The early design years of Apple
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Foam models and design sketches by Harmut Esslinger from Apple´s early design development: "Nobody can copy the genius of Steve Jobs, but like him we can strive for lifelong learning, respect creativity as an economic and cultural power, and be courageous about fundamental change."
Keep it simple - The Early Design Years of Apple - is available from Arnoldsche Art Publishers.
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My first encounter with Apple was at the ICSID World Design Congress in Helsinki in 1978, where the company had installed a working Apple IIe system in the lobby of the Congress Hall. Actually, the term “system” may be a bit of a stretch, but the computers were loaded with VisiCalc and a basic email program, so people could play around with them. I liked Apple’s simple approach to technology — I was struck by how well these rudimentary products worked and how inexpensive they were, compared to the professional computer systems I had designed for CTM. Apple’s rainbow logo radiated fun, but the words “apple computer” scrawled across a badge in an ugly typeface were a downer. The promotional material for the system was nice, even though it suffered a bit from “American overload.” But, as is typical for a startup, the product design was clunky. Semantically, the Apple IIe looked like an old typewriter without its ribbon and roller, and the keyboard stood at a wildly non-ergonomic height above the desktop. Two primitive 5-inch floppy disk drives made of generic sheet metal rested on top of the computer case, capped by an off-the-shelf Japanese monitor that displayed green characters on a black background.
Of course, you have to consider what Apple was competing against at the time. The tiny field of “home and personal computing” was occupied by the Commodore PET and the 64. There also were a variety of self-assembled kits, which were mostly for hobbyists. Companies such as Osborne (a portable computer within the size of a boarding case) and Altair (more “system centric”) completed the field. Except for the Commodore 64, all home and personal computers in 1978 were ugly beyond imagination, and the C64 suffered from a lousy display quality due to the digital signal shredding necessary for display on its analog TV screen — drawbacks which didn’t stop the company from selling millions of the machines.
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