Apple today is unrecognizable from Apple Computer as it was from its start to 2007, yet the more you look into the details, the more you can see how it is astonishing similar in its methods, its approaches, and its successes or failures. We're looking at these details and examining them down to the level of each week across the four decades: this time, seeing what Apple did January 30 through February 5 in the years 1976 to 2016.
After all the noise and the heat that Apple made in every January across its 40-year history, you would expect February to always be a little bit quieter. It wasn't. The one difference we've seen in our slicing through Apple is that it is remarkable how many important events happened in February, but which can't be pinned down to a specific date in the month. Where it simply isn't possible to be sure when in February something like private conversations took place, we'll cover those in a feature called February in Apple History coming at the end of the month.
Jobs and Wozniak in 1974
There is one thing we must mention right now, though, as it is just too indicative of so much that was to come with Apple. It was in February 1974 that Steve Jobs went to work for Atari as employee number 40, earning $5 per hour as a technician, chiefly on coin-operated arcade games. It's so indicative because it represented a certain retrograde step -- Jobs had moved back to his parents' home in Los Altos -- but also his approach to getting what he wanted.
Jobs saw an ad in the San Jose Mercury
with the line "Have fun, make money," and on that February day, he walked in to the Atari company and refused to leave. Atari founder Nolan Bushnell reported to Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson that: "I was told, 'We've got a hippie kid in the lobby. He says he's not going to leave until we hire him. Should we call the cops or let him in?' I said bring him on in!"
Apple and Pixar
It's when you look at the details of the week that you get the most startled by Apple's, and especially Jobs', progress. In February 1974, he is 19 years old, and a hippie making around $200/week. On February 3, 1986 he is 30 (shortly to be 31), and buys Pixar from George Lucas for $10m. Or so the story goes: that was his age, and that was his money, but hair-splitting detail does tell a different story. It was The Graphics Group, which would later be renamed Pixar, that got bought out from Lucasfilm, but it was with Jobs' money. His $10m was split 50/50 buying technology rights from Lucas, and as capital for the company.
Skip forward to February 3, 1997 when Jobs is 41, and Apple's then-CEO Gil Amelio buys Steve Jobs' NeXT computer firm for $429 million. It was the deal that effectively got us OS X as we know it today, got Apple a ton of top-flight engineering talent, and it was the deal that got Steve Jobs back into the company he had co-founded. So all in all, that was the best thing Amelio did since taking on the CEO role on February 2 the year before.
If February 2, 1996 was Amelio's start date as Apple CEO, it was effectively Michael Spindler's end date in the role. Spindler is one of the least-remembered Apple CEOs, but if he'd had his way, nobody outside the corporate business world would remember him at all. For if Spindler had pulled off the one thing he had tried to do, Apple would've been sold to Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, or IBM. It's conjecture of course, but the odds of Apple surviving today in any form are low; the odds of it being what we now know is somewhat unlikely. But Spindler couldn't sell the firm, and whether he knew it or not, Amelio was writing his own resignation letter a year later when he hired back Jobs.
This was the big turnaround for Jobs's career, Apple's general fortunes, and then its amazing fortune, but it was also happening as Pixar was growing too. By 2004, it was being suggested that Apple should buy the animation company. MacNN
reported on January 30, 2004 that CNN/Money columnist Paul R. La Monica was mooting the idea. MacNN
noted that "both companies are run by Steve Jobs, and, with its success in online music, Apple is beginning to look 'more and more like a content company' [says La Monica]."
We can now tell you that across 1976 to 2016, this week in February has been a quiet one for significant product launches --unless Apple surprises us before Friday with a new Mac Pro or an Apple Car. There was really only one completely new device released this week, and that was the QuickTake 100 digital camera, which was announced on February 2, 1994. It was the first consumer color digital camera, and it was really made by Kodak, which was afraid of jeopardising its film camera business if this were known. That worked out for them.
QuickTake 100 image from Shrine of Apple
The QuickTake 100 cost $749 when it was formally unveiled in Tokyo later in February 1994, and it had a resolution of 640x480 or 307,200 pixels. Apple doesn't make digital cameras per se
anymore, but of course every iPhone has one, and for comparison the current iPhone 6s Plus takes photos with a resolution of about 12 million pixels.
Otherwise, this week in February saw mainly updates and refreshes, none more confusing that the Macintosh LC line. The LC Macs were also released under the name Macintosh Performa, and the sea of different model numbers didn't make much more sense then than it does today. Yet the Macintosh LC 550 and 575 came out on February 2, 1994, and somebody probably loves them.
Picture from Apple-History.com
A lot of people definitely loved one other update. On February 5, 2008, Apple announced an iPhone with double the previous storage. It was now a 16GB iPhone, and cost $499. "For some users, there's never enough [storage]," said Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of Worldwide iPod and iPhone Product Marketing. "Now people can enjoy even more of their music, photos and videos on the most revolutionary mobile phone and best Wi-Fi mobile device in the world."
-- William Gallagher (@WGallagher