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This Week in Apple History
by Owen Linzmayer
& Bryan Chaffin

July 1 - 10: Hello Cat, So Long Gil, Goodbye Cube
Published October 4th, 2004

[Authors Note: Owen and I are still behind in this series, but are working hard to catch up - Bryan]

Jef Raskin is one of the most controversial figures in the Mac's early days. Indeed, the Mac was originally his project, though the product envisioned by Mr. Raskin bore little resemblance to the computer that eventually shipped under the guidance of Steve Jobs. It was originally going to be an inexpensive computer dedicated to helping people complete the computing tasks they needed to do.

Dismissed by Steve Jobs until the Apple founder decided his project had a future, Jef Raskin worked for years on the Macintosh with few resources. When Steve Jobs took over his project, relegating Mr. Raskin to overseeing Macintosh documentation, Mr. Raskin left Apple (the full story of this development is covered in detail in Apple Confidential 2.0).

Arguments about whose vision of the Mac was the "right" vision have gone back and forth for years, but it's possible that we can actually see what would have happened had Mr. Raskin maintained his control over the Mac, for it was this week in 1987 that Canon released the Cat, a dedicated "work processor" developed by Mr. Raskin after he left Apple.

That same week, Apple gave birth to Claris Corporation, its brand new software subsidiary spun off from the main company. William Campbell, who later made a big splash with a little company called Intuit, was the Apple exec chosen to head the new spin off. Today, he sits on Apple's board of directors.

In 1991, the PowerPC age was born. It was this week in 1991 that IBM and Apple, the two formerly bitter rivals, signed a letter of intent for IBM to license the PowerPC processor to Apple. The letter also promised work on Pink, the Apple/IBM operating system you've likely never heard of unless you read Apple Confidential 2.0.

Stepping ahead a bit further, a painful era in Apple's history was ended this week in 1997. It was then that Gil Amelio, the embattled and heavily criticized CEO who made the decision to buy the company whose CEO ended up taking his job, NeXT, resigned. While Mr. Amelio was not a great CEO who could take Apple into the future, he did make enormous changes to Apple while he was in charge, including eliminating waste, killing bloated and dead projects, restructuring the company to the tune of billions of dollars, and other much needed cuts. Those cuts were all desperately needed at Apple, and had all been made before Steve Jobs stepped (back) into the role of guiding visionary at Apple. That's something for which Mr. Amelio seldom gets credit.

On a sad note, it was this week in 2001 that Apple canned the Cube, its G4-powered headless Mac the size of an oversized box of Kleenex. One of the most loved and admired Macs to ever come from Apple, it was also one of the few failures in terms of sales to come from Apple under Steve Jobs.

You can find more information on many of the entries below in Owen Linzmayer's excellent Apple Confidential 2.0. The other entries can be found in TMO's archives, and we link to articles whenever we can.

July 01-10

1987: Canon introduces the Cat (US$1,495), a "work processor" designed by Information Appliance, the firm Jef Raskin founded after Steve Jobs took over his Macintosh project at Apple. The Cat was part personal computer, part electronic typewriter. Although based upon a 5MHz 68000-the same type of processor at the heart of the classic Macs-the Cat did not have a mouse or icons. Instead it used "Leap'' keys below the spacebar to gracefully move between tasks and portions of the screen; hence the name "Cat." It came with word processor, spreadsheet, and telecommunications features in ROM. Text was displayed on a 9-inch monochrome screen, and the entire contents of memory was automatically saved on 3.5-inch 256K disks using the built-in drive. Documents could also be output on the optional $400 daisywheel printer. The Cat was technically capable of using a mouse and displaying bitmapped graphics, but these features were never enabled. After only six months on the market, with 20,000 units sold, Canon abruptly dropped the Cat without explanation.

Just two days after Canon's announcement of the Cat, Apple announces the name of its new software subsidiary: Claris Corporation. "We chose the name Claris for its inherent marketing appeal, reflecting clarity and distinctiveness, and to remind us that shaping the future requires a clear vision," said William V. Campbell, then president of Claris and formerly Apple's executive VP for U.S. sales and marketing. Claris went on to great success in the Macintosh and Windows markets, until Apple bewildered the software industry on January 27, 1998, by announcing that the subsidiary would be restructured to focus exclusively on its database product, FileMaker Pro and that the remaining best-selling Claris titles would be absorbed into Apple.

1991: IBM signs a letter of intent with Apple, pledging to license its RISC (reduced instruction set computing) processor, the PowerPC, and to help Apple complete its secret object-oriented operating system (code-named Pink, after the color of the index cards on which the feature set was written during a March 1987 brainstorming session). Just a few months prior, Apple CEO John Sculley had given a group of IBM engineers a demonstration of Pink running on an IBM PS/2 Model 70, making it look and feel a lot like a Mac running System 7. Pink never saw the light of day, but the PowerPC developed jointly with Motorola became the basis for a new breed of Macintosh computers. Today, a decade after the first 60MHz Power Mac was introduced, Apple's top-of-the-line Mac features two fifth-generation CPUs cranking at 2.5GHz.

1997: After just 523 days in charge, Gilbert Amelio resigns his positions as chairman and CEO of Apple. Including the $56 million loss the company would report for the third quarter ended June 27, Apple had suffered over $1.6 billion in losses during Amelio's watch, an amount that wiped out all the profits generated since fiscal year 1991. Nonetheless, the company gave him a one-time lump-sum cash payment of $6,731,870, less $1,500,000 as a partial repayment of the balance of a loan, plus 130,960 shares of stock and an additional bonus of $1,000,000. He used part of these proceeds to fund Parkside Group, a strategic quality investment firm. In May 2001, Amelio became a senior partner at Sienna Ventures, a privately held investment firm in Sausalito, California.

2001: After selling only 250,000 units, Apple puts the Power Mac G4 Cube on ice, making it the first significant stumble under Steve Jobs' leadership. When introduced, the US$1,799 Cube featured a 450 MHz PowerPC G4 processor, 64MB of memory expandable to 1.5GB, 20GB hard drive, a slot-loading DVD drive, two FireWire and USB ports, 10/100Base-T Ethernet, and a 56K V.90 modem. All this was housed in an eight-inch cube suspended in a stunning crystal-clear enclosure. Although praised for its innovative industrial design, just like Ive's other recent creations, the Cube didn't catch on with creative professionals because it was too expensive, not powerful enough, and hard to upgrade.

is the author of Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most Colorful Company, published by No Starch Press earlier this year (US$13.97 - Amazon).

is the editor of The Mac Observer, and was egged on, in-part, in his obsession with the Mac by Owen's first book, The Mac Bathroom Reader.

You can send your comments directly to Owen and Bryan, or you can also post your comments below.

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