A long time ago, in a retail landscape far, far away, we had this crazy idea for a Super Bowl spot.
The premise: We blew all the budget on the airtime, and left absolutely zilch for producing the commercial itself. That first part was absolutely accurate: Even though this spot only ran on the local FOX affiliate here in southern Oregon (KMVU FOX 26), it still cost…, well, it cost a lot. Like, budget-breaking, spreadsheet-crippling a lot.
But we wanted to give it a go, and arranged for a video shoot with a game FOX 26 crew. We shot it in our stockroom, throwing dead computer peripherals from a stepladder, and pulled in unwitting staff members as extras. The on-air “talent” was Connecting Point GM Jeff Thomas and Marketing Director Tom Pentland. The whole thing took roughly 15 minutes to shoot (at the most). During editing, the bilious fluorescent green and pink graphics were reluctantly added by some very skeptical pros in the FOX 26 video production department.
The result? What has to be one of the crappiest, ugliest, most unprofessional Super Bowl spots ever. It aired during the Big Game – Super Bowl XXXVI, in which the New England Patriots beat the St. Louis Rams 20-17 – on February 3rd, 2002. You’re welcome!
On the eve of the Super Bowl’s 50th anniversary, we thought it might be fun to revisit an earlier, more innocent time. Also, it serves as a sort of nostalgic snapshot of vintage computer gear, including the original “bubble back” iMacs. Enjoy.
Considering how high the company flies today, it’s sobering to recall the lows Apple hit in the 1990’s. Apple spent the bulk of that decade frantically scrambling to come up with a hit, introducing one failed product after another: a digital camera, a portable CD audio player, powered computer speakers, a gaming console (no, really), and a bizarre set-top box for television. CEO John Sculley bet the farm on Apple’s entry into the nascent “personal digital assistant” category, resulting in the Newton – innovative, before its time – and to this day, one of the most spectacular failures in the company’s history. Literally dozens of indistinguishable Mac models were trotted out, with a bewildering alphabet soup of names, numbers, and specifications.
The original iMac went off like a torpedo to the bow of the Good Ship Computer. It looked and operated like nothing the world had seen.
Market share continued to erode, stock prices plummeted, and Microsoft Windows was mopping the floor with Apple. Sculley was succeeded by Michael Spindler, who was superseded by Gil Amelio. In July 1997, a desperate board of directors fired Amelio amidst record-low stock prices and staggering financial losses.
It was arguably Apple’s darkest hour.
Then co-founder Steve Jobs stepped back up as interim CEO (dubbed “iCEO”), drastically pared down the sprawling product line, and began working on a radical new design with Jonathan Ive.
You can see what they came up with in the photo above. The original iMac went off like a torpedo to the bow of the Good Ship Computer. It looked and operated like nothing the world had seen. And it effectively saved the company, selling almost 800,000 units in its first five months.
Jobs and Ive would later collaborate on the iPod and iPhone, among many, many other projects. Apple was on a roll – a roll that has yet to slow.
Photo credit: Bob Pennell, Mail Tribune
Feel like a little more nostalgia? Read an August 16, 1998 Medford Mail Tribune article about the original iMac’s introduction. Connecting Point is prominently featured in the story – along with a face long familiar to our customers.
Image credit: Wired.com
The first Apple computer was a kit. These early versions were hand-built by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and first shown publicly at meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club. This club was an informal, Silicon Valley-based group of electronic enthusiasts and technically-inclined hobbyists. In other words, nerds – über nerds, with a number of infamous hackers and future entrepreneurs among its members.
Apple I creator Steve Wozniak
The Apple I was essentially a motherboard, with CPU, RAM, and basic text/video chips on a single board (see above). You had to build your own enclosure, and provide your own keyboard and monitor. But it was a fully functioning system on a single circuit board, it was reasonably affordable – and that was a breakthrough at the time. Apple had incorporated a few months earlier (on April 1st), but this was their first product to make it to market.
[A side note: A little over a year later, Connecting Point – then known as TEAM Electronics, on E Street in Grants Pass – would become one of the very first retailers in the world to sell and service the newly-introduced Apple II – launching a decades-long partnership between the two companies that persists to this day.]
Its $666.66 price tag works out to about $2,800 in 2014 dollars, adjusting for inflation – which may seem a bit steep for such a rudimentary device. But recent auctions have seen original Apple I’s selling for as much as $50,000. They’re extremely rare, and an important part of computing history. The Apple I paved the way for the revolution to come.
So check your attic. Scour your garage. Look under the bench in your cellar workshop. You may be sitting on a goldmine.