40 ways Apple changed the tech world

We celebrate Apple's 40th birthday with its greatest ideas and innovations

Under Steve Jobs’ peerless leadership, Apple came to define the way we use technology.

His understanding of what worked and his staggering attention to detail made Apple products, in Steve’s words, ‘insanely great’. Tim Cook carried on from where Jobs left off, and Apple has continued to push boundaries and deliver functional, beautiful products used by millions of people around the world

No, Apple isn't always first to the table when it comes to certain products or features, but there's no denying that everything it produces is incredibly polished.

To celebrate the company's 40th anniversary, we're taking a look at 40 little things it's done to help make the tech world great.


The skill that defines multi-touch. Moving your fingers together across a screen takes you closer in to web pages, documents, maps, images and more. In 2007, this was mind-blowingly clever.

Inertial scrolling

List navigation accelerates and decelerates based on how quickly you move your finger across the interface and, in iOS and OSX Lion, lists and web pages bounce elastically as you reach their limits.

Shake to undo

Perhaps the most inspired, but underused, of Apple’s interface touches. On iOS devices, a movement akin to shaking your head undoes the activity you’ve just performed.

Multi-touch trackpad

Integrating the button into the mousing surface gave MacBook mousepads extra space for multi-touch gestures, and provided a clearer connection between clicks and actions on-screen.


In his tribute to Steve Jobs, Richard Seymour of British design agency Seymour Powell wrote that ‘his true legacy is that he made the digital analogue.’ The scrollwheel and clickwheel, first seen on the 1G iPod and iPod Mini, are perfect examples: for the first time, they allowed you to navigate long lists of tunes in a way that felt human and natural.

Active screen corners

Some find them annoying, some find them indispensible. Mac OS X’s proto-gestures, performed by a swipe to a corner of the screen, gave a taste of the multi-touch magic to come.

Cover Flow

When the iPhone was announced in 2007, those of us too short-sighted to see it as anything more than a music phone were impressed by one thing: Cover Flow. The lack of a clickwheel on the iPhone and iPod Touch was amply recompensed by being able to flick through album artwork. It once again blurred the line between the physical and the digital, and it’s been copied a million times over since.

Easter eggs

Apple's cleverly hidden a few hidden messages in some of its app icons:

1. The Maps icon has its pin dropped at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California – the address of Apple’s headquarters.

2. Windows PCs on your network appear as beige monitors displaying the ‘blue screen of death’ – a cheeky poke at Windows PCs’ perceived unreliability and drab design.

3. TextEdit icon features the quote that’s read byRichard Dreyfuss in Apple’s 1997‘Think Different’ advert, whichmarked Steve Jobs’re-joining (and subsequent revamping) of the then-ailing company.

4. Aperture Photography geeks will enjoy zooming in to find the specs of the Apple photo editing app icon’s lens – it’s a 50mm f1.4, according to the picture. Perfect for portraits, then.

5. The piece of paper on the Keynote logo’s lectern may have the inauspicious title ‘Q4 2008’, but zoom in and you’ll find the lyrics to a song from controversial musical ‘Spring Awakening’.


The iconic ‘iLamp’ (as the iMac G4 was affectionately nicknamed on its release in 2002) marked the start of Apple’s journey towards its now unmistakeable brand of sleek, button-free modernism. It also looked uncannily like the Luxo Jr lamp, star of the first film made by Pixar (which Jobs owned at the time).


In 2008, Apple forged its new MacBook Air from a single piece of aluminium. It quickly became the basis for all MacBooks and iMacs.