The little guy didn't do a lot, but it brought the concept of a graphical user interface (GUI) to the attention of the general public for the very first time. People loved it; few found a show-stopping use for it. Most became pretty word processing machines; particularly being portrayed as such in a variety of movies.
After some gradual product evolution and a very messy divorce in 1985, Steve Jobs came back to a near-dead Apple in 1997.
The first clear fruit of Jobs' return was the iMac - the bubble-gum coloured transparent machines that sold 800,000 units in 20 weeks, yielding Apple an average profit of $385 per machine.
To some extent, the coolness outweighed the usability, which is why large numbers ended up in schools and other low-impact usage environments.
Suddenly Apple took a huge left-turn and in 2001 the iPod was born. Initially intended as an adjunct to Apple's range of computers, the iPod could only communicate with one of those to transfer songs. A solution looking for a problem.
They found the problem when iTunes was ported to the Windows platform. Suddenly the plan to build and extend a proprietary Apple computer-based media centre exploded into the real world. People wanted the iPod just for itself. This was the cool device that we ALL wanted to own; Apple was now completely mainstream.
By 2009, the iPod held over 70% of the digital music player market.
The iPhone in 2007 trod some very similar territory to the iPod. The potential consumers were a little confused at first.
'Well, today, we're introducing three revolutionary products of this class. The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And, the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device'¦ These are not three separate devices. This is one device, and we are calling it 'iPhone.' Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.'
That may-well be true, but without the AppStore, the runaway success of which took even Jobs by surprise, the iPhone was yet another solution looking for a problem. And what a problem they managed to discover!
So, here we are with the iPad. In many respects, it's simply a large-screen beefed-up iPod Touch, with the ability to make GSM data connections and to manage eBook-style information presentations. A great solution, but yet again, we're all gathered together staring down the tunnel seeking the light of a real problem.