Happy 30th, Apple!

The company that brought us the Apple II, Macintosh, iPod and other notable technology products marked three decades of business over the weekend. Apple Computers celebrated the 30th anniversary of the day that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak filed partnership papers to detail their plans to build and sell personal computers on April 1.


Jobs and Woz had been friends since the early 1970s. After both dropped out of college (a recurring theme among the IT greats), they started tinkering around with technology in a garage. Their first product, the Apple I, was little more that a motherboard in a wooden box, the natural result of its environs. Although only about 200 Apple I computers were sold, it did raise the young company’s profile and contribute to the success of the follow-up Apple II microcomputer in 1977. The “two Steves” brought their own skills and style to the partnership—Jobs being the business savvy one with the ability to raise funds and generate interest, and Woz being the techie whiz who actually put the computers together.


Apple’s momentum was sustained well into the 1980s and early 1990s. Although it faced strong competition from PC provider IBM, which had started using MS-DOS from a young company called Microsoft with its computers, it did reasonably well with offerings such as the Macintosh (with its then-novel graphical user interface) and the System 7 operating system (OS). However, perhaps the most memorable release during this era for the company was not a technology product, but rather a commercial. The legendary 1984 commercial (based on Orwell’s book about a dystopian future) for the Macintosh aired that year during Super Bowl XVIII, commencing an iconic marketing strategy that continues to this day.


While Apple was riding high in the beginning of the 1990s, the company began to wane during the latter half of the decade—during the tech boom, no less! By then, Woz and Jobs had been gone for some time, and operational and personnel problems had led to a string of bombs, all while Microsoft was rising to seemingly unchallengeable levels of market leadership. As a result, Apple teetered on bankruptcy and its stock price plummeted, causing many to wonder how long it would be before it went under.


Yet there was some life left in the company. In 1997, it purchased OS provider NeXT, where Jobs was serving as CEO, and he was made the chief executive of Apple that same year. The following year, due to a combination of reorganization and the release of the iMac computer, Apple actually turned a profit. By 2001, the company was back in a big way, rolling out both the Mac OS X and the iPod. And it hasn’t looked back, with several iterations of the money-making music platform since then as well as new hardware such as the MacBook Pro, which uses Intel chips.


Love them or hate them, Apple has undeniably had a huge impact on the technology sector. This is due to a combination of an extremely devoted following (the Cult of Mac), a carefully cultivated corporate image (the center of which is Steve Jobs, who in his black turtleneck, resembles Mike Myers’ character Deeter on the Saturday Night Live sketch “Sprockets”) and some really great consumer and enterprise products. So here’s to you, Apple—IT just wouldn’t be the same without you.

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