Compared to 1976's Apple I, the Apple II was a revelation. While the first Apple lacked a monitor, separate keyboard or casing, the Apple II included the whole package, complete with the introduction of five-color on-screen graphics.
Adjusted for inflation, you could buy a used car for what the Apple II costs, but its price tag had brought the budding company $7.8 million in sales by 1978 — about $30 million in today's money.
Cost Then: $2,495 Cost Now: $6,036
This is when the world started calling Apples "Macs."
Though dropping six grand on a computer today is cringe-worthy, the original Macintosh was considered the first relatively affordable computer with a graphical interface at the time. Its specs included a whopping 128 KB of RAM, 400 KB of storage, a floppy disk drive and a 9-inch monochrome display.
Cost Then: $6,995 Cost Now: $16,207
Apple no longer makes printers, but the LaserWriter was a huge initiative at the time. Its professional print quality aimed for the business market, and it was the first network-capable printer.
It also introduced the world to Adobe Systems, which provided the PostScript programming language that powered the machine. If the original price looked scary, it was, so Apple dropped it to $5,000 by fall 1986.
Cost Then: $700 Cost Now: $1,192
Developed while legendary Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs was away from the company, and famously derided by him, the tablet-like touchscreen Newton paved the way for the success of the PDA, and later, the iPad. This small, hand-held product didn't catch on at the time, but it played a role in inspiring today's "all-in-one" device design, and even featured ahead-of-its-time handwriting recognition capabilities.
Power Macintosh (1994)
Cost Then: $2,600 Cost Now: $4,282
The closest modern equivalent of the Power Mac, the Mac Pro, starts at $2,999. Of course, its specs are just a little different.
While the original Power Macintosh — which was sold as the Macintosh Performa 6110CD for home use — sported a 60 MHz PowerPC 601 processor, the Pro rocks a 3.5GHz, 6-core Intel Xeon E5 processor and its 8 MB of RAM are dwarfed by the Mac Pro's 16 GB of RAM.
iMac G3 (1998)
Cost Then: $1,299 Cost Now: $1,967
The introduction of the iMac in 1998 marked the first time Apple used its much-imitated "i" branding. At the time, the "i" in "iMac" stood for "internet," as the all-in-one desktop computer featured a built-in modem, which was uncommon when it launched. The first model came in a blue-green hue, called "bondi blue and ice" by Apple, but it later was available in a rainbow of colors. It marked the first major Apple work by iconic designer Jony Ive.
The iMac line looks a lot different — and less colorful — today, but it's still kicking, with 21.5-inch models starting at $1,099.
Final Cut Pro (1999)
Cost Then: Starting at $300 Cost Now: $450
With so much focus on slick hardware, it's easy to overlook the fact that Apple is a software company, too — unless you're a filmmaker who just dropped $300 on Final Cut Pro, that is.
The pitch remains the same today as it was in 1999: For one price, you get editing, compositing and effects in one professional software package. Apple positioned Final Cut as a "post-production studio in a box," though the philosophy changed a bit as numerous software expansions continued to add features.
Cost Then: $299 Cost Now: $442
AirPort started with multiple offerings, and the tradition continues. Introduced as a wireless networking solution for 802.11b connections, the AirPort Base Station looked like a tiny UFO, but you always could opt for an AirPort card to add wireless functionality to your Mac.
Today, you can get AirPort models spanning from the Express to the 3TB Time Capsule, ranging from $99 to $399.
Power Mac G4 Cube (2000)
Cost Then: $1,799 Cost Now: $2,567
The Power Mac G4 Cube's beautiful design couldn't offset the high price tag, which, consequently, led to its marketplace struggles.
By 2001, its entry-level price had been slashed to $1,299. The cube-shaped brains of the box live today in the form of the Mac Mini series, however. Though the Mini doesn't include a monitor, keyboard or speakers like the G4 Cube, it starts at a much more reasonable $499.
Cost Then: Starting at $399 Cost Now: Starting at $554
From 2001 to 2011, Apple sold 300 million iPods. Though the idea of a dedicated MP3 player seems outdated today, the at-the-time appeal of carrying 1,000 songs on the original, scroll-wheel-equipped model's 5 GB hard drive cannot be overstated.
The iPod line eventually included a wide variety of models — from the Nano to the Shuffle — but Apple has since consolidated its offerings to just the iPod touch, which retails for $199 or $299, depending on storage size.
Cost Then: $1,099 Cost Now: $1,338
Remember the early 2000s, when all the coolest tech products — from the iPod to the Wii — were glossy white? Yep, the MacBook was, too.
Starting a legacy that still thrives, the original 13-inch MacBook laptop was powered by a 1.83 GHz Intel "Core Duo" processor and featured a 13-inch widescreen display, complete with modern perks, such as a built-in iSight camera, USB ports and Bluetooth compatibility. Nowadays, an entry-level MacBook starts at a fairly comparable $1,299.
Cost Then: Starting at $499 Cost Now: $608
Before you can sell a billion, you've got to start with one. The iPhone might not have been the first all-in-one hand-held device, but its mainstream appeal and standard feature set established the baseline for the modern smartphone. If your current device has WiFi support, Bluetooth, a camera, glass screen, accelerometer and multi-touch, you probably can thank the iPhone.
In 2018, an iPhone 8 with a 4.7-inch display will cost you $699, meaning Apple actually has raised the price in this arena.
MacBook Air (2008)
Cost Then: $1,799 Cost Now: $2,191
Originally touted for its crazy-thin dimensions, the MacBook Air eventually caught up in terms of power and completely replaced the MacBook line from 2012 to 2015. Because Apple has had a full decade to get a better handle on squeezing more power into less space, modern MacBook Air laptops come at a much lower cost — in 2018, a 13-inch MacBook Air can be had for $999.
Cost Then: Starting at $499 Cost Now: $568
Microsoft introduced the tablet format in 2000, but it was Apple that finally got the tablet to catch on in 2010. Even Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates acknowledges that Apple "did some things better than I did," noting that Apple nailed it in terms of "timing," "engineering work" and "just the package that was put together."
Today, Apple offers standard 32GB model iPads from $329.
iPhone 6 (2014)
Cost Then: Starting at $549 Cost Now: $569
The iPhone 6 makes the list not necessarily for its feature set, but for its groundbreaking mainstream penetration. Between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, this model has sold more than 100 million units since its introduction in 2014, making it the best-selling iPhone to date.
Perhaps due to this ubiquity, you still can get a 4.7-inch iPhone 6s, the phone's more advanced update, straight from Apple for $449.
iPhone X (2017)
Cost Then and Now: $999
Buoyed by crazy hype and endless rumors, Apple premiered the iPhone X in 2017, using its curved Super Retina screen and facial recognition features to test the waters of a high-priced, premium smartphone market.
With reports suggesting that Apple aims to halve iPhone X output in the first quarter of 2018 because of weak holiday sales, the gambit might not have paid off. But with a quarterly revenue of $88.3 billion in the fiscal quarter ending on Dec. 30, 2017, the giants from Cupertino, Calif., probably aren't sweating too much.
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
"Whenever there's a question about whether we should do something or not," Tran told me, "we always come back to the question of, 'How would this impact the customer experience?'"
The answer to that question determines how they should proceed. "If it's going to improve the customer experience even marginally, the answer is yes, we should be doing that — even if it takes us hours or days or weeks," Tran said.
Today, Tran, 24, is an entrepreneur and the CEO and co-founder of new dating app Blue. The app is geared toward Gen Z and millennial daters and is modeled partly after HQ Trivia, in that users answer questions in real time and get matched according to their responses.
Tran said he still focuses on the customer experience the same way he did at Apple.
"We [at Blue] always ask ourselves, 'Are we doing this because we're trying to make it easier in our own life or are we trying to improve the customer experience?'" he said. "If it's going to improve the customer experience, I should be doing it — even if it's something I know is going to take a long time and I have so many other priorities to do."
An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the company's focus on customer experience.
Other startup founders emphasize the importance of knowing and catering to your customer
Tran's observations recall those of Evgeny Milyutin, cofounder of Happy Numbers, an artificial intelligence-enabled math education platform. Milyutin previously told Business Insider about the importance of knowing your customer and understanding their needs before designing your product.
"Understand exactly what their day looks like and what keeps them up at night. A true understanding of all their pain points, even if they are not directly related to the problem your product is solving, will help you develop a solution that customers will trust," Milyutin said.
As for Tran, he said working at Apple taught him that the customer experience should be an ongoing concern. "Your responsibility to the customer doesn't end when they install an app, or when they buy your service or good," Tran said. "How do you continue to help that customer and continue empowering them through the entire customer journey?"