40 years of practice makes perfect

No, not me. Apple.

Here’s an amazing archive of 40 years of Apple advertising. It took them a while to get it right, but when they did — wow!

Apple ad from 1976

Apple ad from 1976

It’s fun to see how a company with ideas this innovative, this targeted, this elegantly simple, still had to struggle through a whole lot of mediocre concepts to find their voice. Then, of course, in 1981, they hired Chiat/Day. And the earth shook.

Back in the Dark Ages, I did some computer programming. Just a dab of Fortran on those hideous punchcard-driven mainframes they had at UCLA. I thought it was something I ought to know about. But an Apple II was the first personal computer I ever got my hands on. One of my business partners bought it for himself  — he didn’t bring it to the office, since there wasn’t yet anything you could do with it that we needed. Or so we thought. But when he showed me VisiCalc (the precursor to Lotus 123 and Excel) I was blown away. We tend to forget the horrible experience of running estimates through an adding machine, then typing them up by hand. Then having to change one figure and re-doing everything. Auuggh!

Apple changed everything. They realized you had to design the whole computing experience. They introduced us to the graphical interface. They brought us the mouse. Safe to say, there would be no Windows without Apple. But even more than that, they made using a computer fun.

And their advertising reflects all that. “1984” was as cool a commercial as the Macintosh was a computer. The simple ads where translucent, colorful iMacs are arranged like a flower transformed how people perceived the entire category. The iPod billboards were knockouts in their graphic impact and unspoken message of utter coolness. And I can’t wait to watch the new “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” TV spots.

What a treat to be able to look back on this stuff all in one place and revel in all the captured genius.

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