On Apple’s Nostalgia

In the wake of this morning’s news, I thought it would be worthwhile to talk a little bit about how Apple treats its past.

There’s no doubt that Steve Jobs didn’t like to look back. He donated Apple’s historical library to Stanford:

“The Apple collections, gathered by Apple’s impressive library and archival staff, reflect what amounts to the Apple crusade, as led by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Mike Markkula and John Sculley,” said Michael A. Keller, Stanford university librarian, director of Academic Information Resources and publisher of HighWire Press. “Stanford is proud to have received this well-organized and complete record of the Apple story to date.”

The collections, which have been managed by records management and library staff at Apple since the mid-1980s, were intended for an Apple museum that was never built. They already have been moved to Stanford and will be housed and maintained for research use in the department of special collections in Green Library. Inventories and finding aids for researchers will be prepared during the coming year.

In addition to the museum collection, Apple is giving Stanford historical materials from the recently closed Apple corporate library in Cupertino. These include book and periodical collections about Apple computers and software, user group newsletters, artifacts, press releases and speeches. Records from the Apple Library Users Group and the Apple Library of Tomorrow program also are part of the gift.

Then there’s this, from 1990:

This Jobs quote adorns the wall outside of Apple’s Town Hall:

If you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go so something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.

Like many things however, this view of the world is changing in the post-Jobs Apple.

In 2014, Apple celebrated the Mac’s 30th birthday. There was the 40 Years in 40 Seconds video, and in the most recent event, a PowerBook 170 was one of many vintage notebooks included in the presentation. Old iPhones routinely get made into graphics for keynotes. Phil Schiller has denied rumors that Campus 2 will include a public museum, but I have heard multiple times that an internal library of old software and some hardware has been rebuilt in recent years.

The point is that while nostalgia was not part of Jobs’ DNA, it has resurfaced in Apple’s. The company is changing, and part of that includes things like this new book.

Some find it troubling or uncomfortable, but I don’t think it is. A photo book of Macs and iPhones isn’t what is keeping Apple from releasing a Mac Pro. A promo video including the iBook G3 didn’t force the company to remove MagSafe from its new notebooks.

Apple can continue to push ahead, even as it allows itself the occasional glance in the rearview mirror. The company has an amazing history, and it’s okay to be proud of it.