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Apple's Developers Conference: Best, Worst, and Weirdest Moments

Dan Tynan
Yahoo Tech

It’s the biggest Apple geekfest on the planet, and it starts next Monday.

Over the years the annual Apple WorldWide Developers Conference (WWDC), known simply to Apple aficionados as “dub-dub,” has evolved from a staid affair for a few hundred programmers learn how to build Apple-friendly apps into a showcase for some of the Cupertino company’s most iconic products.

Related: Apple’s Big Developer Conference is Next Week. Here’s What to Expect

It was at WWDC 2004 that Steve Jobs unveiled Apple’s first cinema displays; in 2008 he revealed the 3G iPhone and the iTunes App Store. Last year Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced the latest version of Mac OS X (Yosemite), as well as iPhone’s iOS 8, featuring Healthkit (apps for fitness tracking) and Homekit (apps to automate your home).

What will next week’s WWDC hold? The smart money is on yet-another Apple streaming music service, improvements to Apple Pay, more news about the Apple Watch, and some home automation products (but apparently not a revitalized Apple TV).

But this year’s conference will have a tough time surpassing Apple’s more notable geekfests of days gone by. Here are some of the most memorable moments from the last three decades of dub dub:

1988:  Dogcow Goes Moof!

Clarus the dogcow at the Apple Icon Garden circa 1994 (Photo: Ianus/Flickr).

At this early WWDC, Apple employees wore buttons featuring a bovine-like canine known as Clarus the Dogcow. Created by legendary Apple graphic artist Susan Kare, the image was originally used inside the Mac OS to show the orientation of a page while printing. But Clarus quickly became an inside joke at Apple, used to represent projects that were not quite fully baked. The dogcow had a longer shelf life than most products introduced at WWDC, living for five years in the sculpture garden at Apple’s R&D campus. Now there’s an online museum devoted to her.

1997: The Return of the Prodigal CEO

A 42-year-old Steve Jobs on stage at WWDC 1997 (YouTube).

This WWDC was memorable for the public return of Steve Jobs, then just a consultant to the struggling company he had helped to create. Jobs didn’t deliver a formal speech but he took questions for more than an hour, touching on topics from Microsoft and Larry Ellison to cloud computing and his personal design philosophy. Also, he advised people to buy Apple stock, then trading at around $17 a share. Really wish we’d listened to that one.

2002:  OS9 We Hardly Knew Ye

Steve Jobs renders OS9 unto “the great bit bucket in the sky” (YouTube).

Though Apple had introduced OSX for the Macintosh two years earlier, it wasn’t until WWDC 2002 that it gave a proper funeral to the predecessor to OSX, a ceremony complete with a casket, sepulchral organ music, and a tongue-in-cheek eulogy delivered by a somber, black-turtleneck-clad Jobs.

2005: An Intel Inside job

In 2005 Apple bet all its chips on longtime Microsoft partner Intel (YouTube).

Jobs stunned the Apple faithful by announcing that Intel, whose chips formerly powered only much-loathed Windows machines, would be the brains inside future Macs. It was a transition Apple had been planning in secret for the previous five years.

2008:  Peak dub-dub

The App Store debuted at the 2008 WWDC; it now boasts more than 1.4 million apps, many of them free (Yahoo News).

This was perhaps the peak year for WWDC product intros. Apple’s new batch of life-changing tech included the second generation of the iPhone operating system, the iTunes App Store, and a new iPhone featuring a fast 3G wireless connection instead of the original’s pokey 2G. But it also included Mobile Me, Apple’s $99 a year cloud backup service, which turned into one of the biggest PR disasters in Apple history after it was plagued by signup snafus, outages, and lost emails.

2010: The Four scores

Steve Jobs apparently holding an iPhone 4 the right way (Yahoo News).

After taking a year away from the podium to deal with his medical issues, Jobs returned to WWDC to introduce two more epic Apple products: The iPhone 4 and its high-resolution “retina display,” and Facetime, Apple’s video chat app. As with 2008, though, the fallout after WWDC proved embarrassing thanks to “Antennagate.” Some iPhone 4 owners’ calls got dropped when they touched the side of the handset where the antenna was – prompting Jobs to declare they were “holding it wrong.” Apple later offered free rubber bumpers to iPhone 4 owners complaining of accidental disconnects.

2011: Goodbye Steve

Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011 (YouTube).

A painfully thin Steve Jobs gave his last WWDC “Stevenote” in June 2011, introducing new versions of the Mac and iPhone operating systems, iCloud, and iTunes Match. It would be his final public speaking appearance before his death from pancreatic cancer in October of that year.

2012:  Rhymes with craps

A freeway interchange worthy of Salvador Dali, courtesy of Apple Maps (Yahoo News).

The first WWDC keynoted by Tim Cook featured the debut of iOS 6, OS X Mountain Lion, and a new MacBook Pro with a 15-inch Retina Display. But the highlight – or lowlight, depending on your point of view – was the debut of Apple Maps. A replacement for Google Maps on the iPhone and iPad, Apple’s experiment in digital cartography sometimes produced hilarious results that bordered on the surreal.  

2013: One hot ticket

Tickets for WWDC 2013 went on sale on April 25, 2013, at 10:00 am Pacific. If you logged on at 10:03, you were too late (AppleInsider).

Conclusively proving that WWDC is no longer just a nerdfest, all 5,000 tickets to the 2013 event sold out in under 2 minutes – thoroughly shattering the previous record of 2 hours set in 2012. What did all these eager fanboys pay $1599 to see?  New versions of Apple’s mobile and desktop operating systems, as well as the top-of-the-line Mac Pro, a cylindrical beast with a price tag in excess of $10,000 fully loaded.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About the Music Service that Apple May or May Not Announce at WWDC

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