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Requiem for the AirPort base station: A testament to everything Apple was and isn't anymore

Somewhere in my basement I have an original graphite AirPort Base Station. It’s one of the few non-working Apple products I couldn’t bring myself to recycle, and the reason is two-fold. One, it’s one of the Apple’s best designs. In an age where routers were ugly boxes with giant antennas, Apple’s curved base station really did look like a UFO. Even after it stopped working, I kept it on my shelf for years.

The other reason is its history. Even more than the iPhone, iMac, iPad, and iPod, the AirPort Base Station is, to me, the greatest example of Steve Jobs’ genius. The original AirPort wasn’t a product for Apple’s power users, it was made for consumers at a time when wireless networking in homes was a foreign concept. It boiled down complicated settings and convoluted configuration screens to just a single plug-and-play system.

As we all know, it wasn’t cheap. It only worked with one product, the candy-colored iBook. But even without huge sales, the impact the original AirPort had on the industry was immediate and massive, at least as great as the iBook itself.

And now it's dead. And we’ll probably never see another product like it from Apple ever again.

Portable wonder

In 1999, the iBook was a risky product for Apple. Designed in concert with Lucent Technologies, it was as revolutionary and bold as the floppy drive-less iMac, and the stakes were just as high. But the addition of AirPort upped the stakes considerably. Steve Jobs envisioned a fully wireless world before the rest of the industry, and the AirPort was the first step to getting there. The iBook didn’t need AirPort, but AirPort needed a Mac to get off the ground. And Steve chose the most unlikely of notebooks for its introduction.

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