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"Everybody Seems to Want It": Early Media Coverage of Apple Computer

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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.

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Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
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The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, MLive.com reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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