back to article Apple Fools: Times the House of Jobs went horribly awry

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Apple's official establishment. Since 1976, the House that Steves Built has pushed out some of the most beloved personal electronics products in the world. There will no doubt be plenty of articles waxing poetic on the many successes that have dotted the last four decades for the Cupertino …

No Dave, the microprocessor - not the company! Article mentions ARM in the context of being a chip so VinceH is correct. Steve Furber's micro architecture, Sophie Wilson's instruction set, all implemented by Acorn engineers.

ARM-as-company-not-acronym came much later and the 'We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make' company has long since sold all their 40% stake in them.

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@MOV r0,r0

Indeed. The company being formed was roughly five and a half years after the first ARM processor ran its first piece of code - and the project started about a year and a half before that, a whole seven years before the company was formed.

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Quite so @VinceH. Dave 126 is right that Acorn weren't the only the designers but they were the only choice. Lowest power, best MIPS/W, room on die for MMU and I guess being the lowest price didn't hurt. Could have got I/O and video on die too if required - already done that previously with ARM250: add 'world's first commercially available SoC' to 'world's first commercially available RISC desktop PC' then? :)

Way to go Acorn, we miss ya!

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Way to go Acorn, we miss ya!

My RiscPC is still in daily use, albeit almost exclusively for email and the occasional use of Impression. I'm about to start looking seriously at RiscOS on the Pi, too, for various reasons...

By the way, have you all seen this post by ARM? The image at the bottom of the page is rather beautiful.

M.

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My RiscPC is still in daily use, albeit almost exclusively for email and the occasional use of Impression. I'm about to start looking seriously at RiscOS on the Pi, too, for various reasons...

You really should! I've been having fun on my RISC OS Pi (Haruka) though I haven't yet tried porting my email across from Miyuki or Madoka yet - I still miss !Pluto for email. I was thinking about building a RISC OS setup inside a Phoebe case I have sitting around but that's for another time!

Just waiting to see how things go about getting RISC OS to work on a Pi 3. That'll be interesting!

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I still miss !Pluto for email

Always been a Messenger shop, mine. In fact I have the server version, which serves email to all the other computers in the house... though Claws (the preferred client on Raspbian) doesn't talk nicely to Messenger, and while Thunderbird worked fine on the other Linux machine (I now use Kmail), on the Mac it sometimes fails to open mails with attachments.

That said, a 200MHz StongARM with 80MB RAM isn't the world's fastest email server, and it does find it difficult to cope with larger email attachments, so my next step is probably going to be migrating the function either to another Pi, or possibly to a jail on my FreeNAS box.

Never let it be said that I'm an impulsive sort ;-)

M.

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"Just waiting to see how things go about getting RISC OS to work on a Pi 3. That'll be interesting!"

Not very, because I don't think it that as it stands at the moment it can't make use of the four cores in the CPU, just spins along on one of them. So you might as well just get a zero for £4 and use the Pi3 for something more appropriate.

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MobileMe

I can't believe I've read this far an not seen MobileMe mentioned.

For me, stuff that works well is Great, stuff that doesn't work is bad but nothing is worse than things that might work, but only if the wind is the right direction and certainly not anytime you /really/ need it to have done.

It's like owning (say) a Morris Marina back in the day. Better to take a bus and plan your commute rather than have the Marina play up 15% of the time and randomly ruin your commutes.

MobileMe was rubbish. Nothing more or less and it took Apple a long time to get sync reliably working, which Google had made to look so easy.

iCloud is much better but still not infallible.

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Holmes

Don't feel too bad for the PowerPC, however. It has enjoyed a fine life post-Apple as its descendants would be used for both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles, as well as IBM's Power server line.

...and tons of embedded devices, in particular cars, in various licensed forms (which, I hear, actually means that most of these have special features that make then not fully compatible, leading to rapidly aging developers).

There is even radiation-hardended versions out there: RAD750 etc.

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The sad part is....

...that Steve scamming the other Steve out of a couple of hundred dollars for his Atari hardware by upgrading the price asked in secret turned out to have no consequence at all.

Karma theory falsified!

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Re: The sad part is....

And yet Woz ended up with so much money that he was giving it away.

There are various ways of looking at morality, but if you start throwing figures at the question then we might be inclined to look at it in a pragmatic fashion.

If someone steals my wallet containing £20 but after a few years gives me a suitcase full of cash, I'm not sure that I would be too negative towards them. I guess it depends on the context, such as if I was going to use that £20 to take a lovely lady on a date.

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Anonymous Coward

Oh yeah...

Iwakura Lain from the ~1995's anime Serial Experiments: Lain in front her newly bought NAVI running "Copland OS Enterprise" (the animation looks a bit awkward for modern tastes ;_; )

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Re: Oh yeah...

Iwakura Lain from the ~1995's anime Serial Experiments: Lain in front her newly bought NAVI running "Copland OS Enterprise" (the animation looks a bit awkward for modern tastes ;_; )

Good grief I'd forgotten about that! I'll have to dig my copy out - it was a bit of a slog to watch unless you were really in the mood! Mind you the Japanese have quite a sense of humour with that sort of thing (an example was in one of the Pretty Sammy episodes where we see a Pineapple computer, if memory serves...)

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Anonymous Coward

For those of you unable to watch "El Reg Videos" for some reason (don't know why since meaningful debugging information seems to have gone out of fashion back when Bush announced "Mission Accomplished", or maybe even earlier, maybe when Clinton stained dresses), the Apple/Microsoft love-in is here:

Macworld Boston 1997-Full Version

Jobs: "We believe that Internet Explorer is a really good browser" (Public voices: "BOOOH!!", Jobs seems to be sweating somewhat)

Jobs: "We gonna be collaborating with Microsoft on Java (WTF am I even hearing?)

Jobs: "I am happy to have a special guest with me today... via satellite downlink ... and I'm gonna get him up on stage right now" (after several seconds, Darth Vader appears on-screen...)

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My preciousss!!

That AT&T RISC CPU: the Hobbit.

According to Jimbo's bag of unbelievable tidbits:

However, the Hobbit-based Newton was never produced. According to Larry Tesler, "The Hobbit was rife with bugs, ill-suited for our purposes, and overpriced. We balked after AT&T demanded not one but several million more dollars in development fees."[5] Apple dropped their interest in the Hobbit and moved on to help form Advanced RISC Machines, ARM, with a $2.5 million investment. When the company sold their stake in ARM years later, they netted $800 million.

And a very interesting note:

One interesting side effect of the Hobbit design was that it inspired designers of the Dis virtual machine (an offshoot of Plan 9) to use a memory-to-memory-based system that more closely matched the internal register-based workings of real-world processors. They found, as RISC designers would have expected, that without a load-store design it was difficult to improve the instruction pipeline and thereby operate at higher speeds. They felt that all future processors would thus move to a load-store design, and built Inferno to reflect this. In contrast, Java and .NET virtual machines are stack based, a side effect of being designed by language programmers as opposed to chip designers. Translating from a stack-based language to a register-based assembly language is a "heavyweight" operation; Java's virtual machine and compiler are many times larger and slower than the Dis virtual machine and the Limbo (the most common language compiled for Dis) compiler. Android's Dalvik virtual machine, the Parrot virtual machine and Lua virtual machine are also register-based.

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Re: My preciousss!!

> "The Hobbit was rife with bugs, ill-suited for our purposes, and overpriced.

> We balked after AT&T demanded not one but several million more dollars

> in development fees."

Meanwhile, the Active Book Company - a Cambridge startup whose product was something like a real hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy - jumped FROM arm TO hobbit, for bizzare reasons now forgotten. Doom followed soon after.

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Re: My preciousss!!

'When the company sold their stake in ARM years later, they netted $800 million.'

Yep, sold for a tenth of its current market cap (40% stake, over $8B now). Also, 'We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies blah blah blah'.

Oopsie.

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The $150M rescue by Gates

Although the $150M got the publicity, it wasn't actually that important. The most important thing for Apple was a public commitment from Microsoft to support Office for Mac into the future. Without it, buying a new Mac looked a flakey proposition at the time. For Microsoft there was a big payoff too: if Apple could survive against the PC, then Windows couldn't be proved to be a monopoly. MS needed Apple to survive to keep the government off their backs. Yes, Office for Mac was profitable, but not as profitable as letting Apple die, if they could be sure of not being broken up by the government. This was obvious at the time, but for some reason, not to journalists.

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Re: The $150M rescue by Gates

>This was obvious at the time, but for some reason, not to journalists.

Hehehe! I remember reading at the time, in a dead-tree edition of Wired, "Twenty Things Apple Must Do To Survive" or somesuch title. Jobs then did the opposite of damn-near everything Wired recommended, and the bottom line has vindicated him.

( Recently Wired.com has blocked articles unless I turn off my adblocker - I stopped visiting Wired, which is a shame cos it's good for a laugh from time to time. Curiously, I didn't have a complete adblocker extension running - I see all the Reg ads - but I do have Ghostery installed. )

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No apps on the first iPhone

Commentators seem ridiculously naive about the statements of Steve Jobs and other spokespersons. Take for example the screen size of both the iPhone and the first iPad. Apple for a long time acted as though they were the "correct" size and other sizes were silly. It was just a pretense, of course. It directed competitors aside to easy pickings at other sizes. This accelerated the growth the smartphone and tablet markets without making much profit or competing head to head, and it enabled IOS app writers to perfect their UI's. (Samsung's position was more complicated)

"No third party apps" on the original iphone has been projected as a "mistake" both inside and outside Apple. But both at the time, and in retrospect, security was by far and away the most important thing for Apple to nail down for a permanently network attached iPhone. That's why the only official way to program it was Javascript. This recruited for Apple an army of unpaid hackers to find the security flaws and thus "jailbreak". I think this hacking was deliberately encouraged. Apple used old versions of open source software with known exploits to expedite the jailbreaking cat and mouse game. When the app store finally came, IOS was a secure place to make a lot of money selling apps for a dollar or two, making IOS the platform of choice for developers, despite the greater number of Android devices.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No apps on the first iPhone

An IT-and-praxeology knowledgeable Zbigniew Brzezinski in the boardroom? It is more likely than you think.

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Anonymous Coward

The Apple 'mistake' that everyone gets wrong?

"It came down to two possible chips, one built by AT&T and another built by UK company Acorn"

Rather more "designed by Acorn" - back then, the ARM CPU was built by VLSI to an Acorn design. Acorn never had a semiconductor fab of its own.

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FAIL

Must You?

....Dear, Sweet Vulture, dredge up the 80's and 90's every bloody chance you get? There was nothing fun or compelling or cool about computing at the time; we simply did the best we could with what we had on hand. Hence, Lionel Ritchie and the Walkman. Perhaps, some dark and distant day our Descendants will forgive us our daily sins. Unlikely if the Reg continues to post those awful little photos of Jobs and his awful little hairdos. The "PC/Mac Battle of the Non-Networked Stars"? The predecessor to all the little Tard Fights that now characterize much of the Internet and its underlying infrastructure and/or Corporate Masters. Microsoft and Apple (And Oracle and IBM and Facebook and Google and and and....) won, We lost. We have a vast, autonomous, decentralized Pavlovian-Based Brain-Killer that Sherwood Schwartz and Aaron Spelling could only have dreamt of.

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Linux and Windows fan here but give Apple credit..

I think you're being a little harsh, I supported Macs during most of the 90s and into the early 00s and the PowerPC, hockey puck mouse etc were all incredibly popular in local schools here. They were reliable and in the case of the mouse extremely good, colourful and different which interested the kids, the alternative was the beige Dells we had at the time. The only downside was the cost of replacement parts and failure rate of PSUs but a lot of younger kids didn't get near a PC until they were 10+, with Macs staff were happy to let the kids have a play from the age of 4 in a nursery (hence me removing lollypops form CD drives almost weekly).

Each to their own but personally I'm not a brand-loyalty person, I'll flip-flop between OS and product based on what fits my need (and is best value for money) but I do think having a dig over the hockey puck mouse is a little daft when it did the job and was at least trying to be different at a time when everything was beige and the same damn shape!

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Mac Gui on Solaris?

I wonder if that would have saved Sun from Oracle? An excellent GUI on workstation-class early on might have seen Window off.

Not that BSD or Mach aren't fine, its just that there was a time when Solaris had the midrange and an GUI on Solaris X86 might have allowed it to clean up on the desktop too. I feel sad for Sun.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mac Gui on Solaris?

A/UX was something of an attempt, killed off by high costs and relatively high hardware requirements.

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Anonymous Coward

Power PC not so bad

The Power PC processors were a step ahead of the Intel offerings of the time.

However they didn't get the volume and the chips stayed expensive.

It's one of the "if only's" of computing history - if only windows NT on PPC wasn't so dire (absence of 3rd party software, quite reminiscent of the underlying reasons for desktop Linux not making it to the mainstream).

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