Apple at 40: A rollercoaster of innovation

1 Apr 2016

Apple turned 40 today (1 April), allowing us to look back over four decades of innovation that brought the company to the very top of the tech world.

In October of 2014, something remarkable happened. A paying punter spent $905,000 on an Apple 1, the first computer built by Steve Wozniak for the nascent Apple company back in 1976.

Originally costing ‘just’ $666.66 – rumoured to be priced as such due to Wozniak’s love of recurring numbers – the sale made it the most expensive computer ever sold.

It was utter madness, sure, but it reflected the bizarre, enthusiastic adoration many have for a company that has bridged the previously un-thought-of gap between device manufacturer and lifestyle provider.

Since its creation in 1976 – with Steve Jobs the business brain, Wozniak the computer genius, and the less-heralded Ronald Wayne as the mediator – Apple has gone on to create some truly excellent devices.

A whole new world

Its computers, through various guises, have played key roles in shaping the industry as a whole. Considering the competitors it has had to play alongside, like Dell and Microsoft, and given it wasn’t always the world’s biggest tech company, that’s some achievement.

However, Apple’s true success came in the 2000s, riding high on the wave of enthusiasm for a digitalisation of contemporary culture.

In 2001, the company released iTunes, a truly revolutionary concept that eventually caught out the majority of competitors. Alongside the iPod – released a few months later – it made tangible ownership of music was a thing of the past.

iTunes continued to drive Apple’s success, helping it see off all other MP3 players – many of superior quality, usability and compatibility – before the iPhone came along and created a new revenue stream (apps) that no-one could match.

Remember, remember

The company seems to be fairly aware of its roots, sporting a Jolly Roger flag outside its head office today to mark its birthday. As 9to5mac reports, the iconic flag, complete with rainbow Apple logo for an eye, dates back to the creation of the original Mac.

The Mac team hung the flag as their act of rebellion, “distinguishing their cool work, led by Jobs, from the rest of the company, which was preoccupied making the Lisa”.

As the company finally faces something of a challenging spell this millennium, releasing the iPhone SE to buffer against a saturated market and fighting an impossible battle with the US government to protected its encrypted software, it’s a good time to reflect.

This video, released last week at Apple’s media event, does its best to pack 40 years into 40 seconds. It’s a bit of a squeeze for a company that has achieved so much.

Apple image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic