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February 5, 2014

Mistakes Apple Wishes You’d Forget

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

They are the perhaps the most prestigious company on the planet. They represent a certain status. Only the cool kids use their stuff.

Of course, it’s Apple, the company that revolutionized technology with the Macintosh, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. That’s the same company that failed to revolutionize anything with some ripe products in their boneyard — stuff that they’d wish people would forget.

I like Apple’s stuff. Heck, the first computer I lusted after was an Apple II+. Apple does a good job with technology. Their products are certainly overpriced, but worth it. Therefore, when Apple makes a mistake, they do so in a consistently spectacular manner.

Apple III. Apple’s first major oops was the Apple III, a computer designed to be the serious, business companion to the Apple II. Several things killed the Apple III. The first were hardware issues and a lack of compatibility with the Apple II. More importantly, the onslaught of the IBM PC and its clones killed the III. Business people wanted a computer by IBM on their desktops. I believe Apple corporate held onto this resentment for a long, long time.

The Apple III. I've only seen one of these on display; never had a chance to play with one.

The Apple III. I’ve only seen one of these on display; never had a chance to play with one. (Image stolen from WikiMedia.)

Lisa. The dawn of the graphic user interface for personal computers was heralded by the Lisa. It was a great computer for its day, but the hefty price — $10,000 back in 1983 — killed the Lisa. Buggy software didn’t help, and neither did the internal battles between the Lisa group and the Macintosh group at Apple.

I actually got to play on a Lisa once. It was pretty neat, although the system crashed frequently and it was dog slow. (Image stolen from WikiMedia.)

Newton. The Newton was way ahead of its time. It was a handheld computer, something you’d recognize instantly today as a tablet. Back then it fell into the Personal Digital Assistant, or PDA, category.

Apple’s Newton from 1998 next to an Apple iPhone from 2010. (Image stolen from WikiMedia.)

I don’t view Newton as a mistake, although at the time it was. The Newton was truly visionary — and from John Scully, not Steve Jobs. It’s only problem was that it was about 5 years too early and twice as large as it needed to be.

Hockey Puck Mouse. I remember this disaster well. Steve Jobs had just returned to Apple. The iMac was introduced in Biondi Blue. It was a revolutionary computer design, and it was the computer that saved Apple. The only thing that sucked was its mouse. The thing was a hockey puck. Well, it was about the same size, but curved so that it could never fit into your palm. And the button was difficult to click.

I detested the hockey puck mouse so much that I actually kept one as a reminder. My original iMacs are all gone, but the mouse remains! (Image from Gookin, not stolen from WikiMedia.)

I detested the hockey puck mouse so much that I actually kept one as a reminder. My original iMacs are all gone, but the mouse remains! (Image from Gookin, not stolen from WikiMedia.)

The Cube. The G4 Mac was pretty clever. I wanted one, which was more a testament of Apple’s clever design and status than out of necessity. Fortunately for me, faults with the Cube started appearing immediately.

Apple’s Power Mac G4 Cube. (Image stolen from WikiMedia.)

First it was the cracked case, which was sad because the G4 Cube was beautiful, but the device lacked a cooling fan. The predictable result: The computer ran too hot and failed. I’m sure some engineer pointed that out to Steve Jobs before the Cube was released. And we all know how receptive Steve Jobs could be to criticism . . .

The good news is that the Cube was the last Apple computer to bomb. While the iPhone 4 with its bad antenna was a bomb, it’s not a computer. Also, the iPhone 4 didn’t kill the entire iPhone line.

Apple has had other failures: The social network Ping, the cloud-based Mobile Me service, and the recent gaff with Apple Maps are examples. Yet these merely prove that Apple is mortal. I suppose if Apple were any other company, no one would notice or care. But Apple is more of a cult than a high tech company. That’s probably why it keeps doing what it does and doing it (for the most part) quite well.


  1. I still have a hockey puck mouse as well. It’s unfortunately my only spare USB mouse but it is kinda usable. There was one time I was in a class where we all had to do presentations and I got put in charge of running the PowerPoint slideshows; I didn’t have any of those wireless slide advancer things so I just brought that mouse with the ball removed and rollers taped in place and a USB extension cable. It worked pretty well then.

    Comment by linuxlove — February 5, 2014 @ 7:54 am

  2. I admire you ability to hack a mouse as a wireless pointer! Curiously enough, my hockey-puck mouse is the only old one I have that I know works. I also have an old thumb mouse. These guys once clipped on the side of a laptop — before laptops came with touchpads. I don’t know if it works because it uses the 9-pin serial port. I’ll have to write about that someday…

    Comment by admin — February 5, 2014 @ 8:00 am

  3. I recall you mentioned your first Apple product was an Apple IIGS. I think what was interesting about that was that it had a color graphical interface and could be programmed with the hypercard UI framework. Its very interesting to read the ‘letters’ section of (Steve Wozniak’s website) where he is extremely candid about what went on at Apple and how his product line was pushed out by Mac.

    Its also very important to point out that Apple is not just a boutique for cool kids, their business model actually works to the point that they are the richest company in the world and make a much higher profit than MS.

    Comment by BradC — February 5, 2014 @ 11:58 am

  4. The first Apple computer I owned was an Aplle IIGS. I had an Apple //c, which I used to write the manual for a software product. I had to return the //c once the project was over. The IIGS I purchased to write a programming book, but then I sold the IIGS to buy the Macintosh SE.

    In 1988, I attended the Applefest in Boston. It was fun, but also kind of disappointing. The theme was “Apple II Forever,” but that was a joke. People actually laughed at Jean-Louis Gasse when he said that Apple was 100% behind the Apple II product. Pretty much everyone knew that wasn’t true. They were begging developers to buy a Mac II to develop Apple IIGS software. That was ludicrous.

    I agree that Apple does an outstanding job delivering product but also a corporate image. They sell the image. Their stuff is COOL. That’s something that Samsung completely misses.

    Comment by admin — February 5, 2014 @ 2:40 pm

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