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'Snow White' design and the device that made Apple look good


We take it for granted that the design of Apple computers stands out. It turns out that the first signature Apple design was a commercial flop.

Almost 38 years ago, one of Apple's first attempts at portable computers saw the light of day. On April 24, 1984, the Apple IIc was released. Considered a standout retro device by modern standards, the device was not too groundbreaking at the time of its release.

With a price tag of $1,295, the IIc fell in the costlier spectrum of the market segment, while its 128 KB of RAM and three-year-old 65C02 were nothing to make computer enthusiasts gasp in awe.

Technically, the IIc was not an entirely novel device either. Apple simply upgraded the IIe gadget by making it more of a plug-and-play machine without a set of additional expansion slots.

AppleIIc-Unboxing-Computer
Apple IIc in original boxes. Image posted by u/zorgmood1.

The IIc machine was meant to provide users with power and mobility. On the one hand, the device came with a floppy disk drive, 80-column display, color display, and 128 KB RAM pre-installed. Its predecessor, the IIe, had those features only as optional.

However, unlike the IIe, it had fewer expansion slots to make the device friendlier for novice users and cut down on weight. The 'c' in the computer's name stands for 'compact,' which at the time was a computer weighing 3.4kg.

However, the lack of expansion slots played the main role in the IIc's undoing. While marketed as a portable, the device was mainly used as a desktop, and without the option to expand the gadget’s capabilities, the price tag seemed too hefty.

While Apple hoped to sell 100,000 units per month, it only sold as much per year, making the IIc a commercial flop. Even IBM's PCjr, considered a major commercial letdown for its manufacturer, outsold the IIc.

Apple-IIe-Design
Apple IIe. Image by Shutterstock.

Snow White design

It's not how the device performed technically or commercially that mattered in the end. The IIc was Apple's first device to introduce the 'Snow White' design language.

Developed by German American industrial engineer Hartmut Esslinger, the design language followed seven guidelines: minimal surface texturing, light off-white or light gray color, inlaid three-dimensional Apple logo, simple port design, and zero-draft enclosures, silk-screened product name badges.

The design feature made Apple devices stand out from the crowd and sharply diverged from its previous looks, which often included light-brown or beige colors, a setup we'd now consider belonging to the late '70s or early '80s.

While the IIc was the first Apple device to follow the 'Snow White' design language, 1987's Macintosh II was the first machine to follow all the guidelines Esslinger established for the company.

Even though Apple continued to experiment with new designs throughout the '90s, 'Snow White' design language was the predominant Apple look until the end of the decade.

Eventually, the 'Snow White' design was pushed out with the translucent looks of the iMac G3, marking the return of Steve Jobs to the company and the beginning of the new millennium.

MacintoshII-Apple-Computer
Macintosh II. Image posted by u/M3FAN.

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