Apple Computer was an innovative and nimble company in 1987, so it makes sense that people at the tech giant would imagine a world dominated by Apple ten years into the future. And that’s precisely what it did when it released this goofy video from the perspective of the year 1997.
The 1987 video, which can be viewed on YouTube, is clearly meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but it shows viewers an amazing world of technological innovation with a handful of things that we actually got.
The video shows Apple payphone stations that communicate with satellites in space (at least they got the satellite part right), and something called the Vista Mac II, eyewear that doubles as a computer (something that we’re still waiting on, sadly). And there’s so much more.
“There’s no question about it. The 1990s have really been the Apple decade,” former Apple CEO John Sculley says in the video from the imagined perspective of 1997.
It’s easy for those of us in 2019 to forget that there was a time when Apple was struggling. And oddly enough, it struggled the most in the mid-1990s, precisely when this video was supposed to take place. Apple reported its worst quarter ever in March 1996 and there was a very real chance that it wouldn’t survive. Knowing that fact makes this video all the funnier. CEO Sculley, it should be noted, was forced out in 1993.
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak pops up a few times in the video to set up jokes about the size of computers ten years hence and even the future of automated mental health.
“A computer that talks is no big deal. A computer that really listens, that’s a breakthrough,” Woz says before the video cuts to a woman on a therapist’s couch. The therapist, as it turns out, is an Apple computer.
The video has everything from holograms to networking—something that was still in its infancy in the days before the invention of the World Wide Web. And we see an Apple computer in a kitchen right next to the coffee maker.
“Good morning, this is October 5, 1997,” the computer says. “I have checked four wire services, scanned eight magazines and eighteen newspapers, and accessed the New York, Paris, and Tokyo databases. Here are three items you may be interested in.”
The 1987 video even has a fake news anchor proclaiming that Apple broke the $20 billion mark in revenue during 1997. In reality, Apple’s revenue was just $1.6 billion in 1997, though the tech giant has certainly made up for it since then. Apple reported $265.6 billion in revenue last year.
The video is full of jokes, but it’s easy to forget that some of the best futurism of the 20th century was jokes. Even the original 1962 version of “The Jetsons” animated show was actually a parody of 1950s futurism. And yet “The Jetsons” endures today as an important cultural touchstone for sincerely talking about the future. And this video survives in much the same way.
Yes, it’s silly. But it got to the heart of quite a few things we actually wanted—many 0f which we’re still waiting on today.