In 1976, two American misfits with a passion for technology got together and started a company which would go on to become one of the world leaders in personal computers. Those men were Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs and their company? Apple Computers.
Fast forward to 2008 and Apple Computers is now just Apple and products like the Macbook and iPhone have inspired evangelical fanaticism in the young, the trendy, the arty and the wealthy.
Apple's flair for eye-catching, minimalist design, intuitive user interfaces, innovative features and some pretty heavy-handed marketing has created far more than just a brand, somehow they have created a lifestyle.
Life wasn't always as easy for the chaps at Apple, before the days of the iPod the company had a small cult following but was widely considered to be on it's way out. Fortune Magazine ran a story on Apple in 1996 and concluded;
'By the time you read this story, the quirky cult company will end its wild ride as an independent enterprise.'
In 1997 Steve Jobs returned to the company having left in 1985 to start a company devoted to developing computer platforms for higher education and business. As soon as Jobs returned to Apple and became CEO he ended projects on struggling Apple products such as Cyberdog, a then competitor to Internet Explorer.
Jobs revitalised the flagging brand and in 2001 the iPod was launched, cementing Apple once again the the consumer electronics market. Before the iPod, Apple's efforts were a bit more hit and miss, three products in particular stand out as the company's most dramatic failures.
Apple Bandai Pippin
In 1995/6 Apple created a multimedia console which was also intended to function as a cheap computer capable of playing CD-based games. In short, Apple made a games console, a terrible one.
Apple leased the technology out to third parties and Bandai chose the Pippin as it's platform to enter the highly competitive gaming market.
In the mid 1990s the Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn dominated the games market. They were well established with a strong catalogue of software written by several developers. When the Pippin was released there was very little available software and the only publisher was Bandai themselves. The highly limited selection of games put off consumers and the first nail in the Pippin's coffin was struck.
It could be said that cost was what finished the machine off. The Pippin cost $599 on launch, considerably more than competitor consoles of the time cost. Consumers overlooked or simply did not care about the console's applications as a 'proper' computer and it's failure was rapid, so rapid in fact that under 50,000 units were ever made and today almost nobody knows the ill-fated machine ever existed.
The 'Hockey Puck' Mouse
Perhaps the least ergonomic mouse ever produced, the so-called 'Hockey Puck Mouse' was a study in how not to design a pointing device. It was uncomfortable, unintuitive and difficult for users with larger hands to use for any extended length of time.
For reasons unknown, Apple decided to depart from the typical, comfortable, tried and tested mouse shape and instead produced a flat, round mouse with a single button which was hardly defined on the body of the device.
Customers had to constantly look down to reposition the unruly gizmo. Apple responded to a slew of complaints by placing a small indent on the mouse's button to make it easier to find, needless to say, the Hockey Puck mouse was short-lived.
Various companies offered clip on shells to transform the ghastly device into something more user-friendly but thankfully, the RSI-inducing nightmare of a mouse was discontinued and replaced with a more traditional, oblong shape.
Ever wondered why Apple don't have a digital camera out? The Apple Quicktake is probably why.
In 1994 Apple entered the fledgling digital photography market with the Quicktake 100, the camera was built by Kodak had 1MB of flash memory and 640x480 resolution.
Although the specs are laughable today they were relatively competitive back then, it was the whopping price tag that dragged the Quicktake down. At $750 the Apple camera was considerably more expensive than its rivals for very little benefit.
The Quicktake went through two revisions before Steve Jobs culled the device in 1997 and began the glorious Apple revolution that brought us the iMac, the Macbook and the iPhone.
Samantha is an expert Research and Theatre consultant. She is currently excited about the upcoming West End revival of Oliver!