This app is a travel machine in the past of the Apple Stores

ShopDifferent it’s a kind of 3D game where you walk around an Apple Store, like the one on Fifth Avenue in New York. The opportunity to rediscover old products and see Apple’s evolution. The app is free and reserved for macOS.

So yeah when we saw it that a developer had 3D modeled several Apple Stores to make a video game, on July 25, 2022, we were laughing too. The approach, on the border between historical homage and fanboyism, has something to be dubious about. However, the application The time machine of the Apple Store (also called ShopDifferent), available exclusively on macOS (Intel and Apple Silicon), is clearly something intriguing. In particular, it allows us to see the evolution of Apple over the last 20 years, as well as that of information technology and how to sell it. All with high definition graphics and extraordinary attention to detail for an independent project.

The Apple Store Time Machine, which weighs 1.72GB, opens with a Mac startup animation, then gives way to a welcome video, which appeared when setting up a Mac for the first time a few years ago. (remember, the one that says “hello” in all languages). It then allows you to travel to 4 Apple Stores, carefully chosen to represent their eras.

The first Genius Bar, in the Tysons Corner Apple Store. // Source: Capture Numberama

Apple has changed a lot between 2001 and 2015

This is developer Michael Steeber who is behind the project (an Apple Store enthusiast, who maintains a site that documents its history). He decided to free his time machine while he trusted his users to make a donation. The application models four stores:

  • Tyson’s cornerthe first Apple Store opened in 2001. He is best known for a video of Steve Jobs touring reporters, explaining the concept of the Genius Bar. You can find the video in the store.
  • Stanford Shopping Centerthe first “mini Apple Store” opened in 2004. After being replaced by a larger store, it initially allowed Apple to expand its business strategy, with small stores that could be anywhere.
  • Fifth road, the New York cube that needs no introduction. The most famous Apple Store on the planet can be visited in its 2006 version, the day of its opening.
  • Infinite loop, a store that Numerama visited in June 2022, located at the foot of Apple’s second campus. This is not the historical version (which was called The Company Store), but its restyling in 2015, with the new, more modern look of the Apple Stores.
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In the Tysons Corner Apple Store, a PowerBook at the entrance plays the video of Steve Jobs’ guided tour. // Source: Capture Numberama

Every time you walk into an Apple Store, you get a quick history lesson. We are told, for example, that in 2001, the year Tysons Corner opened, Apple did not dissociate its shelves by product category, but by usage. Music, Photos, Home… Here’s how we moved in an Apple Store, like in a supermarket (iMacs were therefore in more places). On the other hand, the Genius Bar was present from the first shop, as was the children’s corner, removed by Angela Ahrendts.

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In the first Apple Stores, everything was classified. // Source: Capture Numberama

ShopDifferent it also allows you to see the evolution of Apple over time, the place occupied by the iPod for example, which is increasingly important.

The design of the stores has evolved a lot, moving from very traditional tables to wood and glass, and then gradually abandoning glass for wood and very specific Apple aesthetic codes.

We have fun, among other things, in the presence of a section dedicated to software and games, sold in the form of discs. There were also Nikon cameras in the Apple Stores or camcorders, before the iPhone destroyed everything in its path.

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The Apple Store on 5th Avenue at its opening. // Source: Capture Numberama
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In all Apple Stores there was a software section. // Source: Capture Numberama
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We haven’t had any that small in France, but Apple launched mini stores in 2004. // Source: Capture Numerama
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Starting in 2015, Apple has changed the look of its stores. Infinite Loop was the first to benefit from it. // Source: Capture Numberama

If you have a Mac and are interested in Apple’s history, we highly recommend that you download it The time machine of the Apple Store. Beyond the nostalgic aspect, it’s a great way to see how computers have gone from accessories to essentials in our society.

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