Apple is one of the biggest technology companies in the world. Over its thirty-year history, it has been responsible for all sorts of innovations in the way we use computers. Here are 11 cool technology facts about Apple that you may find interesting.
1: The “i” In iMac, iPod, And iPhone Stands For Internet
When Apple released its first iMac in 1993, the internet was still incredibly new. One of its big new features was the ability to easily connect to the internet, something that was difficult for regular people to do while using the systems that were available back then. While the early iPod had no internet functionality, it was meant to link up with an iMac to get new songs.
Of course, there are multiple possible meanings for the letter i, which Steve Jobs recognized. Officially, the “i” doesn’t have any specific meaning, but it could mean individual, instruct, or inform. That being said, considering the origin of the name, the “i” being short for the internet still probably makes the most sense.
In the modern-day, the “i” has become more of a brand identifier than anything else, and most people don’t remember that it ever stood for anything at all. At least it makes more sense than the company’s name, which comes from founder Steve Jobs’s favorite fruit.
2: The First Email Sent From Space Was Sent Using A Mac
In 1991, astronaut Shannon Lucid sent the first email from space back to Earth using AppleLink, a software that Apple used to communicate with customers, employees, and business partners.
Reprogrammed to work through NASA’s own communications system and installed onto an Apple Macintosh Portable, AppleLink was able to communicate from the ST-43 Atlantis Space Station.
The message that Lucid sent said:
“Hello Earth! Greetings from the STS-43 Crew. This is the first AppleLink from space. Having a GREAT time, wish you were here,…send cryo and RCS! Hasta la vista, baby,…we’ll be back!”
Along with a request for cryo (which meant life support resources such as air) and RCS (fuel), the message contains references to the classic film Terminator and calls the email an AppleLink. Imagine if that name had stuck!
The email sent was part of experiments that NASA was conducting to figure out what kinds of cursor tracking devices would work best in space. At the time, most computer mice used trackballs installed on the bottom of the mouse to keep track of the cursor, but the lack of gravity in space made these ineffective.
Instead, astronauts tried using the Mac Portable’s built-in trackball and a modified pilot’s stick. Most interestingly, they tried an optical mouse as well. This is the same technology used in most modern computer mice.
Modern astronauts use IBM ThinkPad laptops to control the systems on the ISS. These laptops use trackpads that have become standard issue on laptops since the mid-nineties.
This is the first version of the communication over the internet that astronauts aboard the International Space Station are able to enjoy today. So, the next time you see a viral video of an Astronaut playing a David Bowie song, remember that in an alternate timeline, he may have AppleLinked it to us.
3: The First Wireless MacBook was Released in 1999
When we think about laptop computers nowadays, we tend to assume that they can connect to the internet without having to plug into anything. However, until 1999 this functionality was virtually unheard of. Even that Mac Portable that sent the first email from space had to be plugged into the Atlantis’s communications system.
Because of this, the 1999 iBook was a somewhat revolutionary product. It was sold with an optional AirPort card that could be used to connect the laptop to the internet without any chords.
The iBook was also an improvement on past Apple laptops because of its more vibrant design. Like the original iMac, the iBook was sold in a variety of bright colors and had a handle on the device itself to make it easier to carry around. At the time, it was the height of portable computing technology on the consumer level.
Now, most of the features that were revolutionary in the iBook we would consider to be a given in any laptop we buy. However, the iBook had a handle, which is no longer found on laptops.
4: The First Laptop Trackpad was On an Apple Laptop
The first trackpad ever installed onto a laptop was on the PowerBook 500, which was released in 1994. The PowerBook was also one of the first laptops to actually be portable and a reasonable weight. This was the first of Apple’s portable computing experiments to find success on Earth, and all of Apple’s laptops released since the PowerBook are built with a similar philosophy.
As for the trackpad, it turned out to be an extremely versatile and portable piece of technology. Because they could fit in a very small space and didn’t require as many mechanical components as the trackball did, they could be installed into pretty much any laptop computer.
It doesn’t hurt that the trackpad creates a convenient location for clicking since the user’s hand hovers over the trackpad any time they move the cursor.
The use of trackpads continues today, and virtually every modern laptop has a trackpad rather than a traditional mouse.
5: The iPod’s Shape Was Inspired By A German Radio
The original iPod was designed to be a portable music player, but it had a problem: there had never really been a portable music player before, so what should it look like? It could be shaped like pretty much anything since all it needed to do was fit the electrical components inside.
The design they ended up using was heavily inspired by the 1953 Braun Transistor Radio designed by Dieter Rams. This rectangular device had a wheel for changing channels at the base and a speaker for producing sound at the top. The plastic case was white, with the remaining examples now exhibiting a particular creamy color.
The radio dial became the iPod’s wheel-shaped control panel, and the speaker was replaced with the iPod’s screen to create the iconic design that everyone now associates with apple. The design innovation of the iPod came from its slim body, designed to be carried in a pocket, purse, or backpack, while the Braun Transistor Radio was designed to be stood on its base or side.
6: Apple Made the First (Consumer) Color Digital Camera
iPhones are often considered to be at the forefront of phone camera technology nowadays, but most people don’t know that this is actually isn’t the first time that Apple has sold state-of-the-art cameras to the consumer market. The Apple QuickTake 100 launched in 1994 and was the first camera to be able to take color photos available for purchase.
While similar cameras existed before the QuickTake, they all cost over a thousand dollars and were out of reach for the vast majority of people. The QuickTake, on the other hand, cost $749 when released. While this was still a significant amount of money, it was now possible for many people to own a color digital camera.
Of course, Apple’s first foray into camera technology would quickly be overshadowed by dedicated photography companies. However, its legacy lives on in the high-end cameras crammed into modern iPhones and iPads.
7: Macs Couldn’t Multitask Until 1987
We take for granted now the idea that a computer could do multiple things at the same time, but at the beginning of the Mac’s life cycle, this was not, in fact, a given in all computers. Most computers could only run one program at a time, which must have made using a computer feel incredibly slow.
The first Mac operating system that could multitask was System 5, which would run background tasks any time the current task relinquished control. It was also the first time that Apple would sell its operating system as a standalone product, meaning that hobbyists and companies with their own hardware could use it without buying a new Mac.
8: Samsung Makes iPhone Components
Moving on to the present day, both the iPhone’s Retina screen display and its processors are manufactured by Samsung, and not by Apple themselves. This is interesting considering that the two companies are competitors that have feuded in the past over proprietary technologies.
In fact, Samsung produces several important interior components of the iPhone, from the processor to the flash memory. In the business world, companies that are publicly rivals often end up collaborating in order to enrich themselves, and this is certainly one of those situations!
The way people found out about some of these Samsung components was also pretty interesting. Apple never listed that they used Samsung to make its Flash memory, but curious phone enthusiasts who deconstructed the phones were able to see the Samsung logo on the flash memory itself.
A more interesting case is the RAM (Random Access Memory) that is found inside iPhones, which can come from multiple different potential suppliers, including Samsung. RAM is a little more difficult to come by in large quantities than other electronic components, which may be the reason that Apple uses RAM from multiple different manufacturers.
Most of the components that Samsung makes for Apple are the kind of tiny computing devices that do almost nothing to change the personality of the device. The exception to that is the A4 processor.
9: The First Device to Use the A4 Processor was the Original iPad
The A4 Processor is the two-in-one CPU and graphics processor that makes the iPhone seem super fast. It has since been replaced by the A5 and then the A6, which are improvements on the original. However, the first home of the A4 processor was actually the iPad and not any kind of phone.
The A4 Processor was created in collaboration with Samsung before the two companies were directly competing in the smartphone market. Samsung still manufactures its modern version, the A6, to this day.
The A4 was also used in some versions of the Apple TV before it was eventually phased out for more powerful processors.
10: AirTag Batteries Can Last a Year Before They Need Replacing
The Apple AirTag is a device designed to help iPhone users keep track of their things when they get lost. Once programmed, they connect to the iPhone and broadcast their location and can notify the owner of the phone when they have left the thing they’re attached to behind.
If the AirTag were always running out of batteries, it probably wouldn’t be very good at doing this job. However, it uses a small battery that can keep it running for up to a year before it needs to be replaced. That means that if you lose something with an AirTag on it you have about a year to find it before it’s gone forever.
Unlike most other Apple devices, the AirTag is not rechargeable. Users need to replace the battery when it starts to die so the device can take advantage of longer-lasting non-rechargeable batteries.
11: High-End Apple Watch Screens Are Made Using Sapphire Crystal
While the aluminum sports version of the Apple Watch uses very scratch-resistant gorilla glass, the Titanium and Stainless Steel models are made using sapphire crystal, the same kind of material used in other high-end watches.
Sapphire crystal is made by superheating aluminum oxide and then waiting for it to crystalize. It is then cut apart into watch-shaped sections to be used in all kinds of expensive watches. It is prized for being incredibly hard, which makes it ideal for protecting the delicate parts inside of a watch while also being perfectly clear.
This also makes it ideal for the expensive Apple Watch, which needs to be scratch resistant to keep its interface usable. Unlike most watches, the apple watch has a touch-based interface. Without being able to see the whole screen, the user may miss out on important information. Fortunately, Sapphire Crystal is one of the hardest substances on the planet, meaning that in order to scratch it, you would need to try really hard to do so.