Today, shoppers around the world are smearing fingerprints and oily faces against the glass walls of Apple stores, peering in, waiting for doors to open and iPhones to be sold. It’s an annual gathering for a popular product from a popular company. But everything has a beginning, and there was a time when Apple Computer was an unknown with an uncertain future.
The first mention of Apple in the New York Times was in 1980—four years after the company was founded. Under the headline “Technology—Elixir for U.S. Industry,” Apple Computer is mentioned as a company to watch. No longer the domain of “[h]obbyists, video-game players, and a select group of engineers,” computers might soon appear in gas stations, dentist offices, and grocery stores—with Apple Computer well positioned to take advantage.
Their big competition? Tandy Corporation and Commodore International. (But “coming on fast and strong” are Hewlett-Packard, International Business Machines, Mattel, and Atari.) For the record, Paul Wythes of Sutter-Hill Ventures, a venture capital firm, was not impressed. “No company, I don’t care how sharp it is, can grow by factors of two and three year after year.”
Two months later, the Times revisited the excitement surrounding Apple Computer. “Everybody has heard about it, and everybody seems to want it.” One broker described the buzz on the eve of Apple’s initial product offering: “Perfect strangers walk in off the street and ask for some of that stock.” Those unable to get in on the action would settle for investing in Commodore, whose stock price rose 500%. All this interest from the ignorant masses was just too much for one broker, however. “Frankly,” he says, “I’m better off getting no allotment at all on the Apple Computer offering. It would simply present a headache.”
In 1982, Apple Computer filed suit against Franklin Computer Corporation, accusing it of patent infringement. “Apple said it would seek injunctions against the manufacture and sale of products and would seek to obtain any profits made from them.”
Thirty years later, Samsung really should have seen it coming.