Kevin Costner advertises the Apple Lisa

January 27th, 2020 9:58 AM
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Many film celebrities get their start with television commercials. Before Rain Man and Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman hawked for Volkswagen.

Ant Man Paul Rudd shilled the Super Nintendo.

And before he heard a voice whisper "If you build it, he will come", Kevin Costner advertised the Apple Lisa.

I’ve seen practically every Apple II commercial with their everyday families and dramatic voiceovers. Many are clever and memorable, but I don’t know of any that feature the era’s contemporary or nascent stars.

I suppose an early Apple Computer Inc. didn’t have the budget to afford recognizable talent. The Apple II was released in 1977, with Apple’s IPO happening 3.5 years later, on December 12, 1980. By the time the Apple Lisa debuted in January 1983, the company was comfortably profitable with more of a marketing budget.

Or maybe it’s just the unpredictable vagaries of Hollywood. By the time Kevin Costner was advertising the Lisa, he’d been in only a half-dozen movies, none of them blockbuster films or starring roles such as "Frat Boy No. 1" in Ron Howard’s Night Shift. Who knew that this commercial actor would grow up to be in The Postman, Waterworld, Tin Cup, and Man of Steel?

What a missed opportunity for him to have returned to his roots and make a cameo in any of the many Steve Jobs films!

(Hat tip to Cody Combs)

Trello for the Apple II

September 18th, 2017 10:08 AM
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When I started at my current day job two years ago, I asked my Apple II friends for some good team-based project management tools. My quest was made more difficult by me not knowing what I was looking for, as I’d never used any such software.

Still, even though Trello came highly recommended, I found it inscrutable: it seemed to be just a series of lists in which items could be dragged from one column to another. How was this not simply a cloud-based, collaborative spreadsheet — like Google Sheets? I didn’t understand how to make it work for me and my team.

Maybe I should given Trello another try, as it’s recently proven its heart is in the right place. Their latest commercial is bookended with homages to our favorite classic computer:

Whenever I see the Apple II appear in unexpected places, I wonder how it got there. Who on the Trello team decided that a callback to a 39-year-old Apple computer was the proper frame for their latest advertisement? Where did they get the hardware used in the video? And what’s going to become of it?

It may not be a story for the next issue of Juiced.GS… but it’s one that puts a smile on my face.

(Hat tip to Eric Shepherd)

40 years in 40 seconds

March 28th, 2016 9:16 AM
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Apple is the most profitable company in the world, based on its market cap of $672 billion. (That’s more than half a trillion, folks.) The iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and Macs all started in the apocryphal garage, where Steve Wozniak invented and Steve Jobs designed the Apple II.

Given all the success that’s sprung from those early innovations, we diehard enthusiasts sometimes feel that modern-day Apple Inc. doesn’t give its roots the recognition it deserves, as evidenced by the Apple II being erased from press releases. But our favorite computer finally did get a nod in this commercial celebrating Apple’s 40th birthday on April 1, 2016:

On Facebook, commenters were underwhelmed, with "Not enough Apple II" being a recurring theme. It’s true that Apple’s classic machines constitute only a few of the video’s opening seconds, but I’m not sure we could expect more than that: even more than the computers themselves, programs and peripherals for the Apple II lack the modern recognition of more recent innovations, such as iWork, AirPort, or Mighty Mouse.

Sometimes it’s nice just to be mentioned.

(Hat tip to Shona Ghosh)

Internet Explorer on the Oregon Trail

February 4th, 2013 10:46 AM
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Although Web browsers are far more standardized in their interpretation of HTML than they were in the first decade of the World Wide Web, the "browser wars" for market share continue. For users who want more than the default browser their operating system comes with, the choices are plenty: Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Camino, Lynx, and more are still actively developed.

Of those, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has perhaps the worst reputation — even though, thanks to the support of such a commercial juggernaut, it may outlast its competition. Despite that, it struggles to remain relevant in the eyes of tech-savvy consumers who remember the days of IE6 — or, worse, those employees whose corporate policies have them continuing to use outdated, unsupported versions of IE.

Knowing this, Microsoft began a campaign of gentle self-mockery, running commercials that poked fun at the browser’s history, calling it "The Browser You Loved To Hate". The first video showcased the estranged relationship a long-time user had with his browser; its follow-up focused on retraining a traditional Internet troll. The latest empathizes with its target demographic by saying, "Hey, we’re a product of the same era you are."

I showed this commercial to a class of college juniors and seniors who were born no earlier than 1990. They got almost all the references, even the one that spoke to my generation: Oregon Trail. These students may not have had that experience on the Apple II as I did, but it is nonetheless a franchise that was born on the Apple II that has influenced the education of many.

It’s remarkable that, for literally decades, students have grown up dying of dysentery. Hats off to Microsoft for acknowledging the cultural relevance the Apple II has for the first generations of personal computer users.

(Hat tip to Alex Knapp)

Steve Wozniak, car salesman

June 2nd, 2011 9:14 AM
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Here’s an oldie but goodie that shows Steve Wozniak‘s character and sense of humor. In 1979, when computers were the newest thing and its inventors were surprised by their own overnight fame, The Woz lent his image to a product endorsement: the Datsun 280ZX sports coupe, also known as the Fairlady Z. Why Nissan thought that 1979 America was ready to be hawked to by a computer geek, I don’t know, but the resulting commercial follows:

On its own, the commercial is a fun snapshot of Silicon Valley’s history. But Woz rarely lets a single joke lie, so nearly three decades later, he updated the promo
for modern times:

Note the wink to the audience in Woz’s license plate: “APPLE II”. Would he really be so proud of his most famous invention as to put it on his car, thirty years later? Even if so, I suspect the plate was a dummy manufactured for the purpose of the commercial (or for one of Woz’s many pranks). Reviewing the personalized license plate ordering system of the state of California suggests that some designs of vanity plates can indeed be seven characters long, though using all of them leaves no room for spaces or half-spaces. However, requesting “APPLEII” reports that, “Sorry, The plate you have requested is not available.”

Apple II vanity plate

License to geek.

If that plate is out there, I hope Woz has it!

(Hat tips to John Herrman and Sean Fahey)

Educational nightmare

September 30th, 2010 11:48 AM
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We’ve all had this nightmare, haven’t we? (Click for larger image.)

xkcd: Students

True to the comic’s caption, this dream has plagued me for nearly twenty years. As it’s most common just before a graduation, I’ll be due some sleepless nights come May 2011. Though logic has no place in the realm of sleep, upon waking, I find comfort not only in my diploma, but also in knowing I’m not alone in this fear.

Some companies are malicious enough to play on our fears for profit, and Apple is no exception:

Aren’t all the fond memories we have of the Apple II from writing term papers on it at 3 AM? How would we have graduated without it? On the other hand, data was far more fragile in the Eighties than it is now. How many nightmares were caused by school papers being lost to malfunctions, user error — or, worst of all, dysentery?