It was 20 years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play… and by 20 we mean 38 and by Sergeant Pepper and the band, we mean Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne (you can decided for yourselves who was doing the teaching). Yes, it’s Apple’s birthday today, so let’s just take a moment to reflect.
Apple was founded on 1 April 1976, before being incorporated as Apple Computer Inc on 3 January the following year.
It was founded by the aforementioned trio, in order to develop and sell personal computers, something it has now done rather successfully for the last nearly 40 years. Of course, during that period the company has also branched out somewhat, with its groundbreaking forays into the world of personal music devices (the iPod launched in October 2001), smartphones (the iPhone, launched in January 2007) and tablets (the iPad, launched in January 2010), along with myriad new operating systems and not-so-successful consumer products such as digital cameras, portable CD players and PDAs like the Newton.
In 1978, the company began working on the Apple Lisa – Jobs’ pet project. When he was manoeuvred out of the team, due to internal politics, he took over the project to build an inexpensive computer – the Macintosh. Lisa was released first, but failed due to its limited software and high price tag. As we all now know, the Macintosh, which debuted with an almighty fanfare (and a Ridley Scott commercial) in 1984 was a huge success for the company and set it on the path to the elevated position it holds today.
It has grown and evolved its computer offerings in numerous ways, before arriving at the current line-up of two laptops (MacBook Air and MacBook Pro), two consumer level desktops (the iMac and Mac mini) and the super serious heavy duty workhorse, the Mac Pro.
So, what of those three musketeers who sat down 38 years ago and signed all the forms? Jobs, of course, died in 2011 after a protracted battle with pancreatic cancer. Steve ‘Woz’ Wozniak, who was the brains behind the design of both the Apple I and Apple II in the 1970s, left Apple permanently in 1987 and has since been involved in various ventures, as well as fulfilling an oft-stated desire to teach fifth-grade students. Every so often he’ll do an interview or make some surprising (but perhaps prescient) announcement, such as his speech at the Science and Technology Summit in 2010 in The Hague, when he predicted that Android would dominate Apple when it came to market share, but the iPhone would remain the premium product.
In 1981 he was badly injured in a plane crash, when the Beechcraft Bonanza A36TC he was piloting stalled soon after take-off, bounced down the runway and crashed into an embankment.
He also dated Kathy Griffin for a while and was a contestant on the US version of Dancing with the Stars, eventually being eliminated from the competition after scoring 12 out of 30 for his Argentine tango.
And what of the third and least familiar face of the founding trio? Well, Ronald (Stuart Sutcliffe) Wayne, who had worked with Jobs at Atari, joined the two Steves as the administrative overseer. He wrote the original partnership agreement and drew the first Apple logo. He also received a 10 percent stake in the company but, wary of finding himself caught in a situation where he would be personally responsible for any debts incurred, sold his stock less than a fortnight after the company was founded.
Ronald Wayne gave up his share of Apple for a total of US$2300. Last year the company made US$170.9 billion in sales. Had Wayne held on to his 10 percent, by 2011 it would have been worth US$35 billion.
He is now retired and lives quietly in a Nevada mobile home park, selling stamps and rare coins.