Apple Products by Year of Release: A Timeline of Innovation
We have devoted ourselves to the Apple iPad on this site, a tablet computer that has had many releases over the years, as well as OS updates, fixes, peripherals and a great deal more. Apple is a company constantly on the move though, a company that is always looking for the next big thing.
Apple has only recently become the technological giant that we know it as today. Believe it or not, whilst Apple has been around for decades and has been creating interesting and innovative products ever since, there was a time when it as seen as a niche and small brand, and a time when it nearly went bankrupt.
Innovation and ingenuity saved this company and turned it into what it is today, and in this article we will look at where Apple used to be, at the products that it has released over the years and at their successes and failings.
The 70s were the early years for Apple, as this was when the company was founded and when it created and released its first products. These were exciting times and they created exciting products, but the true innovation was many years away.
1976: Apple I
This is an iconic computer and one that was hand-built by Steve Wozniak. It was sold at a little more than $650, and when you factor in inflation, that accounts for more than $2,5k in today’s money. This hefty price tag helped to ensure it was not a hit at the time, but it did get Apple off the ground and many years later this computer would become a collector’s item, and one that was valued very highly. In fact, in 2015 an original Apple I was sold for $200,000.
1977: Apple II
Looking decidedly more advanced than the previous release, the Apple II was an 8-bit computer designed for home use. In today’s money it sold for a little over $5,000 and was one of the most advanced machines of the decade. Assembled in Silicon Valley and manufactured overseas, the Apple II was relatively well received and helped the company to move forward.
The 1970s ended with a few more releases and 1979 in particular was a big year for Apple, as they released the Apple II Plus, the Bell & Howell and the Apple Writer. The 80s would prove to be a very telling decade for Apple though and one that lifted them out of relative obscurity.
1980: Apple III
An improvement on their previous machines, this one had a price tag that would put it at over $20,000 in today’s money. It was a personal computer that few homes could afford, but one that focused on the business world and on high-flying professionals who wanted the latest tech in a time when technology moved very slowly. The Apple III was considered to be a big failure and it was discontinued a short while after its release.
1984: Macintosh 128k
A name that Apple still uses to this day, albeit in a shortened form, the Macintosh was so named because it was a variety of apple. This is the original Mac, although it looked decidedly different to the modern machines that carry this name. This computer was introduced by director Ridley Scott in an advert based around the book 1984, one that is still iconic and has cemented its place in pop culture. Within a matter of months this machine had sold over 70,000 units and was a huge success, especially when compared to their previous releases.
In the same year the Macintosh 512k would also be released, as would a number of Apple software products, modems, disk drives and more.
1989: Macintosh Portable
Noteworthy because of the direction that Apple would take post 2000, the Macintosh Portable can be considered one of their first steps at making a popular range of theirs smaller and more mobile. This was a laptop, and the first Apple release to be battery powered. This machine was far from perfect and it received a lot of criticism, but in this flawed and basic machine you can see the beginnings of what would become the Apple MacBooks and iPads of the current age.
A tricky decade for Apple, the 90s was also one that saw some of their most innovative products.
There were three PowerBooks released initially, all at the same time. These machines had a high price tag and they had nothing on the machines that would later be released under the PowerBook name, but the basics were certainly there. The RAM maxed out at just 8MB and the CPU was only 16MHZ.
1993: Newton Message Pad
To all intents and purposes, this little device was a tablet. It was not quite at the stage of the Microsoft Tablet released a decade or so later, and certainly not at the stage of the iPad, but this PDA did have a touch screen.
1998: iMac G3
Perhaps the first iconic Apple product of the modern age, this was an all-in-one PC. A large monitor with a colored back, it was a machine that was overseen by the returning CEO at the time, Steve Jobs. The iMac would have a lot of success in the years that followed, with many releases and variations. It is really very little like any of the current Apple releases, yet at the time it was their biggest hit.
Apple had suffered a slump in the 90s and they dodged bankruptcy. As this decade began things didn’t look much better, but a change was coming that would shake things up.
The first generation of the iPod was one of the devices that set the wheels of change in motion at Apple. This is when Apple changed from a niche technological brand that only geeks knew about, to one that everyone wanted a piece of. The iPod allowed users to play MP3s in a stylish and practical way. It did away with the cassette and CD players of old and it shepherded in a new age. This was an age that consumers were happy to see and one that they bought in to, transforming the Apple brand in the process. In the past Apple had played off their successful releases by pushing out more in the years that followed, and they did this with the iPod as well, getting more success and more acclaim with each individual release.
The iMac as we know it today was launched in 2006, turning from a bulky computer with a colorful back, into something sleek, stylish and modern. At this point Apple were attracting a lot of attention and whilst they had yet to become the highly sought-after brand that they are today, they were respected. They had released many versions of the iPod and had also pushed out successful peripherals and several PowerBooks, which were also in for a big change.
2006: MacBook Pro
This is the year that the PowerBook became the MacBook Pro. The changes were not huge, but this is a name that would stick and one that one become part of the iconic Apple range. It is a line of laptops that offer ease-of-use, along with the latest technology and a few unique features, such as the Retina Display, which was a few years away at this point. The 15 inch was the first release, followed a few months later by the 17 inch. These days Apple only focus on 13 inch and 15 inch.
This was the year that really changed things for Apple, because this was the year they released the first generation of the iPhone. This was a revelation, the very first smartphone and one that propelled all of us into a new age. Smartphones are common now, but prior to the release of the first iPhone we were still playing Snake in black and white on dodgy phones, still using PDAs. This changed all of that, and a few months later another version of the iPod was released, the iPod Touch, catering for those who wanted all the style of the iPhone, without the phone connectivity or price tag.
And that brings us to the year that showed us that Apple had more tricks in their bag. If the iPhone was the icing on the cake of an innovative and exciting company, then the iPad was the cherry on top of that icing. People have suggested that this borrowed a little from the failed Microsoft Tablet that had been released a decade or so earlier. However, the truth is that it simply used ideas that Apple had already formed themselves, as you can see. It was an amalgamation of the iPod, the iPhone, the Newton and even the Macintosh.
A lot has happened to Apple since this year, with Airs, Apple TV (which was released earlier but perfect in late 2010) Apple Watches and more iPhones and iPads, but it will be hard for them to better or even match what happened in the years leading up to 2010, or even the year 2010 itself.