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Prototype Apple TV predecessor from 1995 sells for $46 on eBay

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
A rare relic from Apple's past surfaced this week, when a prototype Apple Interactive Television Box from 1995 -- a primitive device tested more than 10 years before the release of the Apple TV -- was sold on eBay for $46.

Stickers on the internal components of the Apple Interactive Television Box, which was listed for sale on eBay, show that it was manufactured in 1995. It features chips from Motorola, Texas Instruments, and the now-defunct VLSI Technology. The back of the unit features a composite video and audio output, serial and S-Video ports, an Ethernet network input, and RF coaxial input and outputs.

"A friend who is a former Oracle employee gave this to me in the late '90s, and I just came across it again after going through some boxes that were in storage for 10 years," the seller, "macdeals," wrote. "Does it work? I don't know. Back in the day, I kept it on a shelf as a conversation piece. It is supposed to come with a remote, but I was never given one."

Development of the interactive TV set top box began in partnership with British Telecom in 1993, according to The Apple Museum. In 1994, the companies launched a trial of the product in Britain with about 2,500 households, followed by a six-state trial in 1995. The product was eventually canceled later that year.

The device included 4MB of RAM, 2MB of ROM, an MPEG-1 decoder, and a operating system that was a subset of Mac OS with QuickDraw and QuickTime. The hardware was also compatible with a remote control, mouse, and CD-ROM drive.

The Apple Interactive Television Box was part of a subscription data service that would allow users to connect to a server and download content to show on their TV.



Apple also in the early '90s released the unsuccessful Macintosh TV, an integrated computer and TV with a 14-inch CRT display. First introduced in October 1993, the product was discontinued just a few months later in February 1994. It carried an introductory price of $2,097.



The Apple Interactive Television Box was a primitive predecessor to the Apple TV, released in 2007. Since its release, Apple officials have maintained that the product is considered to be a "hobby," as the market for connected set top boxes is minuscule when compared to that of phones, PCs and MP3 players. In February, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said his company will continue to invest in the product, because they continue to believe it has potential in the future.

The market for the set top box has not grown significantly, with overall sales of the Apple TV increasing less than 10 percent in 2009 on a unit-by-unit basis. But some have predicted that Apple could turn its device it could turn to the HDTV market by including the Apple TV software in a large-screen display. One analyst has maintained that Apple will introduce a connected HDTV capable of downloading content from the iTunes store ecosystem, along with an expected iTunes TV subscription plan, in the next two to four years.
post #2 of 38
Might be the one I sold a few years ago
post #3 of 38
The killer app that the AppleTV needs is an app store.
An HDTV with an AppleTV built in would not sell.
People don't want to upgrade their HDTV every two years.
However, if the AppleTV brains were modular and could be removed and upgraded separately then it might.
Apple may just keep making bigger iMacs until they become the next generation of HDTVs.
42" and 54" iMac?

Apple could have the next big console platform.
The other consoles focus almost exclusively on gaming.
post #4 of 38
holy poop! I've never heard of this thing EVER!!
I wonder how it worked, where did the interactive footage come from? 1995 was the era of dial-up!!
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post #5 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella View Post

The killer app that the AppleTV needs is an app store.
An HDTV with an AppleTV built in would not sell.
People don't want to upgrade their HDTV every two years.
However, if the AppleTV brains were modular and could be removed and upgraded separately then it might.
Apple may just keep making bigger iMacs until they become the next generation of HDTVs.
42" and 54" iMac?

Apple could have the next big console platform.
The other consoles focus almost exclusively on gaming.

The problem is that even if it's modular Apple would still change the connector
every two years making it obsolete.
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post #6 of 38
Yeah but does it run flash?

:P
post #7 of 38
Quote:
The back of the unit features a composite video and audio output, serial and S-Video ports, an Ethernet network input, and RF coaxial input and outputs.

No Firewire? No HDMI? No Toslink? No BlueRay?

LAME

No wonder it failed.
post #8 of 38
Am I alone in thinking removing the insides from this and builting an HTPC inside the shell would be cool? Would be different at least.
post #9 of 38
It had SCSI?! Wow, that was ahead of its time. Not even servers used that commonly back then
post #10 of 38
I still love my Apple TV...

I mostly use it just to move and navigate my music library onto my TV with surround sound...the best speakers in the house. The photo slide show is amazing as well...it's great for entertaining....

The biggest advance came when they updated the remote app for the iPhone/iPod... You can access the phone's keyboard so searching and typing is a breeze....

Does anyone know why Apple is keeping safari OFF the device? Seems like a no-brainer... with an iPhone, you could easily surf the web...Maybe Apple doesn't want to allow iPhone Apps to be transfered because of pixelization, but people are already used to that now with the X2 feature of the iPad... It would be soooo nice on the TV... All these things seem like they woudl be relatively easy to implement...
post #11 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by bartfat View Post

It had SCSI?! Wow, that was ahead of its time. Not even servers used that commonly back then

Most (all?) Macs did at that time. Internal SCSI bus anyway, though I think generally external as well. Can't recall if the Powerbooks did. I know my old Peforma 6100 had an external scsi port in '94.

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"My 8th grade math teacher once said: "You can't help it if you're dumb, you are born that way. But stupid is self inflicted."" -Hiro. 

...sometimes it's both
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post #12 of 38
now this is indeed a first page title........ :/
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post #13 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella View Post

The killer app that the AppleTV needs is an app store.

I agree, but what would really set things going is if Apple could come up with a way of interacting with Apps on an Apple TV in a unique way that is better than Wii and Natal. i.e. detect movement, speech recognition (that works!!), aensitivity to the environment (time, weather, etc) and more, then it would be a killer device.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella View Post

An HDTV with an AppleTV built in would not sell.

Totally disagree with you on this one. If Apple were to get the interface right (i.e. better than current EPGs) and integrate with DTTV suppliers (would take a lot of effort due to the various international formats and numerous closed systems), then having the Apple brand on a TV would certainly help it move forward.

It would also push Apple products into new outlets and audiences, making the halo effect even wider.

If you look inside many flat panel TVs, you find a lot of dead space. Look inside an iPod, iPhone, iPad and you see every area of space used to house the various components.And I would suspect that they would have a better overall design than say Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, etc.

It would only work however if priced competitively though so potentially a lower margin item for Apple, but on a $ basis, more profit than selling a small Apple TV box!

Phil
post #14 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by bartfat View Post

It had SCSI?! Wow, that was ahead of its time. Not even servers used that commonly back then

Ethernet but no phone jack. That's ballsy.
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post #15 of 38
Sounds like another reason for Adobe to set the Feds on Apple again.

Why? It's a Wednesday?
post #16 of 38
But will it blend?
:-D * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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:-D * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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post #17 of 38
Haha I might put that thing under my TV as an ironic conversation piece.
post #18 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella View Post

The killer app that the AppleTV needs is an app store.
An HDTV with an AppleTV built in would not sell.
People don't want to upgrade their HDTV every two years.
However, if the AppleTV brains were modular and could be removed and upgraded separately then it might.
Apple may just keep making bigger iMacs until they become the next generation of HDTVs.
42" and 54" iMac?

Apple could have the next big console platform.
The other consoles focus almost exclusively on gaming.

They have it - it is the Mac Mini.
post #19 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by bartfat View Post

It had SCSI?! Wow, that was ahead of its time. Not even servers used that commonly back then

I assume this is a joke since SCSI was actually on its way out by then...
post #20 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by bartfat View Post

It had SCSI?! Wow, that was ahead of its time. Not even servers used that commonly back then

The Mac Plus in 1986 had SCSI, as well as every Mac up to 1998.
post #21 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Damn_Its_Hot View Post

I assume this is a joke since SCSI was actually on its way out by then...

Edit: After re-reading it is obviously intended to be humorous -- I did not see the smiley initially. My bad.
post #22 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by acslater017 View Post

Haha I might put that thing under my TV as an ironic conversation piece.

Right next to your Apple Pippin Games Console
http://www.macgeek.org/museum/pippin.../apt_front.JPG
rear end
http://www.macgeek.org/museum/pippin...s/apt_rear.JPG
post #23 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulkas View Post

Most (all?) Macs did at that time. Internal SCSI bus anyway, though I think generally external as well. Can't recall if the Powerbooks did. I know my old Peforma 6100 had an external scsi port in '94.

All PowerBooks had SCSI, including the Duos with a SCSI dock connector, up until the PowerBook G3 Pismo model in 2000.
post #24 of 38
The Macintosh TV was an experiment to see if a TV tuner would be popular. Apple only made 10,000 of them to see if it would be a viable product. It turned out to be positive since Apple then released the Apple TV/Video System for the LC/Performa 630 and similar models. The TV tuner card for the LC/Performas was quite popular.

I have seen that Apple prototype Interactive TV device on eBay quite a few times. None of them have any value, even as a collector's item. I am surprised it sold for $46.
post #25 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigdaddyp View Post

The problem is that even if it's modular Apple would still change the connector every two years making it obsolete.

Those SCART connectors are the European standard for A/V use.
post #26 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulkas View Post

Most (all?) Macs did at that time. Internal SCSI bus anyway, though I think generally external as well. Can't recall if the Powerbooks did. I know my old Peforma 6100 had an external scsi port in '94.

my first mac (a mac II) had scsi in 1987. all the powerbooks did too.
post #27 of 38
I tried one of these when I went to my first MacWorld conference. The TV was playing and seemed like a normal TV, except that it had a mouse cursor on the screen.

I tried moving the mouse around and clicking. "That doesn't do anything," the rep said. "It's... kind of experimental technology."
post #28 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella View Post

The killer app that the AppleTV needs is an app store.
An HDTV with an AppleTV built in would not sell.
People don't want to upgrade their HDTV every two years.
However, if the AppleTV brains were modular and could be removed and upgraded separately then it might.

I don't see Apple getting into the TV business. On the TV, the UI is just not that important and getting a premium price would be hard.

I could, however, see Apple licensing Mac OS X to LG or Samsung for use on big screen TVs. Since Apple doesn't make TVs, it wouldn't be competing with Apple products, but it would add one more leg to the iDevice ecosystem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Right next to your Apple Pippin Games Console
http://www.macgeek.org/museum/pippin.../apt_front.JPG
rear end
http://www.macgeek.org/museum/pippin...s/apt_rear.JPG

Ahh, Pippin. In my view, this is one of the worst failures EVER at Apple. Not the product, but the fact that they didn't do anything with it. At the time, it could have been huge if properly promoted. As it was, Bandai never did anything with it. For a very modest price, you got a game console, computer, and media delivery device - all in one. I have to wonder what would have happened if Apple had kept responsibility for this to themselves instead of letting Bandai do it.
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post #29 of 38
Dear Apple,

Please don't give up on this hobby. I love mine and would buy a second if a new model was released.
post #30 of 38
The logic board and case setup kinda reminds me of the LCII. Seeing a 68040 processor puts it squarely in the LC580 era however. Quadra 605 I believe is the Mac model most similar to this box.

Once I saw the square SCSI connector I knew it was an Apple product, as the early PowerBooks all had that connector and we even used an Asanté adapter to provide Ethernet via SCSI.

I don't know about the Apple TV. Just think if it came with MacOS X, or if they weren't so restrictive with the formats they play. As a result people are hacking it up to run Leopard or installing 3rd party software just to play AVI files. The price is good but the limitations are what is holding it back.
post #31 of 38
It reminds me of my PowerMac 6100 with TV card that I had loooong ago. I think its basically a Quadra 610 (or was this a Centris 610?). Good old times...

Oh I hated these SCSI connectors. Adapters cost millions, and it was difficult to plug it in and even more difficult to unplug it without breaking the motherboard. :-)
post #32 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

Dear Apple,

Please don't give up on this hobby. I love mine and would buy a second if a new model was released.

Hooray - someone who thinks the same as I do!

I love my Apple TV, but think it could do so much more, like connecting into the Video On Demand that the likes of the BBC do these days.
post #33 of 38
"Apple also in the early '90s released the unsuccessful Macintosh TV, an integrated computer and TV with a 14-inch CRT display. First introduced in October 1993, the product was discontinued just a few months later in February 1994. It carried an introductory price of $2,097."

I actually saw one of these things. It was on display at a Fry's Electronics in Silicon Valley. I vaguely recall thinking "What a crazy idea. Those guys at Apple are insane. I'm sure Silicon Graphics will get it right..."

L.O.L. at myself.

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post #34 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by swinge View Post

I still love my Apple TV... Does anyone know why Apple is keeping safari OFF the device?

Because Apple would prefer that you do your web surfing, emailing, texting, tweeting, and Facebooking on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Why? Because those products have higher profit margins than Apple TV? Just a guess here.

Apple TV, on the other hand, is the most convenient way to enjoy your iTunes rentals and purchases on a big screen. So why hasn't Apple TV taken off like iPhone / iPad? I think it's because it's basically just a DVD / Blu-Ray replacement. It doesn't have a PVR feature like TiVo, which would no doubt help its sales immensely.

But that's the last thing Apple would ever want to do. Apple would never want to sell an appliance that can record general cable, satellite, or broadcast TV. This would undercut iTunes movie sales and rentals.

So, on one hand, you can argue that Apple's revenues come mostly from hardware sales. On the other hand, iTunes is what drove iPod sales and made iPod the dominant mobile entertainment device. Apple was probably expecting the same thing to happen for Apple TV, but it hasn't. If Apple TV had become extremely popular as a stand-alone box, we would probably already have seen Apple TV built into modern flat-screen TVs.

Maybe a future version of Apple TV will let you play games. That could be Apple's way of breaking into the living room big-time. Think about it: the App Store and iTunes are already firmly in place. Apple TV can already be used to purchase movies, TV shows, and music. It's just another medium-sized step to add big-screen HD games and apps to the iTunes Store.

I suspect that Apple is letting game developers get familiar with Objective-C and Cocoa, building the game developer stable until it reaches a tipping point. Once enough mindshare among developers and gamers has been built up from all the iPod Touch / iPhone / iPad games, it will be an inevitable and obvious next step to add big-screen games to Apple TV.

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post #35 of 38
Two products came out of this trial just many years later and independently of each company. It could have been due to internet speeds being mainly dial up in the days of 1995.

British Telecom came out with "BT Vision" - http://bit.ly/9DJ2ny

and

Apple came out with "Apple TV"
post #36 of 38
Scsi!!!!!
post #37 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cubert View Post

Scsi!!!!!

Weird. You can't do all caps on AI?
post #38 of 38
Really!
A sucker is born every Apple-sale!
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