We’ll start with Apple, for obvious though un-alphabetical reasons. Why name a computer company after a fruit? Was it to be at the start of all computer lists in the same way that business directories start with swathes of names such as of AAA111 Cabs and the not-so-smart AAA112 Taxis? Apparently not, and Acorn would have jumped in ahead of it anyway.
One story has it that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs used to pick apples at a commune and chose this loose connection as inspiration. Another story is that Fab Four fan Jobs took the name from The Beatles’ Apple Records – a decision that would involve it in endless legal wrangles when it released iTunes. Other names thrown in the ring for the fresh computer company included the mouse-swallowingly bad Executek and Matrix Electronics. Whatever the story, Apple was a great name for the new startup. As Michael Malone writes in his Apple history Infinite Loop the name was “smart, funny, anti-establishment, unforgettable, friendly but hip.” It wasn’t just a name “it was the culmination of the Age of Aquarius”.
Adobe Once Apple’s partner pioneer in desktop publishing’s marriage of PostScript and Apple’s Mac and LaserWriter, Adobe fell from grace when the once-faithful design software partner ditched the Mac from key program upgrades, forcing Apple to create its own alternatives. Steve Jobs saw this as a revolting betrayal by the company Apple once owned a 15 per cent stake in. He is now wreaking his revenge by denying Adobe’s Flash access to its new wonderproducts the iPhone and iPad. Take that, you rats!
Aluminum (Or aluminium as we outside of the US kookily like to call it) Apple has something of a crush on aluminum – making most of its hardware products out of the silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements, and even simulating the stuff indiscriminately with its brushed metal-look software and website. Apple even named some of its products after the lightweight, durable metal. Aluminium makes up about 8 per cent by weight of the Earth’s solid surface, and about the same on the average active Mac’s screen.
Amelio When you think of Apple leaders you probably recall the co-founders, cuddly ewok Woz and the distinctly uncuddly Steve Jobs. But for over a dozen dark years Jobs was absent from the company he founded and lesser men stood in his place. (Woz had left even earlier, to crash planes and hold music festivals.) At its lowest point, Apple’s directors appointed cost-cutting CEO of National Semiconductor Gil Amelio as the man to return Apple to profitability. Receiving $100,000 for use of his private jet wasn’t the best start for Gil’s austerity measures – nor was his $1m salary or the nice little $5m loan he procured from the ailing giant (Jobs is paid 1¢ a year). But Amelio did cut costs, slashing the workforce by a third. Amelio did his best work by bringing back Steve Jobs via Apple’s acquisition of his NeXT OS in 1996. Jobs wasted no time turfing out Amelio and taking back his company – and for that we should be eternally grateful.
AOL Long before Time Warner and the internet boom Apple replaced its unwanted AppleLink online service with a joint venture with a company called Quantum, then rebranded America Online. As part of the deal it acquired 5 per cent of AOL stock at a cost of $12.5m. Apple sold the shares in 1996 at a profit of $39m. If it had waited till 1999 when AOL’s stock peaked those same shares would have been worth… wait for it… $24.5 billion.
Apple Café Before the Apple Store there was almost the Apple Café – a 1996 proposed chain of themed restaurants featuring video-conferencing units and a range of Apple T-shirts and software. The food was to have been eclectic and nutritious but the idea expired when the licensee grew too worried about Apple’s own failing health.
Apple Store Not yet selling Apple coffees the luxuriously appointed Apple Store looked like an act from the last days of Rome when first shown off by Steve Jobs in 2001, but there are now over 300 product palaces spread across the globe generating millions of sales and forcing an inevitably envious but hilariously bad copycat move from Microsoft.
Aqua Aqua used to be just one of the few words you knew when you went to Europe on holiday, but for most of us it’s also the shiny, translucent, sometimes pulsing visual theme of early versions of Mac OS X. Describing Aqua’s glossy aesthetic Steve Jobs said: “One of the design goals was when you saw it you wanted to lick it.” Nowadays there’s not as much to tongue in the Mac interface but some elements persist, such as the traffic-light Close, Minimize and Zoom buttons at the top-left of folder and document windows.
AT&T Now the exclusive and hated US iPhone mobile carrier, AT&T was once in negotiations to buy Apple in a deal pushed by Apple’s then CEO John Sculley in 1993. It very nearly happened but AT&T felt burned by its botched buyout of PC maker NCR and walked away. “Boy, you have a phenomenal company. You have exactly what we need. But we bought the wrong company,” CEO Bob Allen told a devastated Sculley – over the phone, of course.
Atkinson Bill Atkinson might have the sort of name you’d find in Last Of The Summer Wine but in reality he was one of the original developers of the Macintosh, responsible for the QuickDraw toolbox that underpinned the new (but not yet shiny) graphical user interface – making him the “principal designer of the Macintosh UI”.