40 years of Apple 

40 years ago, Apple Computer, Inc. was born. While I certainly could wind a path through four decades of computers and products, software and services, I think that today is more about the why of all of it.

Why do we obsess over tiny design and development changes and decisions?

Why do we get into spats on Twitter about mobile operating systems?

Why do we care so much about an enormous, publicly traded company?

Why do I do talk and think about Apple for a living?

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While I was born several years after the personal computing revolution took off, I understand why it was so important. It changed the world because what Steve Jobs and others believed decades ago is still important.

Bill Gates said it well with his “a computer on every desk at work and in every home” line. He and Jobs both believed that technology should’t be kept under lock and key. People shouldn’t have to go to the High Priests of the Mainframe to experience the benefits that a computer could offer.

To truly make technology accessible, Jobs believed it should be well-designed. He gave a shit what the components that no one would ever see looked like. Hardware that looked cute and non-threatening (running software that was easy to understand) may have made some hobbyists dismiss the Mac, but it is history’s chosen sibling, not the Apple II with its command prompt and lack of a mouse.

Apple also believes in pushing boundaries and moving forward. In 1984, Apple II fans were taken aback that the Macintosh lacked expansion slots. In 1998, it was bonkers that the iMac shipped without ADB ports or a floppy drive. Today, Mac OS X users are clutching to their filesystems in a world where iOS is the company’s dominant platform.

While some of Apple’s bets haven’t panned out, the big ones often have.

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This attention to detail and vision for the future is what drives so much of the conversation around Apple to this day. How many blog posts and podcast episodes have I produced over seven and a half years about esoteric minutiae? I literally pay my mortgage with articles about subtle changes to Apple’s interface design and hardware choices.

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There’s something bigger at play here, though. In addition to the detail-oriented obsessions and the idea that technology should be approachable, Apple believes in equipping its users to do great things.

How many people who are professional programmers now got their start with an Apple II or Macintosh and a magazine with printed code, ready to be reproduced and evolved?

How many photographers and designers first discovered their passion in MacPaint or Photoshop?

How many thesis papers, poems and plays have been written in ClarisWorks, AppleWorks and iWork over the decades?

How many friends have I made after connecting with them about our shared hobby of tinkering with the Mac?

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I first met the Mac in high school. A single machine — a kinda crappy PowerMac G3 All-in-One — set the course for so many things in my life. I wrote articles and designed newspaper pages on that computer, making the hardware and software to bend to my will.

I learned that I could take an idea and brute force it into the world.

And for that, Apple, thank you, from all of us.