Today in Apple history: Apple bids farewell to the Newton

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The Newton MessagePad 2100 was the last hurrah for Apple's Newton line.
The MessagePad was a product ahead of its time.
Photo: Moparx

February 27: Today in Apple history: Apple discontinues Newton MessagePad February 27, 1998: Apple discontinues work on the Newton MessagePad product line, the series of personal digital assistants the company launched five years earlier.

“This decision is consistent with our strategy to focus all our software development resources on extending the Macintosh operating system,” Steve Jobs says at the time. “To realize our ambitious plans we must focus all of our efforts in one direction.”

How Apple’s first COO turned ‘chaotic’ company into international powerhouse

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Yocam with Steve Jobs
Del Yocam (center) chats with Steve Jobs.
Photo: Del Yocam

Long before Tim Cook brought his operations wizardry to Apple, Del Yocam lent his logistical prowess to Cupertino. Apple’s first chief operating officer, he helped transform the company from a chaotic, scrappy startup into a streamlined manufacturing powerhouse.

He also served as an early mentor to Steve Jobs, the young Apple co-founder who sometimes seemed out of his depth in 1979.

“When I first got to know him, he was lost,” Yocam told Cult of Mac. “He was no longer involved in the Apple II and no one wanted him around, especially management. He didn’t care about money at that time. He was like an orphan, living away from home.”

In many ways, Yocam was the proto-Tim Cook, a manufacturing and operations specialist who helped transform a dysfunctional startup into a massive, moneymaking leader of the early PC industry. He also helped take the rapidly growing company international.

Yocam deserves more credit for helping build Apple than history has so far accorded him. He was one of the main players at a crucial point in Cupertino’s history.

Yocam, now 76, recently talked with Cult of Mac about Apple’s early days. In this exclusive interview, he discusses his friendship and working relationship with Jobs, Apple’s challenging, fascinating, and sometimes malodorous co-founder.

He also reveals new details about Jobs’ tearful ouster from Apple — and how Jobs later offered him an amazing job, only to revoke it at the last moment.

Today in Apple history: Newton MessagePad 120 is Apple’s first great mobile device

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The MessagePad 120 perfects Apple's PDA line.
Do you remember the Newton MessagePad 120?
Photo: Fzurell/Flickr CC

January 30: Today in Apple history: MessagePad 120 is Apple's first great mobile device January 30, 1995: Apple Computer launches the Newton MessagePad 120, the first truly great device in an unfairly maligned product line.

Coming 18 months after the original Newton MessagePad, the upgraded PDA packs more power — and truly shines once Newton OS 2.0 rolls out.

Today in Apple history: ‘The Diesel’ becomes Apple COO

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Apple CEO Michael Spindler headed the company during trying times in the 1990s.
Michael Spindler's COO promotion put him on the path to being named future chief executive.
Image: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

January 29: Today in Apple history: Michael H. Spindler, aka 'The Diesel,' is named new Apple COO January 29, 1990: Apple CEO John Sculley appoints Michael H. Spindler as the company’s new chief operating officer.

Nicknamed “The Diesel” on account of his work ethic, Spindler’s new job continues his upward trajectory at Apple. Three years later, he will become CEO.

Today in Apple history: Super Bowl Mac ad airs against the odds

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1984
Apple's greatest commercial in history.
Photo: Apple

January 22: Today in Apple history: Super Bowl Mac ad airs against the odds January 22, 1984: Apple’s stunning “1984” commercial for the Macintosh 128K airs on CBS during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII.

Probably the most famous TV ad for a computer in history, the commercial is directed by Alien and Blade Runner director Ridley Scott. It very nearly didn’t air, though.

Today in Apple history: Secret project ports Mac OS to PCs

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intel
Should Apple have licensed Mac OS back in the early 1990s?
Photo: Thomas Hawk/Flickr CC

December 4: Today in Apple history: Secret Apple project nicknamed 'Star Trek' ports Mac OS to PCs under the code-name 'Macrosoft' December 4, 1992: Apple engineers demonstrate a “proof of concept” of the Mac operating system running on an Intel computer.

More than a decade before Macs will switch to Intel processors, the astonishing feat is part of an aborted plan to make Apple’s software available on other manufacturer’s hardware. Apple ultimately chickens out, fearing (probably correctly) that this will hurt Macintosh sales.

Today in Apple history: Apple signs damaging deal with Microsoft

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Windows used a number of elements of the Mac UI
One of the most damaging deals in Apple history.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

November 21: Today in Apple history: Apple signs Microsoft deal licensing Mac look and feel November 21, 1985: Following Steve Jobs’ departure, Apple comes close to signing its own death warrant by licensing the Macintosh’s look and feel to Microsoft.

The deal, between Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Apple CEO John Sculley, comes hot on the heels of the Windows operating system’s release. The pact gives Microsoft a “non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, nontransferable license to use [parts of the Mac technology] in present and future software programs, and to license them to and through third parties for use in their software programs.”

Oh, boy!

Today in Apple history: World gets a chance to test-drive a Mac

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Apple's innovative
Apple's innovative "Test Drive a Macintosh" ad campaign urged potential customers to take a Mac for a spin.
Photo: Apple

November 8: Today in Apple history: Test-drive a Mac November 8, 1984: When initial Mac sales prove disappointing, Apple CEO John Sculley dreams up the “Test Drive a Macintosh” campaign to encourage people to give the revolutionary new computer a chance.

While 200,000 would-be Apple customers take advantage of the offer, Apple dealers absolutely hate it.

Today in Apple history: PowerBook 100 series is a smash hit

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The entry-level PowerBook 100 fueled a laptop revolution.
The entry-level PowerBook 100 fueled a laptop revolution.
Photo: Danamania/Wikipedia CC

October 21: Today in Apple history: Apple launches PowerBook 100 series, one of the most important laptops in Apple history October 21, 1991: Apple launches its PowerBook 100 series. The lightweight laptops quickly become one of the most important tech gadgets of all time.

These devices almost single-handedly turned notebook computers into a mainstream technology. Apple’s subsequent success in this category — whether it’s the current MacBooks or even the rise of mobile devices like the iPhone — owes a huge debt to the PowerBook 100 series.

Today in Apple history: The forgotten first Mac with an internal CD-ROM

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Why did the Mac IIvx fail to take the world by storm?
Why did the Mac IIvx fail to take the world by storm?
Photo: Apple

October 19: Today in Apple history: Mac IIvx, the forgotten first Mac with an internal CD-ROM, launches October 19, 1992: Apple launches the Mac IIvx, the first Macintosh computer to ship with a metal case and, more importantly, an internal CD-ROM drive.

The last of the Macintosh II series, the Mac IIvx experiences one of the more notorious price adjustments in Apple history. Within five months of shipping, Apple slashes the computer’s launch price of $2,949 to $1,899. That’s one way to reward early adopters!