The reaction to yesterday's announcement that Steve Jobs is stepping down as CEO of Apple Inc. has been mixed, to say the least. Some people have heralded this development as a victory for freedom and democracy, while skittish traders' worries about the company's future led a drop in stock prices. Whether you love Jobs or hate him, it can't be denied that Apple would never have become the instantly recognizable, globally dominant brand it is today without Job's perfectionist involvement. So today, let's mark the end of an era by cataloguing Apple Inc.'s greatest moments in pop culture.
The ad that started it all, Apple's famous "1984" ad ran during the 1984 (ha!) superbowl and introduced the world to Macintosh personal computers. The Ridley Scott-directed spot featured an atheletic iconoclast (Apple, of course) disrupting her homogenous, dystopian society by throwing a hammer at a figure who looks suspiciously like George Orwell's Big Brother. (The resemblance was not lost on Orwell's estate, who sent Apple a cease-and-desist letter that prevented the commercial from airing again.) Ironically enough, the company that once cast itself as the brave instigator of a rebellion now has it's own army of mindlessly devoted drones.
Sixteen years after "1984," Apple still held only a small percentage of the personal computer market, which was dominated by Microsoft. So, in 2001's Legally Blonde, the bright orange iBook purchased by Reese Witherspoon's Elle stands out among her classmates' uniformly drab laptops. At this point, Apple still represented an individualist spirit even as the company was seeping into the public consciousness due to exposure in other places. For example...
Over the course of six seasons, Carrie Bradshaw may have changed clothes, shoes, handbags and boyfriends at a dizzying pace, but she was always faithful to her Mac laptop. The models may have changed, but the computer Carrie used to record her musings on life, love and sex alwlays bore a glowing Apple logo. Suddenly, a generation of single, stylish aspiring writers wanted Macs on which to compose the "great American novel" while sipping some complicated Starbucks drink.
"Get a Mac"
The uniquitous Mac/PC commercials that ran from 2006 to 2010 were simple, recognizable, and funny. They continued Apple's portrayal of itself as a young, hip, original alternatuve to stodgy OCs. The problem was that, by this point in time, Apple was experiencing explosive growth due to the iPod (and later the iPhone), and their claims to a unique, underdog status were starting to grate. Plus, anyone who knows anything knows that John Hodgeman is way cooler than Justin Long.
The iPod may have revolutionized the way people listen to music, but it was the white earbuds that accompanied the players that became an instantly recognizable symbol. Seeing those bright white buds peeking out of someone's ears meant that person was young, smart and cool enough to be an Apple customer. (They also indicated that their person liked their music to sound tinny and unbalanced, as those of us who actually care about audio quality ditched the white buds in favor of headphones that actually work.) Those earbuds marked Apple's transition from a maker of computers for geeks to a worldwide phenomenon. When Apple Inc. eventually takes over the planet, and everyone has a link to iTunes in their brain, just remember: it was the earbuds that started it.