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The weird world of old Apple accessories

While the Apple of today sells more accessories than ever, the company has been in the business of add-ons for decades. The Smart Battery Case may be in the news for its Band-Aid hump design, but looking back, there's a lot more where that thing came from. Here a few of my favorites:

iPad Keyboard Dock

Apple made a big productivity push when it first launched the iPad in 2010, showing off its iWork suite on the tablet during the keynote.

And to put writers at ease, Apple announced a $69 dock that grafted a version of its aluminum keyboard to the bottom of the iPad. The iPad could be charged and pass audio out via its 30-pin Dock Connector, but it required the iPad to sit in portrait mode. After the keynote, I'm not sure the company ever mentioned this device again; it was quietly removed from stores with the introduction of Lightning-based iPad models.

iPhone Bluetooth Headset

Alongside the original iPhone, Apple sold a $129 Bluetooth headset for those who wanted to use their new smartphones hands-free.

While it benefitted from some clever integrations, the Bluetooth Headset wasn't for everyone. (Sound familiar?) Audio quality wasn't great, and with just one size of earpiece, many found it uncomfortable to use.

As it turns out, Apple still sells the charging cable. (opens in new tab) If you are need of the charging dock, however, you're out of luck.

iPod Socks

There are a lot of weird—and sometimes expensive—iPod cases, bands and lanyards that Apple sold over the years, but there's one accessory that always drew a smile and a laugh.

Put on sale in 2004, iPod Socks are still a crowd favorite.

Sold until 2012, these cloth accessories came in six bright colors, and were designed to keep your iPod—or iPhone, I suppose—nice and snuggly while in your bag. The entire pack sold for $29.99.

My iPod classic is still housed in a green one, in fact. It's not protective for anything beyond some scratches, but geeze, it is downright adorable.

VideoPhone Kit

Years before the external iSight camera and FaceTime, Apple sold the VideoPhone Kit, which allowed for video conferencing from a Mac, as long as you had OS 7.5.5 and a 28,000 bps modem, ISDN, or Ethernet connection.

Image Credit: Jonathan Zufi, iconicbook.com

This was all powered by Netscape's CoolTalk audioconferencing platform. If you needed to video chat in 1997 with a Macintosh, this was the way to do it.

Apple PowerCD

Released in 1993 as part of Apple's "Mac-like Things" initiative, the PowerCD was the only product to ever ship from the team.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

It was the first stand-alone consumer device the company had ever shipped, as it did not require a computer for it to operate. Basically a re-branded Phillips player, the PowerCD could be purchased with the AppleDesign Powered Speakers. The original line of speakers didn't match the PowerCD's dark gray exterior, but Apple resolved this with the AppleDesign Powered Speakers II in 1994.

The upright optical disc drive could also be used with a computer, however, becoming an external drive via SCSI connection. It came with a remote, and the whole thing could run on AA batteries for portability. Due to its Phillips roots, it could be used to play Photo-CD discs as well.

Duo Dock

The PowerBook Duo was a line of small notebooks that Apple sold from 1992-1997.

Like the first MacBook Air or the MacBook with Retina display, the Duos lacked most normal ports. But Apple did include a 156-pin Processor Direct Slot port, giving access to the machines' processor and data busses.

Apple took advantage of this port to offer numerous docks for the small notebooks, but the crown jewel was the $519 Duo Dock, which included a CRT, floppy drive, second hard drive, additional VRAM and more:

Your favorites?

What Mac or iOS accessories hold a special place in your heart? Let us know in the comments.

Stephen Hackett is the co-founder of the Relay FM podcast network. He's written about Apple for seven years at 512 Pixels, and has more vintage Macs than family members living in his Memphis, TN home.

19 Comments
  • The Quicktake digital camera, the Newton 1 & 2, MessagePad, and eMate all come to mind.
  • +1 on the Newton - I still own an MP130, which powers up and works :) Sent from the iMore App
  • What about the Pippin?
  • Apple Hi-Fi... I have 2 and I still use them every day with Airport Express on each one of them.
  • I've got one as well! Still sounds great!
  • Wish like **** I bought one. Was at a friends house who had one and was pretty impressed with it.
  • I bought that iPad Keyboard Dock for my mom, along with a first-gen iPad. When we upgraded her iPad this year, I took the dock home and slapped a lightning-to-30-pin converter onto it. My iPhone 6 sits on this contraption right now. Works great for upright charging and quick keyboarding in the office.
  • the iPhone smart battery case Sent from the iMore App
  • The iPod Socks, yay!
  • Duo Dock FTW! The duos were some of my favorites, and the dock just seemed so high tech. You can spot one in the background in Seinfeld's apartment.
  • Despite it being underpowered, I lusted after the Powerbook Duo when I was in college.
  • iPhone 5c cases
  • Pippin, iPhone 6s battery case. Sent from the iMore App
  • VideoPhone was the consumer future. How crazy is the fact that Facetime was not fully supported over cellular data until 2012, which is 15 years after Apple released the VideoPhone and 18 years after Connectix released the consumer-focused Quickcam. Insane how phone companies had been showing consumer videophones since forever but never bothered to deliver the infrastructure required to support them. I find it tough to even write that we have the cable companies to thank for pushing the infrastructure forward with competition.
  • I still like the original iPad keyboard. I still use it for writing. I like the portrait mode so I can see more of a page and the keyboard has a solid feel. In fact, I bought an extra one because I was afraid my original would break and I couldn't replace it. Unfortunately, with the new lightening connections I'm going to have to give it up before long. Maybe the iPad Pro will satisfy me.
  • My favorite old Apple accessory: the 30-pin connector. Sent from the iMore App
  • My favorite old Apple accessory: the 30-pin connector. Sent from the iMore App
  • I might be the only one, but I long for the day Apple makes a good Bluetooth earpiece again. I loved the dual charge cable. Just one less thing to carry.
  • I'm still using the iPad Keyboard Dock. I know that once I finally choose to upgrade my iPad (I'm still using what Apple called "The New iPad" or what I call an iPad 3) then that keyboard will become useless, but for now it's pretty handy, especially when I'm doing a lot of typing into Evernote.