment servers. It also started a few mini-obsessions at the Stuff offices that are ongoing today.
The original Apple TV was designed to bring content from iTunes to a personal television or monitor. Current versions lean more toward rentals and streaming 4K content, but the 2007 Apple TV represents the starting point of what Apple TV is now. In the late Steve Jobs’ words, this was a box for getting iTunes content to a flat-screen TV. The player was capable of playing 720p video and included a 40GB hard drive.
Whether or not you believe the original iPhone changed the future of mobile phones doesn’t matter. Because it did. Featuring a 3.5in touchscreen, a new operating system known as iOS, and mobile apps, the iPhone went on to single-handedly change the mobile landscape as we know it. Sure, the latest few iterations haven’t delivered anything nearly as exciting as the first-gen device was just in virtue of existing. As far as the original iPhone is concerned, no one can deny its impact on the way we use and view smartphones today.
Apple launched the MacBook Air at the end of January 2008. It was a razor-thin sliver of machined aluminium and a mere 19.4mm at its thickest point. Little did we know then, but this marked the beginning of laptops becoming smaller and smaller by the year, eventually reaching the diminutive sizes we have today. The Air wasn’t perfect, though. It lacked an optical drive (something people actually still used in 2008) and had very limited power, plus the screen wasn’t amazing.
Back in 2010 (pre-massive mobile devices), the original iPad was basically dubbed ‘a big iPhone’, as Steve Jobs himself wasn’t completely sure what this product would turn out to be. But the iPad went on to pioneer a new variation of mobile device — the tablet computer. The original iPad had a 9.7in display, came in both a Wi-Fi-only model and the Wi-Fi + 3G model. It also included Apple’s first branded processor, the Apple A4, and didn’t feature a camera… at all. Despite some criticism, many lined up to buy the iPad, and after 80 days, Apple had sold a whopping 3 million units.
Apple iPhone 4
The iPhone 4 sported one of the more distinct design updates from Apple and was the first iPhone to feature a Retina display, the A4 chip and gyroscope, and a front-facing camera. The front-facing camera also led to it being the first device to feature FaceTime — real-time video calling on a mobile device. If you know someone with an iPhone 4, we guarantee it’ll still work reasonably well, provided you give it some software-update love first. How many other bits of consumer tech are you aware of are still good after eight years? Yeah, that’s what we thought.