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This Week in Apple History
by Owen Linzmayer
& Bryan Chaffin

May 23 - 31: The US Festival, Jobs' Failed Coup, TAM, Pirates
Published August 30th, 2004

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

The year was 1983, and Steve Wozniak is throwing his second, massive US Festival, the Woodstock of the 80s. The US Festival had 25 bands, and the Apple cofounder lost some US$20 million on the two festivals combined.

Cut ahead to 1985, and we have a different sort of festival being duked out in Apple's board room. Steve Jobs, having found out that the man he brought over from Pepsi, John Sculley, was intending to strip him of responsibilities for the Mac division, stages a preemptive board room strike. Mr. Jobs tries to get the board to fire John Sculley instead, saying that Mr. Sculley was bad for Apple. With the backing of flamboyant Jean-Louis Gassée, Mr. Sculley won that battle, and Steve Jobs soon left Apple to form NeXT computer, and to buy Pixar.

It was this week in 1992 that the victorious Sculley signed his own death warrant by introducing the Newton prototype at the CES show in Chicago. The Newton found itself the object of derision and ridicule on talk shows -- and perhaps most famously in the comic strip Doonesbury -- because of its poor handwriting recognition, and never did receive its proper due. That is, until the Message Pad 2000 and 2001 were introduced, when the Newton platform finally took off. Of course, it was shortly thereafter that the returned Steve Jobs killed the Newton division, bringing everything to a nice, neat, looping close.

Another of Apple's few and far between product failures made its debut this week in 1997, as Apple began accepting orders for the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, or TAM as it has become known. Announced at US$9,999, but later dropped to mere US$7,499, the sexy and gorgeous TAM was a flop.

The early days of the Mac, and the dynamic relationships between Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, John Sculley, and a host of early computer pioneers, was chronicled in a made-for-TV movie called The Pirates of Silicon Valley that debuted this week in 1999. The movie was a hit with nerds, and largely praised for its portrayal of events.

There's more in the time line below in This Week in Apple History.

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 23-30

1983: Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak throws the second US Festival over Memorial Day weekend in Southern California, with 25 different bands on the schedule (The Clash, Men At Work, Stray Cats, Flock of Seagulls, The English Beat, Oingo Boingo, Wall of Voodoo, INXS, Divinyls on day one; Van Halen, Scorpions, Triumph, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue, and Quiet Riot on day two; David Bowie, Stevie Nicks, Joe Walsh, Pretenders, Missing Persons, U2, Quarterflash, Berlin, and Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul on the third day). Woz lost an estimated $20 million on the two US Festivals, but he had fun and still considers them successful. "If I do this for another fifty-five years, I'm in trouble," Woz quipped to rock promoter Barry Fey.

1985: Apple CEO John Sculley thwarts a coup by Steve Jobs. On the eve of a trip to China, Sculley was tipped off by Jean-Louis Gassée, VP of product development, that Jobs planned to overthrow him during his absence. In the face of flagging Mac sales and an industry downturn, Sculley had planned to take the Mac division away from Jobs. Steve tried to sway Apple's board to his side, but they authorized Sculley to strip him of all operational responsibilities. Still chairman, Jobs had little to do, and resigned four months later to found NeXT.

1992: Apple CEO John Sculley demonstrates the Newton prototype in public for the first time at the Summer Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Chicago. Sculley's remarks at the previous CES had been construed as an estimate of a $3 trillion market for personal digital assistants within the decade, so expectations were high for Apple's innovative PDA, the company's first major new product line since the Mac debuted eight years prior. The first Newton MessagePad wouldn't ship for more than a year, and it was widely ridiculed for its poor handwriting recognition.

1997: Apple begins accepting orders for the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, which will ship in June. Announced at US$9,999, but cut to $7,500 on release, this stylish computer (code-named Spartacus) featured an active-matrix color LCD borrowed from the PowerBook line and an Alchemy logic board with a 250MHz PowerPC 603e from the Performa 6400. It came with an upright mounted 4X CD-ROM drive, 32MB RAM, Bose Acoustimass sound system, and in-home "concierge" setup service. With comparable Power Macs available for less than $2,000, the Twentieth Anniversary Mac wasn't a best-seller, even after Apple dropped the price by another two thirds. With only 11,601 units manufactured, this unique system still commands approximately $500 or more on eBay today.

1998: Apple and former cloner Motorola are sued by a company called Panorama over a broken contract for Mac laptops that Panorama was to help Motorola develop. Motorola is sued for breach of contract, while Apple is said to have "advised, persuaded, counseled and/or coerced Motorola to breach said contract with [Panorama]."

1999: TNT debuts Pirates Of Silicon Valley, a made-for-TV docudrama starring Anthony Michael Hall as Microsoft's Bill Gates and Noah Wyle as Apple's Steve Jobs.

2002: Apple licenses the sexier "FireWire" name to the 1394 Trade Association, the trade group responsible for running all of the patents and technologies that make up the IEEE 1394, or FireWire, standard.

Steve Jobs says in an interview with the BBC that Apple was in a position to double its Mac market share, something that still hasn't happened in the intervening two years.

2003: Steve Jobs' other company, Pixar Animation Studios, releases Finding Nemo. Pixar's fifth full-length computer animated feature would go on to become the highest-grossing animated feature ever, only to have that distinction taken away in 2004 with the release of the blockbuster, Shrek 2 by rival studio, DreamWorks.

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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