When George Lucas’ Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope hit theaters in May 25, 1977 the vision of a world that existed a “long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” was startlingly new.
The film opens with a massive Imperial Star Destroyer chasing a rebel ship and features routine space travel and battles suggestive of both of the age of King Arthur and a high-tech future, as depicted by visual effects pioneers Industrial Light & Magic.
It also features a wire-frame animation (replicated below) of the Death Star, one of the first uses of computer animation ever to make it into a motion picture.
Less than a month later, history was made in the personal computer industry when Apple released the Apple II on June 10, 1977.
At $1,298 — which is just over $5,000 in today’s U.S. dollars — the machine that operated using Applesoft BASIC would become one of the first microcomputers to win widespread adoption, eventually expanding personal computing beyond hobbyists by offering business applications like VisiCalc, the first computer spreadsheet program for PCs.
By the time Apple phased out the II series in 1993 between 5 and 6 million units had been sold.
During 1999, the year when Lucas launched his first of the prequels Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, more than 114 million PCs were sold and the explosion of the World Wide Web had sped up widespread adoption of internet-connected computers.
EverQuest — the second massively multi-player online game after Ultima Online and the first with a 3-D engine — was released on March 16, 1999 and within months more than two-hundred thousand players had subscribed.
On May 19th, Phantom Menace hit theaters with only one scene that wasn’t altered by visual effects. It was the first Star Wars film to feature fully computer generated characters including Jar Jar Binks, so maybe that wasn’t a great idea.
That year Apple released its its iMac computers in a variety of colors, Intel released its Pentium III and the computer virus Melissa — the first able to spread itself through email — became the fastest spreading malware ever and hit 250,000 PCs worldwide. The Mobile Web also debuted in Japan via the i-mode networking standard. According to the Computer History Museum Timeline of Computer History, it offered “web access, e-mail, mobile payments, streaming video, and many other features that the rest of the world won’t see for nearly another decade.”
Free PC gave away 10,000 Compaq computers, one of many companies that offered hardware or Internet access in exchange for viewing ads. Many of these companies were bankrupt by December of that year.
This is what a 1999-era Compaq running Windows 98 looks like:
The full trailer of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens debuted in October of 2015.
This follows only six months after Apple introduced its Apple Watch wearable device.
The number of computers sold each year — when you combine personal computers with smartphones and tablets — now numbers in the billions with more than a billion devices powered by Google’s Android operating system alone being sold each year. The largest PC maker in the world Lenovo sold 58 million units in 2014.
The director of The Force Awakens J.J. Abrams had no input whatsoever from its creator George Lucas who sold to the franchise to Disney.
But Abrams studiously sought to connect the new film to the original trilogy. He did this both by working with the writer of Episode IV: The Empire Strikes Back Lawrence Kasdan and through effects that focused on continuity with the movie’s predecessors, with only a judicious use of computer generated images.
[Apple II image by Narnars0]
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