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: Letterpad gives us a preview of Apple Watch gaming

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Letterpad was one of the first games we got to see on Apple Watch.
Letterpad was one of the first games we got to see on Apple Watch.
Photo: NimbleBit

January 21: Today in Apple history: Letterpad gives us a preview of Apple Watch gaming January 21, 2015: Months before the first Apple Watch goes on sale, users get a glimpse at what playing games might look like on the wearable.

Thanks to Apple making the WatchKit API available to third parties, game developer NimbleBit releases a mockup of its simple work-in-progess word game, Letterpad. Suddenly, we get a desire to play games on our wrist that we haven’t had since the days of the Nintendo Game & Watch three decades earlier.

Today in Apple history: Sequel to ‘1984’ Mac ad bombs hard

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The
The "Lemmings" ad was a massive disaster for Apple.
Photo illustration: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

January 20: Today in Apple history: Apple's 'Lemmings' advertisement, sequel to groundbreaking '1984' Mac ad, bombs hard January 20, 1985: Apple attempts to build on the triumph of the previous year’s “1984” Macintosh commercial with another Super Bowl ad.

Called “Lemmings,” the ad for a new business platform called Macintosh Office depicts blindfolded executives marching to their doom. The widely reviled ad will go down in history as one of Apple’s biggest stinkers.

Today in Apple history: Unauthorized Apple II clone sparks big legal battle

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The Franklin Ace 1200 was, in some ways, a literal copy of the Apple II.
The Franklin Ace 1200 was, in some ways, a literal copy of the Apple II.
Photo: Bugbookmuseum

January 18: Today in Apple history: Franklin's unauthorized Apple II clone, the Franklin Ace 1200, sparks legal battle January 18, 1983: Computer manufacturer Franklin Electronic Publishers takes the wraps off its Franklin Ace 1200 computer, an unauthorized Apple II clone that triggers an important legal battle.

Cupertino will soon target Franklin’s line of unlicensed Apple clones with a lawsuit. In the resulting trial, a U.S. court will decide whether a company can protect its operating system by copyright.

Today in Apple history: Mac’s ‘1984’ ad debuts in theaters

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1984
Before it won the Super Bowl, Apple's iconic Mac ad invaded theaters.
Photo: Chiat/Day/Apple

January 17: Today in Apple history: Mac's '1984' ad debuts in theaters January 17, 1984: A week before its famous airing during Super Bowl XVIII, Apple’s iconic “1984” ad debuts as a trailer in movie theaters.

To hype its revolutionary new Macintosh computer, Apple buys several months of promotion from theatrical ad distributor ScreenVision. Cupertino’s sci-fi-tinged “1984” spot — which depicts a sledgehammer-wielding freedom fighter taking on a Big Brother figure supposed to represent IBM —
gets such a favorable audience reaction that some theater owners continue to roll the ad after Apple’s contract ends.

Today in Apple history: Macintosh Plus brings big changes to Mac

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The MacIntosh Plus was arguably the first truly great Mac.
The MacIntosh Plus was arguably the first truly great Mac.
Photo: Rama/Wikipedia CC

January 16: Today in Apple history: Macintosh Plus brings big changes to Mac January 16, 1986: Apple introduces the Macintosh Plus, its third Mac model and the first to be released after Steve Jobs was forced out of the company the previous year.

The Mac Plus is also the first Macintosh to include a SCSI port, the main way of attaching a Mac to other devices until Apple abandoned the tech on the iMac G3 upon Jobs’ return. The Mac Plus also boasted an expandable 1MB of RAM and a double-sided 800KB floppy drive.

Today in Apple history: MacBook Air becomes ‘world’s thinnest notebook’

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A plain manila envelope became a key stage prop for selling the MacBook Air.
A plain manila envelope became a key prop for selling the MacBook Air.
Photo: Apple

January 15: Today in Apple history: MacBook Air becomes 'world's thinnest notebook' January 15, 2008: Steve Jobs shows off the first MacBook Air at the Macworld conference, calling the revolutionary computer the “world’s thinnest notebook.”

The 13.3-inch laptop measures only 0.76 inches at its thickest point and 0.16 inches at its tapered thinnest. It also boasts a unibody aluminum design: An Apple engineering breakthrough allows the crafting of a complicated computer case from a single block of finely machined metal.

In a brilliant piece of showmanship, Jobs pulls the super-slim laptop out of a standard interoffice envelope during his keynote. (You can watch his introduction of the MacBook Air below).

Today in Apple history: Steve Jobs takes a leave of absence

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Why Salesforce chief gave up AppStore.com for Apple
Steve Jobs put his leave of absence down to a "hormone imbalance."
Photo: Ben Stanfield/Flickr CC

January 14: Today in Apple history: Steve Jobs takes a leave of absence because of cancer January 14, 2009: Steve Jobs’ cancer worsens to the point that he takes a medical leave from Apple.

Despite his illness, the CEO remains reluctant to take the time off. When he does, he keeps quiet about the severity of his illness. He calls “the curiosity over my personal health” a distraction caused by prying bloggers and reporters. Nonetheless, he acknowledges that his health problems “are more complex than I originally thought.”

Today in Apple history: Bill Gates quits as Microsoft CEO

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Bill Gates
Bill Gates' rivalry with Steve Jobs was legendary.
Photo: Fulvio Obregon

January 13: Today in Apple history: Bill Gates quits as Microsoft CEO January 13, 2000: Steve Jobs’ longtime frenemy Bill Gates steps down from his role as Microsoft CEO, a month after his company’s stock hit its all-time high.

The news coincides with a turning point in the long-running battle between the two tech powerhouses. Microsoft begins a long decline from its previous dominance, while Apple continues its rise to the top.