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Columns & Editorials

This Week in Apple History
by Owen Linzmayer
& Bryan Chaffin

March 14 - 20: Lots Of Mac History, 1 Million Macs, "Wicked Fast," Tell-All Book, Darwin
March 15th, 2004

This was a big week in Apple history. In fact, this is our largest installment of this series to date.

We have some tit-for-tat shenanigans from Steve Jobs (1985), the millionth Mac (all six of them) (1987), and a lawsuit from Apple over Windows (1988), and the officially "wicked fast" Mac IIfx (1990). That's right, folks, it was 14 years ago that the 40 MHz speed demon was released.

Speaking of lawsuits, it was this week in 2000 that Apple successfully defended its use of OS 9.

In 1994, Apple introduced its PowerPC product line, the fastest Macs to date, and a product line that placed it head and shoulders above the Wintel competition. It's too bad that Apple didn't have the right stuff to turn that advantage into a market share grab.

It was this week in 1996 that the Middle Era of the Newton began with the release of the MessagePad 130.

Apple first embraced the open source movement this week in 1999 with the announcement of Darwin. Darwin was the open source foundation for Mac OS X. Darwin's birth was met with mixed reaction from the open source community, with many people not knowing whether or not to trust Apple. The company eventually began to see success with this effort, winning open source converts in the process.

There is much more in this week in Apple History:

March 14-20

1985: Annoyed at Steve Wozniak's very public and acrimonious departure from Apple the previous month, Steve Jobs forbids Apple's favorite industrial design contractor, frog design of Campbell, California, to work on remote control designs for Woz's new company, CL9.

1987: Apple pulls six Mac Plus (US$2,600) computers off the assembly line and designates each one the Millionth Mac produced. One of these six was presented to Jef Raskin, who had left Apple in 1982 after losing control of his Macintosh project to Steve Jobs. It was the first Macintosh model Raskin had ever owned.

1988: On Saint Patrick's Day, Apple sued Microsoft (and Hewlett-Packard) over Windows' imitation of Lisa/Mac audiovisual works. Apple would eventually seek US$5.5 billion in damages. Microsoft's defense was the November 1985 agreement Sculley signed granting it the right to use certain user interface elements. The suit was eventually decided in Microsoft's favor in 1995, costing Apple US$10 million in legal fees and the lion's share of the computer market.

1990: Apple introduces the "wicked fast" Mac IIfx (US$9,900), an expandable (six NuBus slots and room for dual floppy and hard drives) system with a 40 MHz 68030 CPU, besting the previous speed record holder, the 25 MHz Mac IIci. Whereas the Lisa had failed to sell well at the same price point seven years earlier, the Mac IIfx was in great demand, especially among graphics designers who willingly paid for the fastest machines they could get.

1991: Steve Jobs, 36, marries Laurene Powell, 27, a Stanford University MBA student, at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. The private ceremony was conducted by Kobin Chino, a Zen Buddhist monk. Their first child, Reed Paul (named after the Oregon college Jobs attended, as well as Steve's father), was born that September. Their second child, Erin Sienna, was born in August 1995, followed by Eve in 1998.

1994: At the premiere of the Power Mac line, Apple also announces Copland, its next-generation OS designed to thwart Windows 95 with intelligent agents, a customizable interface, and a relational database engine for the Finder. The project grew ever more ambitious and expensive, and never came to market as a single release, although some features were eventually rolled into System 7.6 and Mac OS 8. Apple's inability to ship Copland eventually led CEO Gil Amelio to buy, rather than build, its next-generation operating system in 1996 from none other than Steve Jobs' NeXT.

CEO Mike Spindler presides over unveiling of the first Power Macs, based on a new RISC-based PowerPC developed jointly with IBM and Motorola. With its 80 MHz CPU, the Power Mac 8100 (US$4,200) was by far the fastest computer Apple had ever produced. Its designers had hoped the PowerPC would give Macs a sustainable performance and price advantage over Wintel clones, but Apple management decided to stick with premium pricing, which blunted efforts to increase the Mac's market share.

1996: Just a month after Gil Amelio took over as CEO from Mike Spindler, Apple announces the MessagePad 130, giving Newton fans hope that the company will stick by its unprofitable PDA, which it had spent almost half a billion dollars developing and promoting.

The $799 MessagePad 130 was the first Newton to offer backlighting and a nonglare screen. It also came with 512K more system memory for better performance, with new Internet solutions and improved multitasking.

1997: Following a wholesale executive reorganization tied to Apple's acquisition of NeXT the previous month, CEO Gil Amelio announced the company was cutting another 2,700 positions. "This time, I'm going to use the two-by-four approach," stated a hardened Amelio. "I'm going to put this place through the most gut-wrenching change it's ever had." Within four months, Amelio would resign after seemingly failing to right Apple's sinking ship.

1998: It is announced that former Apple CEO Gil Amelio's tell-all, On the Firing Line: My 500 Days at Apple, is set to be released in April. In the book, Mr. Amelio claims that many of the things Apple had done since his departure were actually put into place by him, despite the lack of credit offered by Steve Jobs. This claim is neither proven nor discredited.

Diego Piacentini, Apple Computer Europe's president and general manager, says that 1998 is the year that Apple's industrial department will begin to play a more prominent role in Apple's business efforts. This was born out as Apple released product after product that were noted as much for their looks as any technical features.

Apple releases its first LCD display, the 15" Apple Studio Display. The unit was priced at US$1,999.

1999: Apple announces Darwin, the open source kernel for Mac OS X. This is the first time Apple has openly embraced the open source community, a move that will pay dividends in the coming years. At the same time, Apple shipped the first version of Mac OS X Server, the first version of Apple's NeXT generation operating system. In its first iteration, Mac OS X Server was largely still the NeXT OS with a few Mac features and Apple technologies mixed in with it.

2000: Apple scores a legal victory against Iowa-based Microware, the maker of an embedded OS called OS 9. The company had sued Apple over trademark infringement concerning Apple's consumer-oriented Mac OS 9. The case was dismissed by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.

Apple adds a third distributor to its distribution network, adding Tech Data Corporation to Pinacor and Ingram Micro. At the time, this move was hailed as signs of growth at Apple.

2002: Apple announces the 10 GB iPod at Macworld Tokyo, along with the US$3,499 23" Cinema Display HD.

2003: In a sign of the times, Apple announces an overhaul of its corporate governance, as well as the addition of two new directors in its board. The overhaul includes exchanging overpriced options, most of them belonging to Steve Jobs, for fewer, less expensive options.

Apple also announced a somewhat controversial addition to its Board, that of former United States vice president Al Gore. In the increasingly polarized politics of the time, much of the discussion in the Apple community that would normally be reserved for Mac vs. PC flame wars was instead directed into a "liberal vs. conservative" flame war.

Apple officially terminates the iMac G3 product line, while introducing cluster nodes for its new Xserve line. The Xserve is Apple's first serious attempt at entering the server market in many years.

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.

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