Today is April Fool’s day, folks. You’ve probably noticed a bunch of prank posts in your morning news flow, but this one’s not a joke. For those unfamiliar with it, Apple Computer, Inc. was launched on April 1, 1976. That makes the company 35 years old. Apple is now a global consumer electronics powerhouse that commands several lucrative verticals such as phones, music, digital entertainment and of course tablets and their blockbuster products have captivated consumers and caught competitors flat-footed, giving them a pause.
While the best is yet to come, I bet co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak didn’t think in their wildest dreams of gaining so much influence when they were agonizing over the first Apple I in the Jobs parents’ garage. So how did the two Silicon Valley geniuses build the most-valued technology company on the planet poised to soon beat Exxon Mobil Corporation in market valuation? Here’s an interesting overview of the key moments shedding light on how Apple came to be…
For Jobs and Wozniak, it all began at Hewlett-Packard where they were tinkering with computers. Prior to that, their first brush with electronics had been a device that could game the analogue telephone switchboard system, allowing the two pranksters to place long-distance calls for free, including one to Pope in Rome – which remains one of the unsolved urban myths to date. The two Steves and Ronald Wayne established a company on April 1, 1976. Its main purpose was to sell the Apple I personal computer kit, hand-built by Wozniak around the MOS Technology 6502 chip, to the crowd of enthusiasts at the Homebrew Computer Club. The kit cost $666.66 and they sold 50 units.
Nine months later, Wozniak and Jobs incorporated Apple, Inc. on January 3, 1977. Things moved at a slow pace until investor Mike Markkula knocked on their doors, handing them a cheque on $250,000 in exchange for a cut of the young and promising startup operation. The funding allowed the company to release the Apple II and the Apple III and grow to forty employees.
An initial public offering ensued on December 12, 1980, turning young entrepreneurs into paper millionaires. The young Jobs with his movie-star good looks would remain at the top of his game for five years until he lured John Sculley, then Pepsi executive, to sell Macintoshes to corporate America with the now famous line:
Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to come with me and change the world?
“It was like someone just knocked wind out of my stomach”, Sculley would later say. Unfortunately, Sculley would become known as the man who kicked out Steve Jobs from Apple. He would admit in an interview with Bloomberg in October of last year that Apple’s board “made the wrong choice” by siding with him in a boardroom coup in 1983. As cheaper and more ubiquitous Windows PCs were chipping away market share from Apple, sales declined and a series of missed deadlines saw Sculley ousted in favor of Michael Spindler, the new CEO, in 1993.
Three years later, Spindler was shown the door and replaced by Gil Amelio in 1996. Finding out the company was bleeding cash and months away from bankruptcy, Amelio authorized the purchase of Jobs’ NeXT, Inc. and NeXTSTEP operating system, bringing the Silicon Valley luminary back to Apple through the back door as an advisor.
The board eventually fired Amelio on July 9, 1997, citing amassed losses, and installed Steve Jobs as an interim CEO. The 1997 Macworld Expo was the key moment when Jobs restored investor confidence by announcing that Microsoft made a $150 million investment in non-voting Apple stock. The arch-enemy would also create new versions of Microsoft Office for the Macintosh, Jobs told the booing crowd at the Macworld Expo.
First retail store was announced on November 10, 1997. The widely successful iMac followed in 1998, then the iBook in 1999. Apple rebooted its operating system with Mac OS X in 2001, the same year the iPod launched. The iPod became a global phenomenon and a synonym for digital music. The iconic device also drew attention to Apple’s design guru Jonathan Ive, by some one of the possible candidates for a Steve Jobs successor.
The January 2007 Macworld Expo saw Jobs giving the career-defining presentation when he announced that Apple was going to revolutionize the phone with a new product called the iPhone. “This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for two and a half years,” he began, putting up a slide with the glowing Apple logo on dark background.
Last year the world was introduced to the magical iPad and the rest – as they say – is history. Share your favorite milestone, a quote or specific moment from Apple’s history in the comment section. You’re also advised to check out BBC’s excellent documentary entitled “Steve Wozniak: How it began” (sorry guys, we couldn’t embed it here). And don’t forget to tune in to Fox Business News at 3:30pm EST (12:30pm Pacific) when Ron Wayne is scheduled to discuss the 35th anniversary of Apple with Liz Claman.