# Let's face It: Apple invented personal computers, mp3 players and smart phones

1. Nov 11, 2014

### Jamin2112

Computers were lame until Apple made them. Funny how Bill Gates says "[Microsoft and Apple] were the 2 companies that really got the graphics interface." yet he believes the future of a tablet computer will be "one where I can use the pen" ... That's what he said in 2010, 3 years after Apple introduced the iPhone, which truly revolutionized the phone industry, like Jobs predicted. We'd still be using MS Dos if it weren't for Jobs. Is it unfair to say that Apple's engineers are 5 years ahead of everyone else's?

I laughed when the first iPod came out. "An mp3 player where you scroll through the music by moving your thumb in a circle? What a joke!" Then "mp3 player" became synonymous with "iPod". Microsoft Zune? Didn't that have a bug in it's daylight savings time clock? I only know that because my Computer Science professor at the University of Washington made fun of it.

I shouldn't joke. I worked as a contract at Microsoft for about 7 months. All I did was work on their HTML Help files for Windows 9, which has, apparently, been renamed to Windows 10. Perhaps I'm jaded? I find this video to be epic: .

2. Nov 11, 2014

### SteamKing

Staff Emeritus
Computers were lame even after Apple started making them, especially Apples. There were more than a few dead ended Apple models made after the Apple II became obsolete. Neither Apple nor Microsoft first developed the GUI which is ubiquitous nowadays. That distinction goes to the Xerox Corp., which developed the Xerox Alto at their PARC facility even before Apple Corp. was founded.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xerox_Alto

The Alto never made much headway in the computer market because it was developed by a copier company. Its design did lead not only to the development of PCs as we know them today, but also high-end workstations, like those produced by Sun Microsystems and others.

3. Nov 12, 2014

### chiro

In addition to SteamKing's comments on The Xerox Research Facility you should know that the MP3 player was introduced way before the iPod but it didn not really arrive at the correct time to take advantage of familiarity and popularity.

What Apple did (and many other companies do), is release something at the right time when people are comfortable with it and ready to purchase and use it. When you bring something in too early and people are not ready for it then it can backfire for the company, and then others who are looking at this can decide whether the time is right or not for a release.

This kind of thing was quite common in the 20th century because change was a lot slower back then: however nowadays it is a lot quicker because technology changes so fast in addition to the expectation of people keeping up with it who are born into computers, smart phones, and all kinds of technology. Before the internet though, change was slow and people resisted it a lot more than they do now when it comes to technology.

In business schools they use a term called "crossing the chasm" that describes the point where familiarity and trust is developed for the masses to purchase and use a specific product and depending on the industry, product, and its uses it can take a long time or a short time to get past this chasm not only for a company, but for a specific product line as well regardless of who made it.

There are all sorts of reasons why otherwise good products don't make it as well. Zune did have some good features but it just faded away: just like the Beta-max tape did when VHS came out. There are all kinds of reasons why things become standard or popular and being the best product technically or functionally is not a pre-requisite for it to be the better accepted product for those who use it.

Just to help you understand why Microsoft was successful for software developers: they have done a lot of work on API's and technologies for their developers and this support is what tempts developers to write their programs on Windows as opposed to Mac or Linux (even though nowadays multi-platform development is standard within the bigger and more professional repositories that gain from these sales).

When Windows 95 came along with API's for windows, graphics (Direct X and OpenGL), network protocols and others, this was a huge thing for developers because in the DOS days, you would write your own device drivers and your code would interact with hardware directly unless you used some libraries that did this for you.

If you add on OLE, COM, COM+, .NET, and all these technologies in combination with a massive API and more importantly the support to developers like MSDN and other resources, you will find that the support developers got from Microsoft was quite vast in comparison to others at the time and this attracts developers to write code on the Windows Platform. It may be a lot different now with things like Java, CORBA, and other cross-platform technologies but understand that at the time it was a lot different.

I'm not saying that functionally or technically MS is better or worse than Apple, Linux, or anything else - but what I am saying is that you really have to consider the whole spectrum of activities before you make a judgement as generic as you have made.

4. Nov 12, 2014

### Staff: Mentor

I'll go a step further and say that in its rebirth as a consumer electronics company, Apple has had the branding and design "cool factor" that basically meant that you needed to buy an mp3 player when Steve Jobs said you needed one. But they don't have a technological edge and I'm not sure they ever have.

5. Nov 13, 2014

### rcgldr

The functionality of the early home computers was limited. These include the Apple 2, Atari 400/800/65XE/130XE series, Commodore PET / Vic-20 64 series, with the Commodore 64 being the highest selling "home computer" (somewhere between 10 to 17 million units).

The next big thing were CP/M systems for both the office and for home. Wordstar was a popular text / document editor, and there were a few spreadsheet programs.

The next big thing was the IBM PC. In the meantime, the Apple III was considered a failure, but 3 years later the first Macintosh was released. The Mac was lacking in some features, such as DMA (instead it had a hardware assisted polling handshake for scsi devices like hard drives), and the Macintosh developer tools fell way behind what Microsoft was producing for the PC and windows.

The first popular MP3 player was the RIO PMP300. RIO won a lawsuit versus the recording industry which allowed MP3 players to be sold. I still have one, upgraded from 32 MB to 64 MB (which was a lot in those days).

Last edited: Nov 13, 2014
6. Nov 13, 2014

### robphy

Hey... don't forget the the TRS-80 I/II/III .

7. Nov 14, 2014

### rcgldr

The TRS-80 (sometimes called trash 80) series were relatively popular CP/M systems. There were also CP/M systems based on the S-100 bus, the first one being the Altair 8800, and some later CP/M systems that used custom bus setups, released in 1981 like the Osborne 1, Kaypro II, but IBM released the first PC in the same year (1981).

8. Nov 14, 2014

### wukunlin

The only great thing about apple is that they managed to get their customers to have these elitist attitudes. They made people think more of themselves when owning an apple product. I mean this marketing strategy isn't even new but few have been as successful as apple.

The actual products themselves, while useful in some situations (iMac's are good for audio/video editing I'll give them that), are laughable.

9. Nov 14, 2014

### enorbet

I'm glad you brought up Xerox. If readers watch the full video below you will plainly see that some advances have not been improved upon and even lost due to the vagaries of timing in the market place, and some companies have never received their proper recognition since they were eclipsed in that market place.

There are a few more variables than just that which affect when "people are comfortable with it". An example is that Apple Lisa is widely considered an abject failure when most of it was a true quantum leap in computing power. In it's final version it could directly address 16MB or RAM, had a highly advanced RISC cpu (at that time orders of magnitude more powerful than Intel x86) and the operating system was unconstrained in numerous areas (such as segmentation barriers) that made DOS stone age by comparison.

Jobs was an enthusiast and visionary. Gates was and is a poker player businessman with keen insight in what people will respond to in a favorable way. Gates and his buddies were also self-confessed paranoids who sought to crush any competition by any means "necessary". Jobs assumed people understood like he did that Home/SOHO Computers had a very bright future. The boys at Microsoft correctly deduced that the rest of the world needed many years of convincing. Even up into the late 1980's the average consumer saw home computers as way too expensive devices (thousands of dollars) that "could balance your checkbook" when a pencil and paper could do that for a single dollar.

Apple, Microsoft, IBM, all of them, made system design and especially marketing mistakes on certain products. Some companies folded from such mistakes even if they had created a major breakthrough in a specific technological area. Much, but by no means all, of such breakthroughs were then "picked up" by the survivors.

Very true. Even businesses whose job it is (or part of it) is to project and predict trends failed to see how important, even essential, PCs would become, failed to see like Jobs did that it would be worth it to invest in more power. Gates capitalized on this shortsightedness by advertising DOS as not requiring you buy any new software and is commonly quoted from this time as saying "Nobody is ever going to need more than 1MB or RAM".

It could be argued that games, Quicken (and Quickbooks) and Tax programs did more to change public perception, including small businesses, that translates into sales and especially for Microsoft than any other single area of development.

The above emboldened text is hugely important. A common analogy is as follows - Who makes the best hamburgers? Who sells the most hamburgers? Are they the same? - There is always a market for cheap.

This is a highly controversial area and another example of "best doesn't always win" especially when crap has momentum. Direct access to hardware is rarely an issue in a single user, single task environment like DOS. It really wasn't until Win2K (largely thanks to working with IBM on a truly serious OpSys) that Microsoft finally outgrew the legacy mindset from DOS that made General Protection Fault and BSOD household (and hated) words.

It is so far back in the seminal period that it is impossible to really credit Steve Jobs with how much he has changed the world, let alone tried to and failed, but there can be little doubt that he saved Apple from collapse many times and will go down in history as one of the most influential men of the 20th, and early 21st, centuries. Unfortunately, since Wintel is the clear winner (so far), it is likely that Bell Laboratories, TI, Motorola, IBM, Digital, and Xerox will be mere footnotes within the realm of "personal computing" , and they deserve so much more.

10. Nov 15, 2014

### 256bits

I am not seeing any direct comparison between Bill gates and Steve Jobs as being all that relevant.
IBM produced the first PC, and subcontracted the operating software to a relatively new company called Microsoft.
Microsoft produces mainly software, which other companies will use in its personal computers or imbed into a controller system.
Apple is a hardware company, and uses its own internal software to run the system.

The IBM PC and the Apple both started out with consumers receiving circuit diagrams and listings of the software with their purchase, which was ideal for tinkerers and developers, both hardware and software. The PC grabbed the business community as being the system of choice, simply most probably because the IBM name was known and respected. Home users were still attracted to the less expensive Atari's, Commodores, and all the others that had color, graphics, gaming, and a hookup to a television set if one withheld purchasing a monitor. Apple and some others such as Amiga computers eventually evolved to display "high end" graphics for use as raytracing and similar uses for the artistic and like minded. The break was really text versus graphics at the time, with the PC chesen by business who saw no need for fancy graphics when calculating numbers and typing in letters in a word processor, gaming computers for the home, and others some where in the middle between the two.

Jobs is just a guy like any other.

11. Nov 15, 2014

### D H

Staff Emeritus
No one has mentioned the "Mother of all demos" yet by Douglas Engelbart and Bill English in 1968.

Mice, multiple display windows, hypertext, graphics, office productivity tools, video conferencing, the list goes on and on of what was demoed during that presentation. Xerox PARC took a lot of their ideas from SRI (and some people as well; Bill English moved from SRI to Xerox PARC). Engelbart in turn was highly influenced by a 1945 article by Vannevar Bush, As We May Think.

12. Nov 15, 2014

### SteamKing

Staff Emeritus
This is not correct. While the Apple I was sold as just a main board, to which consumers had to hook up things like a keyboard or a monitor and storage, the Apple II was marketed with its own enclosure containing a power supply and keyboard. The owner had his choice of monitor or floppy disk drive (or even cassette tape storage!). The PC was never sold in hobbyist form: it always came in the PC enclosure with room for twin floppies and detached keyboard (albeit on a cord). This is not to say that others didn't make PC compatible main boards for hobbyists, which was still a thriving segment of micro users at the time.

Neither Apple nor IBM ever included listings for Apple DOS or PC-DOS to their consumers, although some unofficial listings may have circulated which were created by folks with disassemblers.

The period from 1975 to 1990 was a time of rapid change in the micro industry. One company might be on the top one day, only to be toppled and replaced by another company the next. Even after it was introduced, the future of the IBM PC was not a sure thing, since the suits at Armonk were still locked into a mainframe outlook, while the PC Division in Boca Raton was operating relatively freely. After the PC was introduced, several other companies introduced models which catered to the business traveler (Osborne and Compaq), which neither Apple nor IBM thought were important enough to bother with. The Osborne was based on CP/M, while the Compaq shrewdly went IBM PC compatible from day one.

13. Nov 18, 2014

### f95toli

I am not sure I agree with that. It used to be true, but nowadays I'd say they are (mostly) a company focused on design. Yes, they do some hardware engineering but most of the components are actually designed by other companies; and this is certainly true for all the core components such as the processors etc. Hence,. they are not that different from e.g. Dell.
Remember that modern Apple computers are nothing more than well designed PCs, and there is no technical reason why you can't run their OS on a normal (much cheaper) PC (of course they have made sure it is difficult to do so, but those barriers have nothing to do with the actual hardware).

14. Nov 18, 2014

### enorbet

To be clear I don't presently own any Apple products but I have logged in possibly 100 hours on a few. I prefer to build my own PCs, don't need nor want a smartphone, but I was one that bought a Creative mp3 player, thinking it would be almost as good as an iPod but discovered it wasn't even close. Although for practical reasons I tend to prefer devices with exposed nuts and bolts I did marvel at how small and monolithic it was for how powerful it was but that was just a footnote after I discovered how easily and quickly I could find one single song out of 1000+. That was simply elegant.

I see Mac hatred in many forms all over the internet and it is almost always that whole adolescent Ford vs/ Chevy mess, unworthy of any comment. However this being a Science forum where experience and especially citations are valued I have to ask you upon what basis can you broad brush Apple products as laughable?

Note: I am very specifically not desiring to even hint at some kind of immature flame bait, but rather wish to know if you have any basis whatsoever for voicing what seems to me to be mere anecdotal opinion lacking in any authority or experience. Could you please clear this up if possible?

15. Nov 18, 2014

### enorbet

Yes much like a Saturn V is just like July 4th fireworks.

16. Nov 18, 2014

### wukunlin

Perhaps my brush may have been too broad and there will always be counter examples to generalizations. However, considering we both like to see the nuts and bolts of our devices, if you crack open an apple computer, you will see that the components are nothing special and definitely underwhelming for the prices they charge. There are (or were, I haven't looked at apple stuff in like past year to be quite honest) those components like RAM and harddrives which are the exact same as what you can buy from other computer stores with a fraction of the pricetag in a typical computer store. Except when your apple computer need a component sway you have to buy the replacements from apple because they have modified the connectors. Although what tends to happen is the loyal apple customer would have bought a newer computer before the warranty of the older one expires.

There are other things about apple products that amuses me. At least during the early years of my undergrad studies (4-5 years ago), those sleek looking apple laptops had very inefficient cooling system that overheating was common because apparently it was more important to hide the ugly vents that would keep the computer cool. It is okay though, because OMGITSAMAC. Remember the first time they put a sheet of glass on the iphone and claiming its strength is suitable? I lost count of how many spiderwebs I've seen on iphones since then. There are lots of others, antennae being blocked if you use your phone left-handed, updates that make your phone unable to make phone calls etc. Even some of the most loyal apple customers complain about the horribly frequent, resource hogging, and unavoidable updates they had to deal with when they connect an apple product to their computers.

So, I laugh when I see these silliness on all those hyped up apple products, but do I recommend people to stay away from them? No, I ask people to compare and draw their own conclusions. If the brand has so much value to some people, that is their opinion. Apple does have upsides, a comprehensive audio and video editing software compatibility and support community, and I heard warranty claims are super easy and efficient (especially in New Zealand you could directly do that with apple instead of dealing with clueless retailers for other brands). I just find it disturbing (and admirable in a way) that apple has made so many people that will buy anything from them.

17. Nov 18, 2014

### rcgldr

For mid range video editting, Adobe's Windows products are nice. As for audio editting, what I see in music stores is mostly PC stuff. In the few recording studios I've seen, the software was running on Windows computers. Commercial video editting is normally done on workstations or main frame / super computer setups, some running Windows, some running some version of Unix with a windowing interface, or main frame type operating systems (for example IBM Z/OS supports Unix, in adition to support of legacy applications similar to a high end virtual machine (24 bit, 31 bit, or 64 bit addressing modes)).

An old video about using Mac in the the pre OS-X days:

Last edited: Nov 18, 2014
18. Nov 18, 2014

### Jamin2112

Any chance I could delete this thread? I made it when I was drunk a few nights ago.

19. Nov 19, 2014

### rcgldr

but it now has so much nostalgia, that it should be kept for historical reasons.

20. Nov 19, 2014

### Staff: Mentor

Agreed

21. Nov 19, 2014

### rcgldr

I missed this before:

Not for DOS, but for the BIOS. One of the technical documents for the PC (these were released in 2 ring binders), included a complete assembly listing of the BIOS. I think the name of the one with a BIOS listing was a technical document, which also included information about the hardware. There was also a 2 ring binder programmers reference (or similar name) that documented all the BIOS and DOS int xx calls.

22. Nov 19, 2014

### SteamKing

Staff Emeritus
BIOS listings were necessary so that those wishing to develop new hardware peripherals for the Apple or IBM PC could provide proper integration of their devices to the respective systems. IIRC, IBM sold a separate Technical Reference Manual for the PC which included a lot of system details not available with the standard documentation. I'm not sure how Apple distributed their BIOS, but there were a lot of Apple clubs operating then which attracted people looking to write software or develop hardware for the Apple II.

23. Nov 19, 2014

### OmCheeto

Sifting through my nostalgia at PF, I find I've been surrounded by fellow old people...

The internet, Physics Forums, and Dr. Neutrino
1993 wow has it been that long? I have also had the same e-mail account since the beginning.
I remember running a BBS on a “Tandy COCO 80” and a 300 baud modem in Madison Wisconsin and often getting help from Bob Mahoney (sic) from EXECPC BBS.
I and a friend would transmit data over the CB radio. That was probably one of the first wireless PC’s. Dam, I should have patented the idea.

Computers before operating systems

Computers were lame? Ever? I once read that "computers" were once humans. I think it was some "Manhattan Project" thread, where I read that.

24. Nov 19, 2014

### SteamKing

Staff Emeritus
Yes, before general purpose computers were developed, and complex scientific calculations had to be made, usually by astronomers, specially trained human 'calculators' were employed to do the number crunching. Of course, the only tools they had available were mechanical devices like adding machines and some slide rules, but that was then. Incidentally, more than a few of these 'calculators' were women.

* * * * * * * *​

Even in the early days, when there weren't that many micros around, there were some stinkers. Over time, we tend to forget some of the things these systems made us do to get software to run or some hardware to interface properly. The early Macs were limited to 128K RAM, big for the moment, but soon outclassed, and the Mac had a screen which displayed vibrant black-and-white. You could expand the memory to 512K, but you needed a soldering iron to do it. Compared to the Mac, its predecessor, the Apple II, was a wildly open system, which could be upgraded with expansion cards to do all sorts of things. There even was a card which converted the Apple II into a Z80-running CP/M machine.

And don't forget the prices of equipment. When introduced, the Mac was $2495 in 1984, equivalent to more than$5500 now.

25. Nov 19, 2014

### wukunlin

That makes sense. I read that a lot of indie filmmakers find it easier to work on a Mac and I assumed they know what they are doing. On a lot of forums when I looked for help as I have started to learn about video editing, I feel like most people assume I am using Premiere Elements on an apple computer unless I explicitly say otherwise.

And that video is pretty amusing :w

The funny thing is a large chunk of apple product users would say the same thing you wrote in the OP when they are sober