May 1 - 8: Big Blue Becomes Cloner, The iMac is Born!
July 2nd, 2004

[Authors Note: Owen and I are still behind in this series, but we are committed to getting caught up by Macworld Boston. Look for a blast of This Week in Apple History installments during the next two weeks. - Bryan]

Do the Floppy Shuffle! Ah, remember the good ol' days of constantly switching out floppy disks on your original Mac so that you could copy something? Apple made that a somewhat less laborious task this week in 1984 when it released Mac OS 1.1. The major feature in that release, the first update to the Mac OS, was an improved copy routine.

In a slight tangent, it was this year in 1991 that Steve Jobs first made a deal with Disney that would help propel his other company, Pixar, into the limelight of animation success.

There's more history from the Clone Era this week, too, with Apple announcing it had signed on none other than IBM itself as a Mac OS licensee. Unfortunately, Big Blue never made its own Mac clones, perhaps sealing the efforts doom in the process, but instead sought out other sub-licensees, a provision that only IBM and Motorola had been granted.

Fast forward a year, and the IBM-designed PowerBook 2400c -- which was an effort separate from the cloning agreement -- was introduced by Apple. This model was very, very small, and was a smash success in Japan. Indeed, even in the US it remained highly sought after for many years to come because of its size.

Perhaps most importantly, it was this week in 1998 that the iGeneration was born. Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the Bondi blue iMac this week in 1998. That's right, it's been more than 6 years since the iMac was introduced. The iMac brought Apple back to profitability, officially killed the floppy disk, at least in the Mac world, and single-handedly made USB the peripheral connectivity technology in both the Mac and Wintel worlds.

In 2001, another era in Apple history got off the ground as Apple officially, and finally, confirmed with the Wall Street Journal that it was opening its own fleet of retail stores.

That's a busy week in Apple History, to be sure, but there's even more in this week's installment. 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.

May 1-8

1984: Apple releases the first update to the Macintosh OS. The most notable new feature of System 1.1 is improved disk copying. While this doesn't sound like much, it was a big deal at the time since the original 128K Mac came with only a single 400K 3.5-inch disk drive, and copying disks involved a tedious routine nicknamed the "floppy shuffle."

1991: Steve Jobs' Pixar and Walt Disney Company sign a deal for three feature films, with Disney maintaining control over marketing and licensing, and Pixar creating the screenplays, for which it would receive 12.5 percent of the box office gross revenues and video sales. Disney put up only $17 million for the production costs and excluded Pixar from merchandising revenues. Following the twin successes of Toy Story and Pixar's IPO in 1995, Jobs negotiated a new five-picture deal with Disney, giving Pixar an equal share of the profits, plus equal billing on merchandise and on-screen credits.

1996: In a move many equate with hell freezing over, Apple licenses the Mac to long-time rival IBM. Apple had toyed with the idea of allowing Mac clones for almost a decade before CEO Michael Spindler reluctantly acquiesced in late 1994. From the moment Gil Amelio took over a beleaguered Apple in February 1996, he was a strong champion of the clone initiative, but Steve Jobs killed the clones shortly after wresting control away from Amelio in mid-1997.

1997: Apple introduces the IBM-designed PowerPC 2400c. The tiny laptop was originally intended for the Japanese market, but strong demand for a sub-notebook pushed Apple into releasing it to the States, where it became a highly-sought after portable for many years to come because of its size.

Apple also begins taking orders for the eMate 300 from the general public. The eMate was a clamshell Newton OS originally available exclusively to the education channel. The eMate was also used by Alicia Silverstone's Bat Girl character in Batman and Robin, and was by all reports a very successful product when Steve Jobs pulled it from the market in 1998.

1998: Apple unveils the US$1,299 iMac, the first major new product developed entirely under the second reign of interim CEO Steve Jobs. According to Apple, the iMac represented "the Internet-age computer for the rest of us." Although many criticized the lack of a floppy drive, Apple crammed the iMac's stunning translucent Bondi blue plastic case (designed by Jonathan Ive) with a 233MHz PowerPC G3, 32MB of RAM, 15-inch display, 4GB hard drive, 24X CD-ROM drive, V.90 modem, and 10/100Base-T Ethernet. The iMac became the fastest-selling Macintosh model ever, returning the company to solid profitability and cementing Mr. Jobs' reputation as Apple's savior.

Motorola announces AltiVec, a vector-processing unit that will be part of PowerPC. AltiVec goes on to help make the G4 PowerPC processor one of the fastest processors on the planet, for a while, especially for computationally-intensive uses such as graphics apps like Photoshop.

Apple acquires Final Cut, a DV editing program, from Macromedia, and goes on to complete the software under the name of Final Cut Pro. Final Cut Pro helps Apple to gain new strength in the DV market.

2001: Apple announces a 23,000 iBook deal with Henrico County Public School District. The deal is the biggest education deal in history, and provides a Mac to every student and teacher in middle school and high school in the district. This turns out to be just the first such large-scale sale in the education space for Apple.

Coinciding with the announcement of this deal is a new iBook quickly nicknamed the IceBook because of its white plastic appearance.

Apple confirms with the Wall Street Journal that it will be opening a new fleet of retail stores, with the first such store to open in McLean, Virginia.

2003: Apple announces the second generation of the eMac line, with either an 800 MHz or 1 GHz PowerPC G4 processor, a Combo or SuperDrive, high performance ATI Radeon 7500 graphics, a hard drive as large as 80GB, and internal support for AirPort Extreme wireless networking. All eMac models feature a 17-inch flat CRT, with prices starting at just US$799, making it the most affordable PowerPC G4 system on the market.

Apple sells 1 million songs in the first week of the iTMS being open. This signals the massive success the iTMS is to become.