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Forty-Five Years Ago, To The Day, On April 1, 1976, The Tech Company Apple Was Officially Launched From A House Garage In California 

1st March 2021

Forty-five years ago, to the day, on April 1, 1976, the tech company Apple was officially launched from a house garage in California only to become a $2 trillion multinational conglomerate less than half a century later.

As the industry giant celebrates this remarkable milestone, it would be interesting to explore the fascinating events that turned the once-small start-up into a global leader in terms of electronics and computer software.

A small start-up with revolutionary ideas

Hard as it may be to believe, Apple struggled in the early days of its creation to secure the investment needed to make its products.

In the mid-1970s, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, two college dropouts in their twenties living in California, shared more than just a first name; they pictured a world where computers were small, convenient, and cheap enough to be in every home and office.

As a result of this common vision, the pair’s friendship quickly turned into a business partnership, with Wozniak providing the technical designs for a computer that would be later known as Apple I, and Jobs handling the marketing aspect of their joint venture.

Interestingly, the Steves did not initially intend to start their own company but rather tried to convince already established electronics firms to adopt their concept.

However, their sales pitch failed to persuade either Hewlett-Packard or Steve Jobs’ former employer Atari, pushing them to independently launch the project on April 1, 1976, and the rest is Silicon Valley history. 

Using Jobs’ parents’ garage in Los Altos, California as its base of operation, the company was quick to release its first product, the Apple I computer, on April 11, 1976.

The cutting-edge devices, designed and fabricated singlehandedly by Wozniak, were initially sold with neither a monitor nor a keyboard and were intended for computer enthusiasts who had the knowledge required to assemble the components themselves. 

Prior to that point, the two aspiring tech entrepreneurs had enlisted the help of Ron Wayne, an engineer at Atari that Jobs had met during his time working for the company, who subsequently joined the pair as a third co-founder.

Wayne’s involvement with Apple would ultimately turn out to be short-lived, with the lesser-known member renouncing his role in the enterprise only 12 days after its creation, but not before making a contribution that would prove to be resilient to the test of time: the iconic logo of a bitten Apple that remains emblematic of the company’s brand to this very day.

Interestingly enough, Wayne refused at the time of his departure to retain a 10% stake in the firm, opting instead for an $800 buyout; if only he knew how valuable that 10% would become a few decades down the road.

The former Atari man did, however, end up receiving a compensation package of over $1,700 shortly thereafter in 1977.

So how did a small start-up made out of two co-founders turn into a multi-trillion-dollar tech giant? 

The first steppingstone to Apple’s ultimate tech domination came in early 1977, when Jobs and Wozniak were joined by a third partner: electrical engineer and former Intel investor Mike Markkula, who helped fund the small start-up and guided it into becoming a legitimate corporation.

Aside from injecting a much-needed $250,000 capital into the company, Markkula played an instrumental part in establishing a business culture that would become synonymous with Apple and remain in place even decades later.

Rather than espousing the traditional view that making profits is the benchmark for success, the new member had the simple yet revolutionary idea that a company should be built around the belief in its own products and should prioritize longevity over short-term gains.

But perhaps more importantly, Markkula introduced “The Apple Marketing Philosophy”, a one-page document that has since served as the ultimate blueprint for Apple’s most successful marketing campaigns: 

appearances do, in fact, matter.

A product, no matter how technologically superior, is only as good as its presentation and the impression that its outward design leaves on potential customers.

It was at that very moment that the spirit of Apple, which the world would come to know and appreciate for decades to come, was truly born.

With its newfound philosophy, the company was quick to unveil its second-ever product, the Apple II, on June 10, 1977. 

Once again, the entire production process was carried out by a handful of people and with virtually no budget, starting with 50 computers that were sold just one day before the company had to pay its suppliers

The gamble ultimately paid off, as the new release proved to be a game-changer for computer technology, introducing ground-breaking, never-before-seen features such as the unprecedented incorporation of colour graphics along with VisiCalc, the first-ever spreadsheet program for personal computers. 

Consequently, Apple sold worth $7.8 million in 1978 and could finally afford to move out of the garage into an actual office, hire more employees, and have a fully-fledged production line dedicated to making its products. 

The turmoil of the 80s and 90s

Apple continued riding the wave of its success in the late 70s and started the new decade strong, generating an enormous $117 million revenue from Apple II sales in 1980 alone.

During that same year, the company entered the stock market and launched its latest computer, the Apple III, which was more business-oriented than its two predecessors.

The release turned out to be the first of many missteps taken by Apple during the 80s and 90s, producing disappointing sales figures that diminished the company’s reputation as a rising star in the tech world.

Apple’s subsequent commercial blunder followed shortly thereafter when the much-anticipated Apple Lisa hit the market in 1983.

Once again, the product failed to live up to expectations, with even more devastating sales than the Apple III, mainly due to its expensive price and the limited software it was capable of supporting.

But the company was quick to bounce back from its previous disappointing launches and responded a year later with the introduction of the Macintosh computer –later referred to as the Mac– in 1984.

The project, spearheaded by Steve Jobs himself, was advertised as Apple’s most user-friendly release yet.

However, despite generating robust sales, the high price tag attached to the Macintosh hindered its ability to compete with cheaper alternatives such as the IBM Personal Computer, which retained control over the personal computer market.

Growing more and more dissatisfied with the direction in which Apple was heading and their diminished role in its future, Wozniak and subsequently Jobs parted ways with their creation in 1985, marking the end of an era for a company that had not yet turned 10 years old.  

At first, the personnel shakeup did not seem to have an effect as the company continued recording healthy profits through the rest of the 80s, even hitting record-high earnings by 1990.

But the new decade turned out to be even more brutal than the previous and saw Apple lose more and more ground to its competitors which drove it by the mid-90s to the brink of collapse.

Specifically, the company was struggling to keep up with its increasingly prominent rival Microsoft, which had just released the latest version of its operating system, Windows 3.0, in 1990 and began selling it to other computer manufacturers.

Having previously turned down an offer by Microsoft founder Bill Gates in 1985 to integrate his company’s software into Apple computers, along with the failure to equip its devices with the latest hardware technology, Apple’s products were being crushed in sales figures by less expensive yet more expansive alternatives.

Nothing epitomizes the lack of direction that plagued the tech firm during that era like the disastrous release of the Newton MessagePad in 1993, a mobile device whose bad functioning made it the laughingstock of the tech world.

By 1997, Apple was so desperate to upgrade its products with a new operating system that it had to bring an old yet familiar face back into the fold.

Indeed, the software in question belonged to a tech company called NeXT, which Steve Jobs had founded shortly after his unfriendly exit from Apple, only to be purchased by his former employer 12 years later.

The $429 million saw Job’s return to Apple in February 1997 and subsequently wrestle back control of the company in June of the same year, assuming the role of interim CEO –or, as he cleverly put it, iCEO.

Apple’s resurrection and rise to tech dominance   

Upon taking charge of Apple in June 1997, Steve Jobs had the uphill task of rescuing a company that had been sinking into irrelevance for years.

At the time, the situation at Apple was so dire that Michael Dell, founder of the then-flourishing computer technology company Dell, famously suggested that Jobs should shut the company down and return the money back to the shareholders to avoid the imminent financial ruin.

Instead, Jobs decided to take Apple back to its ideological roots, focusing once again on building up the public’s perception of the Apple brand rather than just the technological aspect of its product.

This change of direction resulted in Apple becoming the most valuable company in the world before the Saudi Arabian oil company Saudi Aramco went public in 2019 and took the lead.

Apple currently sits in second place with an incredible value of $2.213 trillion.

It all began with the iconic 1997 “Think Different” ad campaign, which played a major role in salvaging the company’s tarnished reputation following years of uninspiring product launches.

The promotional effort featured some of the world’s most revolutionary artists, scientists, and movement leaders who, much like Apple dared to think outside the box and push the boundaries in their particular fields.

This positive publicity paved the way for Apple to stage a market comeback, which the company seized on by launching the iMac computer in 1998 and announcing its return as a major force in the tech world.

Blending smooth functionality with creative design, the iMac revived the company’s sales and boosted its brand back to prominence, setting the stage for more exciting projects in the upcoming new millennium.

Indeed, Apple built on its late 90s momentum to pursue even more innovative projects that propelled it from a barely surviving computer company to a thriving tech enterprise spearheading some of the most significant technological breakthroughs of the 21 century.

At first, Apple conquered the music industry, introducing in 2001 both the iPod and iTunes, a portable device and a digital library that forever changed the way in which people listen to and purchase music.   

Then, in 2007, the company unveiled the first iteration of its most-ever successful creation, the iPhone.

From its ground-breaking Touchscreen technology to its powerful and versatile iOS operating system, the revolutionary device redefined the meaning of the term “Smartphone” and is easily one of the most influential products of modern-day technology.

Apple subsequently launched the iPad in 2011, followed by the Apple Watch in 2015, and the Air Pods in 2016, along with over 20 iPhone models released in less than two decades.

In November 2020, the company released for the very first time computers equipped with Apple M1, a brand-new CPU chip inspired by previous processing units developed for the iPhone and the iPad and offering the rare combination of high performance and energy efficiency. 

As for the tech giant’s plans for the future, reports have been circulating in the media about the Apple car, an underground project to develop an electric vehicle that would drive autonomously.

In this context, certain media outlets have shared news of an imminent billion-dollar partnership between Apple and South Korean Auto manufacturers Kia and Hyundai along with potential collaboration with certain Japanese carmakers, but the real details of the project are yet to be publicly disclosed by the tech company itself.

Apple has also entered the $7-trillion-a-year global healthcare market, integrating medical solutions based on Artificial Intelligence and machine learning within the iPhone and the Apple Watch.

The newly added features employ sensors and data collection to detect conditions such as irregular heartbeats, respiratory problems, sleep disorders, and potentially even early signs of Alzheimer’s in the future.

In addition, Apple has been exploring the world of augmented reality, with the company reportedly set to introduce its own AR headset as early as 2022.

While the upcoming product is expected to be released in limited numbers and with a higher price than its market competitors, the tech giant sees it as a steppingstone towards the long-term project of developing AR glasses, which will have broader customer appeal.

As Apple continues achieving breakthroughs in new sectors and shattering expectations of what is technologically possible, it remains the ultimate success story of a company that, despite a few stumbles during its 45 years of existence, has largely stayed true to its vision and has been rewarded for it.

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