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Blast From the Past: Apple patents, ads, and catalogs

A trio of nostalgic finds covers everything from a visual history of Apple patents to the ads and catalogs that marketed these products to consumers.

Andrew McConnell received an old mail-order computer catalog from 1980, with the first 12 pages featuring Apple products. For the low, low price of $974.95USD, you could purchase a 16K Regular Apple II that weighed less than 12 pounds! Or, if you're really crazy with your money, you could spend $1123.95USD on a 48K Plus system.

The really neat thing about browsing through this catalog is seeing all the accessories available for the system at that time. A $34.95 device called Bright Pen was touted as an alternative to the keyboard or game paddle input, and seemed to be an ancestor of the Wacom tablet. Further in, another accessory called Light Pen appears to be a more expensive Wacom predecessor. SuperTalker added voiceover capabilities to the Mac and SpeechLab allowed for dictation. There was a music synthesizer, the ability to add a real-time clock for $200, basic software, and more.

RedLightRunner has compiled a page of some of the best-known Apple ads from the past couple of decades. Its earliest offering is the infamous 1984 ad and there are several early 80's and late 90's offerings there. My favorite is the ad from 1999 for the Airport Base Station. The device sails across the screen like a UFO, complete with creepy B-movie music that is sure to give some people nightmares. It's definitely not a comprehensive collection of ads - it's missing all the current ones and others from the 80's such as this ad from 1986. But, it is a great start at building a collection.

Over on the Technologizer blog, Harry McCracken has posted a visual history spanning 31 years of Apple patent filings - featuring everything from Woz's drawings of the original Apple II in April 1977 all the way to the "multi-functional hand-held device" from December 2007 which turns out to be the iPhone. It's not all the patents filed by Apple, but it's a great summary of some of the devices Apple has come up with. You can find more articles about various Apple patents here at TUAW as well.

Many thanks to all those who submitted tips!

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