By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
October 7, 2011

The annual Fortune 500 list, which ranks U.S. companies by their gross revenue, has been tracking Apple (AAPL) since 1983, when it showed up at No. 411.

Everybody knows that Apple was in a downward slide when Steve Jobs returned from exile in 1997. What we tend to forget — and what Nicolas Rapp’s chart above makes clear — is how long that slide continued, and how many years it took Jobs to turn the company around.

When he died, Apple was once again a Fortune 100 company, ranked at No. 35.

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