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The Best of 1986's "The Apple Collection"
Fashion, Booze, Toys, & Vehicles. Seriously.
July 21, 2023
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In 1986, Apple Computer Incorporated unleashed "The Apple Collection" upon the world.

It wasn't a new computer.  Nor, for the most part, anything even vaguely computer-related.

It was clothes.  And vehicles.  And fashion accessories.  Even a few bottles of wine.  Apple, essentially, launched an order-by-mail, high-fashion department store.

Seriously.

This was a very real thing that happened the year after Steve Jobs was ousted from the company he co-founded.  Needless to say, this endeavor did not prove to be a success.

Below, I have painstakingly collected my favorite items from the very first (and very last) catalogue of "The Apple Collection", released for the "1986 - 1987" shopping season.  Including the actual descriptions given to each item by Apple.

Enjoy.

The Original Apple Watch

Take a dive.  The Apple watch is water-resistant to 100 feet.  Comes with quartz movement and a 90-day warranty.  Apple Watch, $35.

Seriously.  You could have had an Apple Watch for $35.  With quarts movement and everything.

The Apple T-Shirt

Apple cotton T-shirts feature the Apple name on the front, the Apple logo on the back.  Available in kids' sizes, too.  Adult T-shirts (S-XL), $7.50.  Kids' T-shirts (4T,S-L), $6.50.

That is one seriously 1980s logo!

The Apple Mouse Cover

This fuzzy gray creature is the only way to make your Macintosh even more user friendly.  He's a mousterpiece.  Mouse Cover.  $5.95.

Yep.  A mouse cover.  For your mouse.  Get it?

He's... a "mousterpiece".  I kinda liked when Apple was cracking Dad Jokes like that.

The Apple Sailboard

The Apple Sailboard.  $1,100.

I'm not sure if I despise this... or desperately want one.

The Apple Hat

Show whose team you're on with our corduroy baseball cap with adjustable band and embroidered logo.  Corduroy Baseball Cap.  $9.50.

Ok.  I'll admit it.  There was a time when I would have worn one of these.

The Apple Paperclip

Just the thing to keep those little phone message slips in one place.  Paper Clip.  $3.

Right about now, you're thinking this is a joke, right?  But it's not.  It's real.

That is a 3 dollar paperclip.  With an Apple on it.

To be clear: This is not a box of paperclips.  This is one paper clip.

The Apple Disk Box

An elegant place to store your 3.5" disks, and it holds 100 of them.  Walnut Disk Box, $24.

One of the few things in The Apple Collection that has to do with computers!  And, you know what?  I want one!  A walnut 3.5" floppy box?  Yes, please!

The Apple... Big Sweater

After a rough day windsurfing, the Apple sweatshirt is just the thing.  Letter Sweatshirt, $15.

I.  Um.  Yup.  That's a big sweater.

The Apple Calculator

This finely designed Braun calculator has an eight-digit display and four-key memory storage.  Battery operated, it coms with a protective travel case.  Braun Calculator.  $80

Go ahead.  Check the price on this incredibly simple calculator.  That's right.  80 bucks.

But, hey!  8 digit display!

The Apple Scooter

It's not a car.  It's not a motorcycle.  It's a totally new form of personal transportation.  Honda's Helix scooter has push-button starting and automatic transmission.  And from Apple, an Apple license plate frame.  Helix Scooter, $2,598.

Wait.  Apple sold a Honda scooter?

Yes.  Yes, they did.  Though there wasn't very much "Apple-y" about it.  Just a custom license plate frame.  Still.  They sold it.  Unfortunately they never provided a picture of the license plate frame.

The Apple Wooden Puzzle

Put all the colorful pieces of this hardwood puzzle togther and what do you get?  Perfect for children of all ages.  Nontoic finish.  Apple Puzzle.  $12.

You know.  Like for little kids.  This one actually I kinda like.

The Apple Toy Truck

The truck the future comes in.  It runs just as well on big kids' desks as on little kids' floors.  Truck.  $29.

Somehow Apple managed to resist making any "Mac Truck" jokes for this one.

Though... this isn't based on a "Mack Truck" design.  It's more like an early 1980s Freightliner (similar to what the original design of Optimus Prime used in the Transformers).

Just the same... cool toy.

The Apple Wine

Ridge Zinfandel Glen Ellen 1980 and Cabernet Sauvignon 1981 from Napa County, California, both com with an Apple gold seal.  Toast a very fine year in Apple-design crystal wine glasses.  Set of Ridge Zinfandel and Cabernet, $25.  Set of two Wine Glasses, $12.

Yep.  Apple wine and wine glasses.

The Apple Polo

These heavyweight 100% brushed cotton polo shirts are perfect for the courts or the club.  Polo Shirt, $32.

I love this picture.

So much.

The Apple Money Clip

Put a piece of Tiffany in his pockeet.  Our sterling silver Tiffany money clip is ngraved with the Apple logo.  Tiffany Money Clip.  $35.

We close out this journey into The Apple Collection with the Apple Money Clip.

Because... it just feels fitting, somehow.

Now, tell the truth.  Looking back over this list of items... you kinda want a few of these, don't you?

Especially the mouse cover.

That thing was a mousterpiece.

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What was the first PDA?
It wasn't the Palm Pilot. Nor the Newton. Let's keep going back to find the answer...

It’s always fun to look at who was the “first” to do something amazing.

Who made the first computer shell? Who was the first computer programmer? What was the first smartphone?

Today, let’s ask another simple question: What was the first PDA (Personal Digital Assistant)?

What (exactly) is a PDA?

To figure this out, first we need to clearly define what a PDA actually is. While most of us can identify a PDA using the tried and true “I know one when I see one” approach, for historical purposes… we need to be a little more scientific about it.

Here is the official, Lunduke Journal Approved (tm) definition of “PDA”.

PDA - [ pē′dē-ā ]

Short for personal digital assistant. A lightweight, handheld computer, which can fit in a large pocket, generally used for storing information such as addresses or schedules.

Using this definition means we can include many different form factors — including the classic “handheld, touchscreen” style (such as the Palm Pilots), as well as the “palmtops” (such as the HP LX or Jornadas).

They key is that it is “handheld”, “pocket sized”, and a “computer”. And, of course, it must “assist” the user in some way. Storing notes, contacts, or appointments. Running custom software. That sort of thing.

But, and here is a key bit, calculators don’t count. The PDA must be, first and foremost, a computer.

It came before the 1990s

Many people believe that the Palm Pilot was the first PDA. Arriving on the scene in 1996… it was, in fact, far from the first.

Others (including Time Magazine) proclaim the Apple Newton, released in 1992, to be the first PDA.

Also, wrong. The Tandy Zoomer beat the Apple Newton to market by quite a wide margin. Yet that device is also not the first PDA.

Fun Historical Side-Note: Even though the Apple Newton was not the first device of this type (not by a long-shot)… Apple has the distinction of having coined the term “Personal Digital Assistant.” Apple CEO, John Sculley, made the first public usage of the phrase during a January 7, 1992 presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

1989’s Atari Portfolio? Surely that would be the first? It was made in the ‘80’s for Pete’s sake!

Nope. It wasn’t that one either.

Was it 1984’s Psion Organizer?

In 1984, the UK software company, Psion, made the jump into hand-held computers with the “Organizer”.

It had a distinctly “Calculator-like” look to it… but was most definitely a full computer.

The Psion Organizer from the November, 1984 issue of BYTE.

Note the full keyboard (with the letters laid out alphabetically instead of QWERTY). Even had a “Space” key.

The Organiser was powered by an HD6301X — an 8-Bit CPU that was a variant of the Motorola 6800 — clocking in at a whopping 0.9 MHz. Yes. Zero-point-9.

2KB of RAM, 4KB of ROM, and a single row (alpha-numeric) LCD.

Psion went so far as to declare the Organiser to be “The world’s first practical pocket computer.”

One extra cool bit: The Organiser had small memory cards — dubbed the “DATAPAKS” — which acted as removable storage.

These “DATAPAKS” were truly fascinating. They came in two versions — 8KB or 16KB — and were “Ultra-Violet-Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory”. These cards were “write-once”. Meaning you could write data to the card… and then that data cannot be easily deleted.

Want to erase your DATAPAK and start it over from a clean slate? That’s where the “Ultra-Violet-Erasable” part comes in. You could take in your used DATAPAKS to a Psion dealers, who were supplied with an “ultra violet eraser”, and they could (effectively) wipe the data off your cards.

The 4KB of ROM on the Organizer did not include much in the way of any real operating system. Simply small applications (a clock, a calculator, and a flat database).

That said, additional software was sold on DATAPAKS — including a programming language known as “POPL”, and various math and finance tools written in the POPL language.

From the Psion Organiser brochure.

Impressive! Fascinating! Weird! And while it lacked some of the features of later PDAs… it definitely counts as one!

But… was it the first? Nope. Definitely not.

How about 1980’s Tandy Pocket Computer?

Let’s go all the way back to July of 1980.

Empire Strikes Back and Caddyshack were dominating the box office and Funkytown ruled the airwaves.

And a little company called Tandy released the TRS-80 Pocket Computer (also known as the “Sharp PC-1211”).

This little, hand-held beauty was powered by two 4-Bit CPUs (the SC43177 and the SC43178) clocking in at 256 kHz. That’s 1/4 of a MHz.

1.5KB of RAM. A 24 character LCD screen. A QWERTY keyboard plus a 10-key number pad. Full BASIC programming language, built-in. Which made it easy to make it do… just about whatever you wanted.

All with a battery life of between 200 and 300 hours. Seriously.

There was, however, no permanent form of memory storage. For that you needed to purchase a cassette interface (which was pretty common among various computers of the time).

Considering this beast came out in 1980, it is surprisingly svelte. Weighing only 6 ounces (roughly the weight of an iPhone) and — while not super tiny — it is small enough to fit in a large coat pocket. (You definitely won’t be putting the Pocket Computer in your jeans, however.)

Despite the limitations… it definitely qualifies as a PDA.

The Conclusion!

After careful consideration, The Lunduke Journal is prepared to declare a winner in our search for the world’s first PDA…

The Radio Shack / Tandy TRS-80 Pocket Computer.

It is, without question, the first computer to meet our definition of a “PDA”. And, besides that, it is simply a really cool little computer.

However…

Because the universe is never quite as cut and dried as we’d like it to be, what follows are a conclusive list of “firsts” within the PDA world.

  • The 1st PDA ever — 1980’s Tandy Pocket Computer

  • The 1st PDA with built-in long-term storage — 1984’s Psion Organiser

  • The 1st PDA that looked and acted like a modern PDA — 1992’s Tandy Zoomer

  • The 1st PDA to actually use the term “PDA” — 1992’s Apple Newton

  • The 1st PDA that was also a cell phone — 1994’s IBM Simon

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The Tandy Zoomer -- The x86 PDA before the Palm Pilot
A 1992 handheld, with multitasking, that could access AOL. Wild.

The 1996 release of the first Palm Pilot was, in the minds of many, the first truly successful launch of a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). But the seeds of the Palm Pilot were planted several years earlier.

In fact the company behind the Palm Pilot, “Palm Computing Inc.”, was founded back in 1992 for the sole purpose of creating software for another just released PDA… the Tandy Zoomer.

The Tandy Zoomer

Also known as the “Tandy Z-PDA”, “Casio Z-7000”, and “AST GRiDpad” (all essentially the same hardware sold by different brands) was a truly groundbreaking — and fascinating — device.

Fun fact: The name “Zoomer” was used as a shortened, slang-y version of “consumer”. Get it? “Conzoomer”? Seriously. That’s the reason behind the name.

The Zoomer (aka “Z-PDA”) with the address book. Note that fields can be ASCII text or doodles.

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