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Five forgotten Apple products

With any company that’s been around for more than 30 years—and with as many interesting, creative, and varied ideas Apple has had—there are bound to be a few Apple products that have slipped through history’s cracks. Along with its incredible successes, Apple has made its rightful share of clunkers and obscure products that quickly sunk to the bottom of the deep and vast ocean of public memory.

Come with us now as we explore these depths and dredge up five Apple products that probably won’t get the blowout anniversary treatment on the virtual pages of Macworld.com

1. QuickTake 100

Apple Computer—known for its groundbreaking work with PCs, PDAs, and…digital cameras? Indeed, 1994 saw the release of Apple’s QuickTake 100, one of the first consumer digital cameras in the US. The inaugural model of the QuickTake series debuted with an awkward form factor that resembled a one-eyed pair of futuristic binoculars.

Capable of storing eight photos at 640-by-480 resolution (or 32 at 320-by-240) on a whopping 1MB of internal flash memory, it was obviously primitive by today’s standards. Apple released more powerful members of the QuickTake family over the next few years, but under the weight of competition from Kodak and Fuji, the computer maker’s offerings never sold well.

It’s no surprise, then, that Apple unceremoniously dumped its entire QuickTake product line around 1997—likely a victim of Steve Jobs’ famous house cleaning.

2. Apple Adjustable Keyboard

At some point in the early 1990s, it became legally fashionable to be concerned with computer ergonomics. Prolonged use of any keyboard can lead to hand and wrist strain, repetitive stress injuries, and carpal tunnel syndrome. As any responsible computer maker should (whispers the PR department), Apple decided to offer a “healthy” alternative to its typical keyboards. So, in 1993, the company released the Apple Adjustable Keyboard, which looked, more or less, like a typical Apple keyboard split in two (but with a honkin’ big space bar). In the middle of the split was a hinge that allowed users to position the two halves of the keyboard at the most comfortable angle for them.

Unfortunately for Apple, the most comfortable position for the Apple Adjustable Keyboard was as far away from the user as possible, dooming Apple’s ergonomic wonder to obscurity.

3. Mac OS X Server 1.0

“Ha! OS X Server!” you scoff, “I remember that!” Well, do you remember the first version of OS X Server? You know, the one with the Rhapsody interface?

In a time before Apple’s flashy, translucent, candy-colored Aqua, in a time before OS X’s consumer rollout, Apple badly needed a strong server OS.

Eager to take those first steps into a more stable world, Apple released its first production OS based on NeXT technology in March 1999: Mac OS X Server 1.0. It looked, on the surface, a lot like Mac OS 8. But digging a little further, you’d notice the larger icons, the OPENSTEP Workspace Manager instead of a Finder, and…what’s this? A Unix-like shell console? Clearly all was not normal in the world of Mac.

Like the later releases of OS X, OS X Server 1.0 was based on a Unix core, owing to its NeXT heritage, but it lacked the graphical eye candy of Aqua and the iconic Dock. Soon, the OS X Public Beta would come along and sweep the last vestiges of Mac OS 8’s platinum stylings away for good, leaving this OS X Server 1.0 a unique curiosity in the history of Apple.

4. Apple PC 5.25-inch Drive

Photo credit: Stephen Edmonds
As a minor nod towards achieving some form of IBM PC compatibility, Apple released its own 360K double-density 5.25-inch floppy drive for the Macintosh in the late 1980s. The sleek, low-profile external drive (rendered in the snow white design language of the day) required a special controller card to use, and it never achieved much widespread use. (After all, most people were choosing Macs to get away from IBM PC-compatibles—why bring them any closer than you have to?)

5. Apple Network Server

Pop quiz: What’s the only Apple computer officially designed to never, ever run an Apple OS? If you said “the Apple Network Server,” then you probably read the header of this section.

Introduced in 1996, this obscure, PowerPC-based behemoth filled a gaping hole in Apple’s high-end product line: that of industrial-strength network server—a task that Apple’s Mac OS just wasn’t capable of at the time. Interestingly, Apple turned to IBM’s AIX (a Unix derivative) as the operating system of choice, likely because the ANS’s underlying hardware resembled IBM PowerPC-based servers of the day. It seems strange, but this beast was never a member of the Macintosh family; in fact, it contained a ROM that prevented the booting of Mac OS all together. If you ever see one of these sitting on a street corner, take it in and show it your sympathy, as they’re quite rare.

[Benj Edwards is the editor of the Vintage Computing and Gaming Web site.]

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