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

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

So yeah, when we saw that a developer had 3D modeled several Apple Stores in order to make it a video game, on July 25, 2022, we too were laughing. The approach, on the borderline between historical homage and fanboyism, has something to be dubious about. However, the application The Apple Store Time Machine (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 past 20 years, as well as that of computing and the way of selling it. All with high definition graphics and amazing attention to detail for an indie project.

The Apple Store Time Machine, which weighs 1.72GB, opens with an animation of a Mac booting up, then gives way to a welcome video, which appeared when you first set up a Mac a while ago. a few years old (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 very first Genius Bar, in the Apple Store at Tysons Corner. // Source: Capture Numerama

Apple has changed a lot between 2001 and 2015

This is the developer Michael Steeber who is behind the project (an Apple Store enthusiast, who maintains a site documenting their history). He decided to make his time machine free while trusting his users to donate to him. The application models four stores:

  • Tysons Corner, the first Apple Store which opened in 2001. It is best known for a video of Steve Jobs giving journalists a tour, which explained the concept of the Genius Bar. You can find the video in the store.
  • Stanford Shopping Centerthe first “mini Apple Store” which opened in 2004. Since replaced by a larger store, it initially allowed Apple to expand its business strategy, with tiny stores that could be anywhere.
  • Fifth Avenue, 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 it opened.
  • 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 redesign in 2015, with the new, more modern look of the Apple Stores.
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In the Apple Store at Tysons Corner, a PowerBook at the entrance plays the video of the guided tour by Steve Jobs. // Source: Capture Numerama

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 according to usage. Music, Photo, Home… That’s how we moved around in an Apple Store, like in a supermarket (iMacs were therefore in several places). On the other hand, the Genius Bar was there from the first store, as was the corner for children, since removed by Angela Ahrendts.

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In the first Apple Stores, everything was categorized. // Source: Capture Numerama

ShopDifferent also allows you to see the evolution of Apple over time, the place taken by the iPod for example, more and more important.

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

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

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

If you have a Mac and are interested in the history of Apple, then we highly recommend that you download The Apple Store Time Machine. Beyond the nostalgic aspect, it’s a very good way to see how computers have gone from accessory to essential in our society.

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