In May 2001 Apple announced its intention to become the first computer vendor “to move to an all LCD flat panel display pro lineup“.
The company discontinued its last CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) display, the Apple Studio Display 17″ ADC, which had been introduced less than an year before, in July of 2000, and replaced it with the Studio Display 17″ LCD. This new LCD, priced aggressively at just 999 USD, completed its offer which now featured at the top a 22″ Apple Cinema Display, sold ay 2,499 USD. On the low end of the lineup was the Apple Studio Display 15″ LCD, now upgraded to the same “plexiglass” design as the others and offered at 599 USD.
From the tone of the press release one would be led to believe that Apple had completed its transition to LCD and abandoned the old and less efficient display techology. Actually, this goal was still far and it took quite a few years until all Macintosh products were actually CRT-free.
In June 2004 Grady Booch interviewed Bill Atkinson and Andy Hertzfeld for the Computer History Museum. His last question for the creators of the Macintosh was about how we will use computers in the future:
Booch: [...] Predicting the future has always been impossible, but what’s your hope, and vision for what computers- and what’s it like at 20?
Atkinson: The first thing is, get rid of the keyboard and the mouse, and replace them with a smooth plate called a touch plate; it’s responsive to gentle, stroking touch. We can enter characters by touching on a character and stroking through others around it, and we can enter whole- instead of typing i-n-g, we’re typing “ing” – we’re entering text at a higher level. Shift key and the whole thing becomes a touching-pointing device. Forget this teeny little scratch pad on your portable. So, one is the touch plate. Another avenue is that as computers get smaller and ubiquitous, working with computers has to enter into a dialogue, not this thing where you’re commanding the computer, but where actually you’re having a conversation. The computers have to get to where they actually understand the flow of a conversation. It’s not just a speechrecognition thing. It’s a language understanding problem. And when it does, we can have, like in the Ender series, a little crystal in our ear that’s listening to everything we’re listening to and whispering little things in our ear, and it’s connected into the wireless net.
Booch: You’re referring to Ender’s Game?
Atkinson: Yes, Ender’s Game and the whole series of Orson Scott Card books. I think the smaller we go, the more we need to rely on audible interfaces. And I think that programming needs to be a conversation of what it is you’re looking for. You say, well I want to do this, and then that’s ambiguous, but whatever you’re talking about, this other entity is asking you some questions about it, and you refine it.
Booch: Very cool. Andy, what are your thoughts?
Hertzfeld: Oh, a lot of what Bill said. I think that clearly the next really big frontier in user interface is going to be the language understanding. That really is as much of a leap as the graphic user interface was. There are lots of problems to be solved but it’s pretty fair, as Bill said, for the mobile application, the keyboard. I’ve been experimenting with little ideas in that space myself. The voice recognition software is really good today, but it doesn’t make sense to use it at your desktop because you can still do it better with the keyboard and the mouse. But suddenly, when you’re standing up, the keyboard and mouse are useless. Of course, computers are going to be everywhere. You’re going to need to have the computer on your person. So, the speech recognition I think is important. But I would say the next really important thing is getting the software industry on a level playing field, a place that’s really open to innovation. I think the way that’s going to happen is if the shared infrastructure becomes available and is owned by the community of its users and developers instead of a psychotically driven business force. And that’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen over the next year. So, it’s not the far years. I think once we have a level playing field open to innovation, we can start to really explore the possibilities better. And then I’ve been thinking about agent-type user interfaces. Bill’s into that too. But the graphic user interface, there’s always direct manipulation. If you’re steering it at the steering wheel, you can only do things while you’re at the steering wheel. Eventually we’re going to want to set up policies where the tireless computer can execute our policies for us, continuously, especially with the network.
Atkinson: Yes, drive me to work and let me know when we get there.
Hertzfeld: I think there’s a very fertile area right now in exploring and getting it right – like Apple more or less got right with the Mac – getting the agency-user interfaces right. Things that can happen while you’re not directly controlling it will be a frontier in the next few years.
In July 2010 Apple introduced, as a standard accessory, the Magic Trackpad, “the first Multi-Touch trackpad designed to work with your Mac desktop computer [which] uses the same Multi-Touch technology you love on the MacBook Pro [and] supports a full set of gestures, giving you a whole new way to control and interact with what’s on your screen”.
Also in 2010 Apple bought Siri, Inc. and in the October of 2011 integrated into the iPhone its product, the intelligent voice assistant, called Siri, which “lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more” without looking on the screen. Thanks to the “Eyes free” feature, Siri can also be used in a car, activated through a voice command button on the steering wheel, making users able to ask questions without taking their eyes off the road.
In 2012 Siri was also made available on other iOS devices such as recent iPod touch and iPad models.
It’s also worth mentioning that at least since October 2010 Google (for which Hertzfeld now works) has being testing the Google Driverless Car and as of September 2012 three U.S. states, Nevada, Florida and California, have passed laws permitting driverless cars.
Note: all pictures are “Courtesy of Apple”.
On the 14th of September, 1992 Apple Computer introduced a new family of Macintosh computers targeting the consumer marketplace. Initially available only in the U.S., the new series of computers were “designed to reach first-time buyers and new users in the home, offering specific solutions for families with school-age children”. Every Macintosh Performa included “enhanced system software, pre-loaded applications [such as ClarisWorks], one year of service and support”, and were to be “distributed in nearly 2,000 consumer retail outlets nationwide”. It was a bold but ultimately unsuccesful move to expand market share by offering an affordable entry into the Macintosh world, rebranding older and low power systems with a new name. The Performas were based on preexisting Macintoshes, although not all of them were exact copies and some even had their own code names.
The initial 1992 Performa family consisted of three models: the Macintosh Performa 200, Macintosh Performa 400 and the Macintosh Performa 600/600 CD. All of them were shipped installed with an optimized version of System 7 called System 7.1P, “designed to make using the Macintosh even easier for first-time computer buyers”.
The Performa 200, code named “Lady Kenmore”, was basically a Macintosh Classic II, released one year after the original and bundled with a 2400/9600 baud fax/modem and extra software. It was discontinued in April 1993, one month after Apple introduced its successor, the Performa 250, which was based on the Macintosh Color Classic.
The Performa 400 was a lowly Macintosh LC II, originally released six months before, in March. Bundled with several different hard drives and software, and rereleased in four variants as the Performa 400, 405, 410, and 430, it unfortunately had the same shortcomings of the LC II, i.e. the LC’s 16-bit data path, which crippled the speed of the relatively fast 16 MHz 68030 processor.
The Performas 600 and 600CD had the look and were based on the motherboard of the Macintosh IIvi but were released a bit later in the consumer market, and sported the IIvx’s 68030 32 MHz processor. The Performa 600 CD were among the first Macintoshes with an internal CD-ROM drive which could read data, play audio discs and also supported Kodak’s Photo CD technology.
The last batch of Performas was introduced in 1996 and discontinued during 1997 and early 1998. Among the last ones was also the first and only original model ever released, the Performa 6400, which had a new tower case design. It was Apple’s first consumer-aimed mid-range computer and had optional A/V capabilities: its innards were also used for the Performa 6360.
The Performa 200 picture is © Maja Vervoort, which has kindly authorized the reproduction alongside this text.
In April 2002, Apple renewed its attention to the educational market with a new, exclusive Macintosh model. Building upon the success of the iMac, engineers and designers in Infinite Loop created the eMac, a new desktop all-in-one Macintosh with a 17-inch flat CRT monitor and a PowerPC G4 processor housed in a compact and curved white case.
The move followed Apple’s decision to radically change the look of the iMac, which in January 2002 not only abandoned the G3 CPU but acquired a flat panel screen perched on a white matte half-dome, with the effect of looking like a lamp (or a sunflower, according to Apple’s designer, Jonathan Ive). The previous iMac line was discontinued except for some lower spec models which were kept available until March 2003. (more…)
Jay Elliot has been part of Apple during its first incredible growth, in the early Eighties. He met Steve Jobs in a restaurant and was offered a job, where he became a Senior Vice President
The rest, as they say, is history, and Elliot has chronicled those years and his thoughts about Steve Jobs and Product Marketing in “The Steve Jobs Way”, a book he cowrote with William L. Simon.
I had the chance to speak a bit with him during his promotional tour for the italian edition, which was published by Hoepli.
Stories of Apple: How long were you at Apple?
Jay Elliot: I was at Apple from 1980 to 1986. Late part of 1980 to the late part of 1986.