What 40 years of Apple means to us

The company that brought us the Macintosh, Newton, iMac, iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, and Apple Watch is celebrating a milestone this April 1: Apple (opens in new tab) turns 40 today. That's 40 years of insanely great — and not so great — products. 40 years filled with brilliant executives and engineers. And 40 years of thinking different.

The company is not one to readily reminisce or celebrate its history. Former CEO Steve Jobs once said "If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much," and by all reports heavily encouraged others at Apple to follow this philosophy.

But a little introspection — on rare occasions — can be a great thing, and there are a few hints both on campus and off that Apple values the legacy it has built.

And so we, too, have decided to take a moment to reflect on how Apple has influenced and changed us over the last few decades.

Rene Ritchie: Editor-in-chief, iMore

When I was a tiny child, my father took me to the computer shop and I saw the Apple II Plus. Beige box. Green screen. And we brought it home. Throughout my childhood it was a constant companion. I watched my father use VisiCalc daily. I played games, learned BASIC, and wrote stories.

I missed the early Macs for a variety of reasons, but eventually got a Performa in college. I used it to design, code, and produce graphics for my first website. After a brand new Dell laptop arrived for me at work, absent drivers for its own graphics card, I switched to a MacBook Pro there as well. There was no turning back. In quick succession I got the first iPod touch, then the first iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch, and each subsequent generation. I began working at iMore and slowly but surely, Apple became part of my everyday life.

Since Apple was with me from such a young age, I don't really remember a time without that rainbow logo. Since I watched the keynotes from when they first started being broadcast, I don't really remember a time before the second coming of Steve Jobs. Since I write and talk about Apple every day, I don't really remember a time when the company's vision and products weren't shaping the world and my life.

In technology forty years seems like both an eternity and no time at all. But it's enough to dent several universes — to drive the mainstreaming of computers; to bring powerful tools to education, to health, and to the arts; and to create a culture where technology is never bereft of humanity.

From Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in a garage to the most successful company in history, from a little boy staring at a neon green screen to a person who now gets to make a living helping others get the most out of technology: Happy birthday Apple. Thank you for your products and your vision. Thank you for fighting for us and for giving us the tools to fight for ourselves. Thank you for forty years.

Here's to forty more, and forty beyond that. Here's not to the past, but to all the great things coming next!

Serenity Caldwell: Managing editor, iMore

In the six years since I began writing about Apple and technology, my biography has had one, joking constant: "Serenity has been writing and talking about and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click."

It's a good line, but for me, it's true. My father, a Caltech employee and professor, had been an Apple fan since the beginning, and he brought us up on the Mac Plus. One of my earliest memories is sitting at that computer, trying to draw little creatures in Mac Paint — with a one-button mouse, at that.

That beautiful beige lump may have started as the family computer, but by my schooling years it lived solely in my bedroom, used only by myself and my sister. We think about the modern computer as being fundamentally broken without an Internet connection, but I didn't need the budding Internet for the Mac to win over my time. Instead, applications like Mario Teaches Typing and Number Munchers taught me everything I wanted to know, while exploratory games like Myst and Spelunx let me play in worlds beyond my imagination, and a 12-floppy-disk set of Shakespeare's classics gave me my first love for the theater. My very first foray into journalism — a newsletter for my neighborhood called "The Pasadena Press," created when I was, oh, 7 or 8? — was written in MacWrite and formatted with Print Shop.

As the Internet became something worth paying attention to, the Mac Plus went to our local elementary school and our household got a huge upgrade. Whereas previously I'd had to sneak into my father's office at school to look at message boards on his old Performa, I got a pretty special present on my 11th birthday: an Internet-capable Bondi Blue iMac of my very own.

That Mac, and its descendents, were my constant companions through my childhood years. They helped me explore universes I'd never even thought of entering — like art, and photography — and let me craft worlds I'd already built with my words.

You could argue that anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s was going to be fundamentally changed by the introduction of the personal computer, and I could have been just as profoundly affected had I had a Windows machine in my house. That could have been true — but for me, it was Apple and the Mac. There was something meaningful about having the technology of the underdog; technology that, when compared to my friends' constantly-crashing Windows 95 PCs, was clearly superior.

But Apple's computers weren't just about the technology, to me — they were about the promise of future technology. Of thinking different.

It's why my father and I lined up, one cold Saturday morning, to be some of the first ones into a new Apple experiment: the very first Apple Store. ("Second," if you count Virginia. But Glendale will always be R001.) It's why I found myself drawn to working at an Apple Store on the east coast seven years later. And it's why, one random Summer afternoon, I found myself applying to a writing job at Macworld I saw on Twitter from editor-in-chief Jason Snell.

Apple has evolved many times in the 28 years since I first sat down at that Mac Plus, and indeed, the 40 years of its existence. My Apple products no longer come in beige boxes. Many of them don't even need wires, or keyboards. Some fit into my palm. And that's just how it should be. 40 years, triumphing on creating quality work, the promise of the future, and constant improvement. It's a lesson we should all take into our own lives.

Congratulations, Apple, and happy birthday. I hope to see you triumph and evolve for many years to come.

Daniel Bader: Senior editor, iMore

My relationship with Apple begins long after sturdy boxes of the Apple II and Macintosh were supplanted by the progressively sleeker approximations of the Platonic ideal of desktop computing emerged in the form of the iMac.

My relationship with Apple began with the iPod.

In 2002, shortly before beginning university, I spent $500 of my hard-earned money on a second-generation iPod, the one with the first touch-sensitive scroll wheel and the most satisfying clicky buttons I can remember. Ten gigabytes of storage was both a privilege and a responsibility, and I filled that machine with what I still consider to be the best music of all time: the entire Beatles collection; The Rolling Stones; The Who; Led Zeppelin; Pink Floyd; early Genesis; Jethro Tull; Yes. I experienced the most technologically advanced piece of personal technology available at the time through the dusty early stereo filters of the classic rock giants of the late '60s and early '70s. I took the iPod with me on my first solo trip to Europe, strolling through the wide, symmetrical Parisian streets in the early summer sun. I created breakup playlists and love playlists; I never left home without it.

That iPod died at some point in mid-2004, its battery worn down to a few short hours, its screen scratched to within an inch of visibility.

I can't remember a product line that grew up with me as much as the iPod. When, at 22, I bought the first-generation iPod touch, I knew that Apple had figured out something about touch-based user interfaces that no one else had. My love for the iPod touch was less passionate, less frustrating, than the mechanical purrings of its forebears, but with that maturity came the realization that I wanted to talk about this stuff every day, to whomever would listen. I think like many people, the iPod changed their lives. For me, it nudged me in a particular direction, which, through a long and winding road, led me here.

Happy birthday!

Lory Gil: Staff writer, iMore

My life with Apple began in college. The journalism department at my school worked exclusively with Mac computers. I had an old, barely working PC at the time and decided that, if I was going to get a new computer, it might as well be in line with what I was doing in college. So, I bought an iBook G3.

Prior to purchasing my first Apple product, I didn't give a crap about computers. They were confusing monstrosities to me. I basically used my old PC as a glorified word processor. I would check email and visit forums for fan pages I liked, but that was pretty much it. I could never really understand how they worked.

Enter Apple's user-friendly operating system. The computing world opened up to me. Things made more sense. I could find software that I had downloaded easier. My photos were stored all in one place when I connected my digital camera. I didn't have to "defrag" my computer ever month. When I dropped a file in the trash, it actually went away, instead of some part if it secretly hiding deep in the bowels of my OS. It just worked.

I finally felt like I understood computers more. I started digging into how the system works, finding out cool things I could do. When I went mobile with Apple in 2004 with my first iPod mini, it fueled my fire to learn even more about technology. I became a gadget collector and tried ever mobile device I could get my hands on, which let me to the iPad.

In 2010, the iPad changed my life. I had been wondering around, aimlessly working at various magazines and local weekly papers, covering human interest stories and the like. When I got my first generation iPad (which all of my friends scoffed at), I knew I wanted to write about it, to tell others about how amazing the technology was, and how easy it was to use. So, I did.

Now, six years later, I work at my favorite Apple news site with the best writers on the Internet and I pinch myself every morning at how lucky I am to be a part of it.

So, thanks Apple, for opening up the world of computers and technology to me. Because of you, I get to do what I love with people I respect. And bonus; I can help my mom every time she can't figure something out on her iPhone.

Rich Stevens: Frequent contributor, iMore

As long as I can remember, all I've ever wanted was as many computers as I can get my hands on. The first one we had in our family was a Commodore VIC-20, which got me into BASIC. A couple years later, my mom bought us an Apple IIgs with her teacher's discount and I haven't done more than dabble with a non-Apple computer since.

I still remember drawing a scorpion on an Apple II in Dazzle Draw at school. It was the first creative work I ever did on a computer. Ten years later, I decided to go into graphic design over illustration because in my college, design had all the Macs. Almost every good friend I made in college, I made while solving their technical problems in that computer lab. That experience led me to making websites and eventually spending 16+ years putting comics on the internet.

I honestly wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for Apple. Thanks Steves, and unsung hero Ronald Wayne.

Chris Parsons (Bla1ze): Editor-in-chief, CrackBerry

While I don't have a very long history with Apple, it's one that I remember very clearly. When I first got interested in computers, it was because I could build my own Windows machines fairly cheap and never had to worry about affordability.

But it wasn't long before I began to look towards Apple; their computers were different and seemed more refined in functionality. Eventually, I saved up enough money to buy a MacBook: Nothing fancy, just a used plain-white MacBook, with an Intel Core Duo and 2GB of RAM. I snagged it for $500 — at the time, a really good deal. Since that day, I haven't looked at Windows computers at al In an odd way, I think that little white used MacBook helped me reach the point in my life I'm at today: It was a machine I cared about and loved using and owning; it inspired me to work hard on the things I loved and enjoyed, and it was insanely reliable. I beat the heck out of that thing, but it kept on ticking.

I've owned many Apple products since, but my little white used MacBook kicked it all off. Thanks for that, Apple.

Stephane Koenig: Opportunities manager, Mobile Nations

When I was young, sometime in the late-eighties, I was visiting my parents' friend. To keep me quiet, he let me play with his computers, one of which was an Apple Mac... the original with a floppy drive.

It was the first time a computer smiled at me.

Happy Birthday, Apple.

Tell us your stories

iMore readers: How did you stumble into the wide, wonderful world of Apple? We'd love to hear your tales below.

Serenity Caldwell

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

8 Comments
  • i dont go from apple anymore... Sent from the iMore App
  • First contact was through my mother – she received a Lisa in 1983 to do template designs for French television teletext systems. I had a Sinclair ZX81 at that time and could not believe what she got there. I got my first own Mac (the 128K) approx. a year later.
  • I remember fondly in 4th grade going to the computer lab and drawing low-res graphics on the Apple ][+. I got an Apple //c for Christmas 1984. I took AP computer in high school, with the Z80 card installed in that //c (running Turbo Pascal). That //c was used from 1984 to 1992, through college for me. In grad school, I got an LCII, a super slow micropizzabox, then a couple of years later got a Performa 636CD with the TV tuner. letting me watch and record TV on the Apple Monitor that was the Sony Trinitron 13-inch. Used that Performa through grad school, wrote a dissertation on it (in the lab I had appletalk-box networked a bunch of Ilcx and llsi machines to share the lab's 1 ethernet connection, letting us connect via the Appletalk node to the university's 3 NeXT cubes (Leia, Luke and Vader). Got a blue 2nd gen iMac slot-loader so my wife could write her dissertation while preggers with our first son, then she sold that to get a white first gen 500MHz iBook. ZOMG swapping out the 10GB HD on that puppy was a nightmare, but the 40GB replacement lasted her a few years. In my postdoc I spent a year with a Newton 2000u as my only work computer then eventually got a key lime iBook for a few years. We used a first gen Airport base station to NAT the dialup from the university so we had wireless internet over 33.6 kbps. As i became defacto tech support for my boss, i got her hand-me-downs, a titanium 667 MBP, and a first-gen 17-inch MBP. Eventually I got a Santa Rosa 17-inch MBP with the HD screen, which I am typing on right now. When i left postdoc, got a 2nd gen iPod touch as a parting gift then wife got an iPhone 3GS which i inherited when she got an iPhone4. I now use a 2009 white iBook and 2009 iMac at work. Both of us got iPhone5's the day they came out. Wife got 6s last October. Kids have been using everything from old Powerbook G4 to last year's mac mini for school, they are also on hand-me down iphone5 and iPhone4. Wife has tricked out 13-inch MBP and 27-inch iMac at work. If my son does well to finish this year in 6th grade he will get my iPhone5 since today I celebrated Apple's 40th birthday by buying an iPhone SE. Thanks Apple for the great run. I have only had to use a PC for 3 weeks in my entire life (until they found a mac mini at work after getting sick of my complaining, then they got me the iMac). The //c and the performa636 are still with me. All of these machines are like an extension of my physical being. I know they are just plastic and silicon and aluminum but it's the care and love with which they are designed that makes them *yours*. Nobody really "cares" about their pc's, but those of us with the pleasure of having Apple products really are lucky. Thanks again to Woz, Jobs, Cook, even Sculley. I raise my glass to all Apple employees on the anniversary of Apple's incorporation. You make the world a better place.
  • I clicked my first Apple mouse in 1992, a Macintosh Classic in our elementary school computer lab. I was always in awe of the sleek presentation with the MacOS, everything from the Happy Mac to the Sosumi alert sound made me smile. To this day, the startup sound makes me cheer up and remember fondly my first clicks, though I have to admit, I miss HyperCard and ClarisWorks, there still are no apps quite like them! My father was a pseudo business man and would always rant at my joy of Apple Computers; telling me that "If you are going to learn any platform, don't waste your time on a Mac! Real business is done on a Windows PC, member that boy!" This never stopped me, even when I saved my money to buy a Classic Color II my father prevented the purchase by giving me a PC. As my life would have it I was unable to afford the joys of an Apple product until an iPod Nano in 2005, followed by the eventual conversion of all our products to Apple by 2012. My whole household is in love with their iPhones, iPads, MacBook Airs, AppleTV's and an iMac - they all JUST WORK together, they way computers should. The only tinkering I have to do is what I want to. Congratulations Apple on 40 years of AWESOME! I have always loved following the story of Apple, it's highs and lows, every keynote and every announcement, every upgrade and new product. Keep it coming, and thank you to iMore for letting me share this condensed story, there is so much more and when the 80th anniversary comes, I know I will still be praising this company that not only changes the world for the better - it helps us grow as a people through products that enhance our experiences and bring us together as a community. Through Apple, we are all family! ~CDM Sent from the iMore App
  • My first experience with personal computers was a friend of mine spending an hour typing (and re-typing) code to display a picture of a house made out of Xs. Woohoo. They confused the heck out of me and seemed pointless. I was a graphic artist using hot wax, an Xacto knife, and non-repro blue pencils to do my job. Then, in 1988, the publication I was working for decided to buy Macs and trained us. I started out using a Mac Plus with a Radius Portrait Monitor, running Quark XPress 2 and Cricket Draw to design telephone book ads. With the Mac OS, as other people have mentioned, the computer made sense. I also tapped into a side of myself I didn't realize I had, being a creative person - my logical self. I was able to figure out how to do things and solve problems. I became the go-to troubleshooting guy for colleagues having problems. The first Mac I owned was a Power Mac 7500, with a 17" Apple monitor and Laserwriter. I updated that thing to an inch of it's life - G3 daughtercard, Orange PC (with an Intel processor on the card to run Windows 95 s-l-o-w-l-y), internal 1 Gb hard drive and Jaz drive, ATI graphics card, and maxed-out RAM. My first computer game was Dark Forces (which I'm still waiting to be ported/updated to OSX - come on, Lucius!). Now I have a 27" iMac (late 2013), (now classic) 80 Gb iPod, 4th gen iPad, 2nd gen Apple TV, and iPhone 6s. My wife now also has a 6s and my old 27" iMac (late 2009). We also still have my old iPhone 5c (green) and my wife's 4s, which I will sell. I'm looking forward to an Apple Watch and updated Apple TV and iPad (hopefully Pro). I'm a Mac guy through and through, though I've (begrudgingly) learned Windows (extra kudos to Apple for Bootcamp!) I have to admit I've lost some enthusiasm for the keynotes/product announcements - partly because you folks do your job TOO well - there are no surprises anymore. I'm also concerned about the quality of the software - El Capitan has been kind of buggy for me. So, I'm no starry-eyed fanatic in a honeymoon phase. This is a long-term relationship, and I hope to be celebrating 80 years with you all!
  • The whole idea of pushing major OS updates out yearly is what causes the bugs, great for constant new features but bad for stability
  • My first experience with Apple was with iPod which my brother-in-law gifted back in 2007. And it still works! Since then, I've been Apple fan. I own iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch!! Sent from the iMore App
  • My first experience was with an iPhone 4S nearly 3 years ago snd VR be n hooked on Apple ever since. I've had an iPad Air and plan on switching completely to Apple as through using the iPhone, I really enjoy what Apple offers, which is fluid, seem less experience while being extremely easy to use. While I haven't used experienced the joy of Apple as long as most of the commentators and all of the team at iMore, it doesn't mean I don't know how the importance of what Apple and Steve Jobs to technology. Happy 40th Birthday Apple and may you continue to make the world a better place. Sent from the iMore App