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10 myths (and some truths) about Apple

There was a techie joke back in the 90’s that went “IBM has the power to change men’s minds, but Apple has the power to change history.” The joke was based partly on the idea that Apple’s PR tended to bend the truth a bit, here and there when it came to things like who invented what and when. Here are ten myths and some truths about Apple over the years.

1. Apple invented the personal computer

Sorry kids, no they didn’t. There were dozens of personal computers out there years before Jobs and Wozniak started putting together components and selling them as complete systems for a few hundred bucks. They didn’t invent any of those components either – everything was made from off the shelf parts.

2. Apple invented the mouse

Strike two. They didn’t invent the mouse (but they didn’t steal it either). The trackball (an upside-down mouse) was invented in 1946 by Ralph Benjamin for the British Royal Navy Scientific Service (but was kept under wraps because it was considered a military secret). Douglas Engelbart and Bill English at the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) built a prototype mouse in the 1960s. German company Telefunken also released a mouse in 1968. The Xerox Alto was one of the first computers to ship with a mouse in 1973. Ironically (if you read the joke in the first sentence) Microsoft added mouse support to their MS-DOS Word program in 1982 and developed their own mouse a year before Apple included a mouse with their Apple Lisa in 1983. While Apple did develop the ‘Lisa Mouse’ (based on the mice used on the Xerox PARC Alto computer) it was designed by an outside firm Hovey-Kelley Design. According to an interview with Douglas Engelbart, "SRI patented the mouse, but they really had no idea of its value. Some years later it was learned that they had licensed it to Apple for something like $40,000." Other stories say that $40K was in the form of Apple stock, not cash.

3. Apple computers are easier to use than other computers

Not really (but I suppose it depends on which systems you learned first). I’ve been programming and working with computers since the early 70’s and I’ve used dozens of different kinds over the years (including just about every variation of Apple computers). They all had different OSs and UIs and while some were definitely more ‘user-hostile’ than ‘user-friendly’ none of them stands out as being easier to use than any of the others. It’s all a matter of what you are familiar with, what you learned first and your personal preferences. Apple has made a real effort to try and maintain a ‘consistent look and feel’ across products in an effort to make things more user friendly, but the reality is, most applications don’t stick to the guidelines 100% of the time.

4. Apple’s never crash

Seriously? I’m not going to even bother writing about this one.

5. Apple’s don’t have viruses

Um…well, yes they do. Admittedly there are far fewer viruses on Macs than Windows or Android but they do exist. Why would anyone sell anti-virus software for Macs if there weren’t any viruses? In fact, one of the early Mac anti-virus packages turned out to be a virus delivery system that would install malware on your Mac.

6. Apple started in a garage

Legend has it that Apple began in a garage in Steve Jobs' childhood home in Los Altos, CA, but according to Steve Wozniak, "The garage is a bit of a myth. It's overblown. The garage represents us better than anything else, but we did no designs there. We would drive the finished products to the garage, make them work and then we'd drive them down to the store that paid us cash." 

7. Apple invented the portable digital music player

Nope. There were nearly a dozen digital music players on the market before Apple came out with their iPod on October 23, 2001. Lots of people will say that even if they didn’t invent the concept, they were the first to perfect the interface and created a booming market that didn’t exist before they came along, and they might be right. But Apple also owes a huge debt to Diamond Multimedia and their Rio introduced in September 1998. When Diamond released their player they were sued by music industry heavy-weights claiming the device violated copyrights – Diamond eventually won in court and that opened the doors for everyone else.

8. Apple products are always more expensive

Yea, that’s pretty much true. I can’t think of a single Apple product that wasn’t roughly 50% more expensive than comparable products from other manufacturers. You might contend that there are no comparable products from other manufacturers that are as well designed, easy to use or as cool, but at the end of the day you still have to actually use a product to do something and if you want to do that something on an Apple product it will cost you more.

9. You can’t compare Apples to Oranges (or Windows)

Again, that’s true. It is just about impossible to compare Apple computers to any other computers in a completely objective way. Even industry standard performance benchmarks have to be re-written to run on Macs (and once you re-write the code there is no way to determine if performance metrics were skewed because you weren’t running the exact same instructions). Apple may claim that this or that particular model is just as fast or faster than a Windows counterpart but the truth is there just isn’t any way to prove that definitively.

10. Apple products are just cooler than anyone else’s products

Okay, I’ll give you that one too. Apple products really are cooler than just about everyone else’s products. They are more modern and more stylish. They are designed and built very well. They are thinner, more colorful, sleeker and more imaginative. Bottom line, Apple products really are cooler.