By Matt Burns
Steve Jobs is a man who lives in the minutiae of details. He, with his loyal staff, perfects what others would pass off as perfect. He has 313 patents to his name, which range from the Apple III to the iPod’s acrylic packaging. Almost all of them are notable but only a few are iconic.
The Original All-in-One, the Mac 128K
Patent number D285,687 wasn’t Steve’s first patent, but it is, if you will, the one that started it all. The patent lays claim to the design of the original Macintosh 128K, introduced by the now classic Ridley Scott commercial. The patent doesn’t talk of its graphical user interface, just the simple, desktop-friendly, all-in-one computer design that will be re-visited 14 years later for Macintosh’s revival.
A Blue iMac for Everyone
Steve Jobs found himself back at the helm of Apple after the purchase of his startup NeXT in 1996. Jobs subsequently killed many projects, including the Newton tablet. Then, in 1998, the translucent Bondi Blue iMac (patent D413,105) hit, sans standard equipment like SCSI, ADB and a floppy drive. In their place were two (relatively new) USB ports and a CD-ROM drive. It was widely different from anything in the PC space. But it also sold 800,000 units in 139 days and showed the Apple faithful and a whole new generation of fanboys the true soul of Apple.
The iMac Puck
Not every Steve Jobs patent prints a steady stream of cash for Apple. Patent D418,125 is for a cursor control device. But not just any mouse: This one bears Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive’s names, and it is for the notorious iMac puck that should -- if it’s not already -- be considered the worst mouse in the history of personal computing. But it shows the growing pains of a company trying to rebuild by making a name for itself through innovative design. Although it looked great next to the curvy iMac, it just wasn’t fit for human hands.
iPod: A Thousand Songs in Your Pocket
The iMac revived the Mac; the iPod was something entirely different. Apple’s MP3 player technically launched late in the game, as there were already major players in the MP3 player scene. However, the iPod, with its “this is how it works” commercials, showed the public that all they needed to do is plug the device into a Mac’s Firewire port, and iTunes did the rest. Many of Steve’s patents involve the original iPod design and the follow-ups. These wide-ranging patents protected the classic click-wheel design and provided Apple with an entirely new revenue stream during it’s pre-iPhone build-up.
Even Power Adapters Can Be Perfect
Patent D478,310 was granted in 2001, and Apple still ships a similar power adapter with every Mac today. Any Mac owner (read: not necessarily a fanboy) will profess that it’s the epitome of attention to detail. The dual-mode, travel-friendly adapter has yet to be copied by any Windows PC maker, which is rather confusing considering their obsession with cloning the MacBook Pro.
The Many iPhone Patents
The iPhone’s success cannot be better demonstrated then by the number of imitators that popped up following its 2007 launch. Sure, Apple has since sold millions upon millions of units, but the iPhone’s success spawned a countless number of clones trying to replicate the breakaway success through similar hardware and software. Patents D558,756, D558,757, and D580,387, filed on January 5, 2007, just four days before the original iPhone announcement, laid the foundation for dozens more protecting the iPhone’s style and appearance.
Apple just didn’t disrupt tablets, cellphones, MP3 players or the personal computer. The Apple Store is retail done right, and Steve Jobs holds two patents regarding the glass staircase. Patent D478,999 from 2003 grants the ornamental design to Steve Jobs and others. A trip to major Apple locations will in fact allow you to walk all over one of Steve’s most iconic ideas.