I was blown away when I learned Apple had become the first trillion-dollar company in August 2018, and I’m flabbergasted to learn that — at least as of Tuesday morning — the company was worth over $2 trillion. Of course, I’m a

Larry Magid, freelance technology columnist of the San Jose Mercury News is photographed on Friday, Oct. 21, 2011 in San Jose. (Gary Reyes / Mercury News)

tech journalist, not a financial analyst, but you don’t need an MBA to know the significance of such an incredible valuation, based on the total value of all Apple shares.

What’s particularly interesting to me is how the company’s fortunes have repeatedly risen, fallen and risen again during its 44-year history.

I first became an Apple customer in 1979 when I was working on my doctoral dissertation at the University of Massachusetts. I mostly used it as a terminal to connect to the university’s mainframe but — by the time I got my doctorate in education, I was so excited about computers that I wound up writing tech manuals and later became a tech journalist instead of getting a faculty position (the scarcity of university jobs at the time also played a role). Since then, I’ve either owned or reviewed at least one iteration of every product Apple has ever made, although I also use competing products such as the HP computer I’m using to write this column.

Apple has survived many challenges during its lifetime. Soon after IBM introduced its first PC in 1981, Apple ceased to be the leading PC maker, but — as someone who worked on the IBM PC project (I wrote IBM’s word processing manual), I can testify that Apple had a huge impact on IBM’s decision to enter the PC market. The software company I worked for at the time only had enough prototype IBM PCs for the programmers so I wrote the IBM manual using an Apple II and — almost every night — drove from Albany to SFO to air freight an Apple II diskette with the latest version of the EasyWriter manual to my IBM colleagues in Boca Raton, Florida, where IBM employees used an Apple II to read, print and edit my drafts.

When Apple had its initial public offering on December 12, 1980, the stock was worth 39 cents a share, adjusting for the four times it has split since. Around noon Wednesday, the stock was $486 a share.

Enter the Mac and exit Steve Jobs

Apple’s next big move came in 1984 when it introduced the Macintosh. I was one of the first to review it and gave it a thumbs up in the Los Angeles Times. “I rarely get excited over a new computer. But Apple’s Macintosh, officially introduced last Tuesday, has started a fever in Silicon Valley that’s hard not to catch.” I interviewed “Apple’s young Chairman, Steve Jobs,” who blamed the company’s prior poor performance on trying to compete with IBM on its own terms rather than “getting back to our roots.”  Even though that early Mac wasn’t a commercial success, it was a pivotal moment for Apple and all of personal computing. I bought one of those early Macs, which didn’t have nearly as much computing power as the IBM PC I owned, but it had a mouse and a “what you see is what you get” interface, which made it easier to learn to use and much easier as a tool for creating attractive looking documents back when we were still consuming information almost entirely through print.

The next year Steve Jobs left Apple. He said he was fired but co-founder Steve Wozniak reportedly wrote on Facebook that “Steve Jobs wasn’t pushed out of the company. He left.”  However it happened, Jobs was at odds with John Sculley, the CEO he hired away from Pepsi.

Jobs’ firing was followed by some lean years at Apple, I’ll spare you the ups and downs, but the company started to turn around after Jobs triumphantly returned in 1997 as its interim CEO. His first big product was the original iMac which was the first major desktop computer to come without a floppy disk drive. A lot of people thought he was crazy to leave out the most popular way to load software and save files, but Jobs bold move quickly became the standard as was the case in 2011 when Apple released a Mac without a built-in optical (CD/DVD) drive. Some say that the “i” in iMac stood for “innovative,” but after the release of the iMac Jobs reportedly said “the i stands for ‘Internet.’”  I suppose that’s also true for the iPhone and iPad, which are how many people go online today.

Perhaps Apple’s biggest move came in January 2007 when it announced the iPhone. I was at CES in Las Vegas that day, and, unlike a few of my colleagues, I didn’t get on a plane to attend the San Francisco announcement. But the news dwarfed what was being shown at CES. It quickly became the world’s most highly anticipated product.  I was at the Palo Alto Apple store on June 29, 2007 when an Apple rep handed me the first iPhone, and, writing for CBSNews.com, I commented, “what really stands out is the user interface that can best be described as inspired. Regardless of how well this device ultimately does, it will always be remembered as the phone that broke the mold from which all others were fabricated. You can view my initial reaction (tinyurl.com/LarryTony)  as I described the brand new phone that night to CBS 5 (San Francisco) reporter Tony Russomano.

Although it has had its ups and down, Apple has continued to flourish since that initial iPhone even though there were some who worried whether it could do well after Jobs died in 2011. But Jobs’ vision and product path along with brilliant execution by his successor, Tim Cook, have kept Apple in good shape. Like a lot of companies, it took a big hit during the early days of the pandemic, with its stock dipping to under $213 in mid-March, plunging the total value of the company below $1 trillion, but it’s seen a remarkable recovery.

Apple has a rich history, but there’s plenty more to come.  The company is expected to announce a new series of iPhones this fall that will run on the faster 5G networks which — for some — could be a compelling reason to upgrade.

Larry Magid is a tech journalist and internet safety activist.