(Cybertech) – Apple has come a long way since it was founded in 1976, from the humble beginnings of the Apple I computer to the very latest iPhone 12.
Not to mention it is now one of the world’s most valuable companies.
Apple hasn’t always produced successful products, as you’ll soon see, but it can’t be disputed that the technology giant innovated many products that we now take for granted today, with several of its older devices providing inspiration for those further down the line.
With Apple’s latest product, the HomePod, being made available to buy in stores, we thought it high time to take a look back at some of the tech giant’s more unusual products that you either never knew existed, or have completely forgotten about.
Apple’s forgotten products
1997 – Apple Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh
To mark its 20th birthday, Apple released a limited edition Mac in 1997. It arrived with what were seen as technological advancements for the time, and subsequently had a high introductory price of $7,499 to reflect it. The TAM was one of the first projects that Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jony Ive was involved with and was the inspiration for the iMac and eventually the Apple Magic Trackpad.
2002 – Apple iMac G4
We can all instantly recognise the sleek aluminium lines of the iMac today, but its floating screen design can be traced back to the iMac G4. It was the first iMac to feature an LCD mounted on an adjustable arm and replaced the colourful and iconic iMac G3. It was nicknamed the iLamp, in reference to its adjustable nature, similar to that of Luxo Jr, the desk lamp mascot for Pixar, which was created by Steve Jobs.
2003 – iSight
The iSight camera didn’t start life in the original iPhone or MacBook, but was originally an external webcam that cost $149 and connected to a computer via FireWire. The iSight webcam was discontinued in 2008, by which time it had found its way into MacBooks and iMacs. It was eventually rebranded as FaceTime with the introduction of the iPhone 4.
2007 – Apple iPod Hi-Fi
Long before the Apple HomePod, Apple had another speaker designed to be used with the iPod. The iPod Hi-Fi was a $349 speaker system that was available from February 2006 until September 2007. Like other Apple products, it was well designed, but it’s high price compared to competition at the time and lack of radio meant sales were generally poor. Apple eventually succumbed to the competition and ceased making the iPod Hi-Fi in 2007.
1993 – Apple MessagePad
Apple released what could be considered the very first PDA in 1993. The MessagePad was the first series of personal digital assistants produced for Apple’s Newton platform, which itself was the first to recognise handwriting. It wasn’t all good news though, as the handwriting recognition wasn’t particularly accurate and coupled with high prices, the Newton platform was ended in 1998 by order of Steve Jobs.
1995 – Apple Pippin
Apple released the Pippin platform in 1995 and was designed to be “an integral part of the consumer audiovisual, stereo, and television environment.” It was an open platform that was licensed to third-party companies such as Bandai, who used it in the Pippin ATMARK and @World consoles. Fewer than 100,000 Pippin consoles were ever produced and it placed 22nd in PC World’s “25 Worst Tech Products of All Time”.
2002 – Apple eMac
Apple launched the eMac in 2002 with its primary market being the education sector, although it was eventually made available on a larger scale when it replaced the iMac G3. It had a much faster PowerPC G4 processor compared to the G3 and a larger 17-inch CRT display. The eMac proved to be popular, as it offered a more affordable alternative to the iMac G4. However in 2005, Apple restricted sales to just education institutions for undisclosed reasons and eventually discontinued the series in 2006.
1997 – Apple eMate 300
Apple released the eMate 300 as another PDA device in 1997. It ran on the Newton OS and was the only Newton-based device to feature a built-in keyboard. The eMate lasted less than a year, launching in March 1997 and being discontinued, along with the Newton platform in February 1998. The eMate 300 had a durable casing, making it ideal for use in classrooms, and its built-in rechargeable batteries lasted up to 28 hours on a single charge.
2000 – Apple Power Mac G4 Cube
The Power Mac G4 Cube was a small personal computer sold between 2000 and 2001. The main computer part was suspended in an acrylic glass enclosure and until 2016, was the only Macintosh computer to not feature a built-in speaker. To get sound, you would have to connect the complementary Harman Kardon speakers via USB. It’s introductory price of $1,799 and lack of monitor meant sales were poor.
1984 – Apple Modem 1200
We take modems for granted now, giving us instant access to the Internet. It wasn’t as simple back in the 80’s, with Apple’s first example of a modem being a box completely separate from the main computer. As the name suggests, the Apple Modem 1200 could carry data at 1200 bits, a fair way off the 350mbps we can get today.
1980 – Apple Silentype
Apple released its first printer, the Silentype, in 1980. The thermal printer was a successful product for Apple, as it was much cheaper than the majority of its rivals at $699 and was silent in operation. It had a great reliability record, was small in size and had a decent print speed. It had to use a special paper, but could provide 80-column output, while most rival products could only provide 40-column output.
1994 – Apple Interactive Television Box
Apple revealed further intentions to enter the TV market in 1994 with Interactive Television Box. It was never mass-produced or marketed, but the set-top box was designed to provide an interactive TV service and rewind and fast forward functions. Several thousand boxes were used in hotels at Disneyland California to provide in-room shopping and park navigation services, while around 2500 units were used in homes in England thanks to a partnership between Apple and British Telecom.
1993 – Apple Macintosh TV
Apple has been rumoured to be working an OLED TV set for many years now, but so far we’ve not seen any concrete evidence, however the company actually produced a TV set, of sorts, in 1993. Called the Macintosh TV, it was essentially a Performa 520 (a family of Macintosh computers) that could be used as both a computer monitor and cable-ready television.
The Macintosh TV used a 14-inch Sony Trinitron CRT display and as a result, the included credit card-sized remote could be used to control Sony TVs too. Only 10,000 Macintosh TVs were ever made.
1993 – Apple PowerCD
Apple expressed its musical intentions in 1993 with the release of the PowerCD. It was a rebadged Philips CDF-100 and could read audio, data and Kodak photo CDs. It was Apple’s first consumer product that didn’t need a computer to work, although unlike other CD players at the time, it could connect to a computer via SCSI, effectively making it a portable CD drive for the PowerBook series of notebooks.
1994 – Apple QuickTake
Apple also had its fingers in the digital camera pie in 1994 with the release of the QuickTake – although it only lasted three years to 1997. Widely regarded as the first consumer digital camera, the QuickTake series comprised three models in total; two built by Kodak and a third built by Fujifilm. The Fujifilm-built QuickTake 200 could only be directly connected to Macintosh computers, while the 100 and 150 could connect to Windows computers as well.
1984 – Apple LCD Flat Panel Display
Apple introduced the IIc computer in 1984 as the fourth model in the Apple II series of computers. The C in the name stood for ‘compact’ because it was a notebook sized computer that was portable, but didn’t come with a display or any other external peripherals, it was essentially the very first Mac Mini. To aid with its portability, Apple released its first LCD flat panel black and white display to attach to it. It wasn’t an amazing display though, contrast levels were poor, there was no backlight and it had an unusual aspect ratio.
1983 – Apple 410 Color Plotter
Colour plotters were once used to produce large drawings as they offered the fastest and cheapest way to do so, because at the time, computer memory was very expensive. Apple’s 410 Color Plotter was based on the Yokogawa YEW PL-1000, was sold between 1983 and 1988 and used either water or oil-based inks.
1981- Apple ProFile
1981 saw the introduction of Apple’s first ever hard disk drive, the ProFile, which was designed to be used with the Apple III computer and had a storage capacity of a huge 5MB. When it launched in September 1981, the ProFile cost $3,499, which equates to just under $10,000 in today’s money. Compare that to terabyte hard drives you can pick up today for less than $50 and it becomes clear that storing files was incredibly expensive back in the day.
1987 – Apple Tape Backup 40SC
Hard disk drives aren”t the only means of storage. While tape drives are still available today, they were more popular in the past and as a result, Apple released the Tape Backup 40SC in 1987 as means of reading them. Tape drives different to HDD in that HDDs can access data anywhere on the disk within milliseconds, but tapes had to be physically wound between reels to access it.
1978 – Disk II
We’ve all seen images of the Apple II computer, Apple’s very first consumer product, but what you may have forgotten about is the accompanying Disk II. It was a 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, designed by the great Steve Wozniak and cost $595 (over $2,000 in today’s money). It was designed to be used exclusively with the Apple II computer as a means to replace the cassette storage system that it came with. The Disk II offered more storage and was faster than its rivals and Woz referred to it as “my most incredible experience at Apple and the finest job I did.”
Writing by Max Langridge. Editing by Dan Grabham.