By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
February 9, 2008

Here’s a flash from the past.

Dave Caolo at The Unofficial Apple Weblog stumbled across a collection of old Apple (AAPL) print ads and was kind enough to share the link. It’s from a site maintained by Marcin Wichary, a Swiss-based graphical user interface designer at Google best known on the Web for his obsessive “10 Years of Being Boring: 150 pages dedicated to one of the most beautiful songs ever.”

Wichary’s archives cover two decades and include many of the early Apple II and III ads as well the 39-page Macintosh extravaganza that filled all the ad space in the 1994 presidential election issue of Newsweek. It does not include, however, the Think Different series.

The ad that brings back the most memories for me is the “100 Things You Can Do With An Apple” spread that ran in 1983 and ended up in the lead paragraph of TIME’s Machine of the Year cover story:

WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME, the bright red advertisement asks in mock irritation, WHAT A PERSONAL COMPUTER CAN DO? The ad provides not merely an answer, but 100 of them. A personal computer, it says, can send letters at the speed of light, diagnose a sick poodle, custom-tailor an insurance program in minutes, test recipes for beer. Testimonials abound. Michael Lamb of Tucson figured out how a personal computer could monitor anesthesia during surgery; the rock group Earth, Wind and Fire uses one to explode smoke bombs onstage during concerts; the Rev. Ron Jaenisch of Sunnyvale, Calif, programmed his machine so it can recite an entire wedding ceremony. (link)

I was on my writer’s trial at the magazine that year and played a minor role in the issue. Much of the heavy lifting was done by Michael Moritz, then TIME’s Silicon Valley correspondent and now a managing partner at Sequoia Capital (and former member of the board at both Google and Yahoo).

You can see Wichary’s full collection of ads in the attached section of arsluna, his elegant home in cyberspace.

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