The genius behind Apple would’ve turned 62 today, so we look back on five Apple products that shook the world.
After the hits and misses of the Apple I, II, and III, Jobs unveiled the first Macintosh in 1984, sparking the evolution from a large white box to the razor-thin laptops we use today. The Mac was the first computer to use graphical user interface rather than text-based user interface — or in non-nerd speak, the first computer that could be navigated by little icons of arrows, rubbish bins, and floppy disks rather than walls of green Matrix-esque writing. Combine that with the advent of the mouse, and this seminal computer provides an insight into the unwavering focus on the user experience that’s underpinned Apple’s phenomenal popularity over the last three decades.
Following Jobs’ tumultuous exit in 1985 then re-entry into the Apple fold in 1997, in October 2001 he released the iPod, a gadget that placed 1000 songs in the palm of your hand. It wasn’t the first digital MP3 player but the iPod’s sleek design is what truly transformed the way we listen to music — the revolutionary scroll wheel to select songs, loading songs straight from the computer, and the ‘docking station’ to charge. Oh, and don’t forget the marketing — those colourful dancing silhouettes and their white earphone cables are still one of the most iconic ads in history.
But where could you download all that music for your iPod? There’s an online store from that. The music industry was on its knees in the early 2000s thanks to illegal downloads on file-sharing platforms like Napster and Kazaa, until Apple managed to put a price on digital song downloads and establish a business model that still stands up to this day. iTunes hit 10 billion downloads by 2010 and the store now offers movies, games, and books, too.
The iPhone was so ground-breaking Jobs actually had to explain what it was at the January 2007 launch: “An iPod. A phone. And an internet communicator. Are you getting it? We are calling it iPhone.” The touchscreen was the feature that shook the industry — Nokia and BlackBerry totally changed the way they made phones, specifically the shift away from physical key boards towards touch screens, and Microsoft gave up on plans to build a mobile altogether. Now, 10 years down the track (doesn’t that make you feel old), it’s hard to imagine ever setting an actual alarm clock or maintaining a pen-and-paper address book or, for the vast majority of us, even carrying around a camera — that’s all now contained in your pocket.
You only need to look at what tablets looked like before the iPad to understand the impact Apple’s offering made on the market — pre-2010, every tablet was designed like a bulky Microsoft laptop sliced in half, with an unsightly briefcase handle and an inconvenient and unreliable stylus (yeah, a stylus, remember those?), until rival brands all started chasing the iPad’s look. iPad became the fastest growing consumer tech product ever in the 12 months after its release and the impact has been sustained — just ask anyone who’s enjoyed a 10-inch tablet as their in-flight entertainment or anyone’s whose kid’s entire collection of schoolbooks now fits into a 500gm package.