Apple ( AAPL) Revisionist history paints Apple as the easy, out-of-the-box alternative to PC products that vaulted its way to stardom one dancing iPod-listening silhouette at a time. In reality, you have to go back to 1998 to see just how much the company has changed. Before then, Apple was just a high-priced computer line with a slick interface, a rotating selection of software and operating systems and a whole lot of deep-pocketed fans in the design world. Oh, and it was trading at roughly $7 a share. By 1998, however, they figured out that if you get those same design folks to build you a funky package for an easy, standardized, ready-to-use product, people will lose their minds over it. Thus the iMac was born and those first, colorful computers sold 800,000 units in their first five months. That was the blueprint: a deceptively simple piece of hardware with all its components made under the same umbrella and with an intuitive design and interface that rendered the instruction manual a pulpy spare part. While Apple didn't ditch the design community, it had definitely gone mainstream. In three years, its core contingent of design geeks with G4s creating magazine pages, furniture and home layouts would be replaced by the kid on the F train listening to The Strokes through a fresh pair of earbuds. While Apple investors may bemoan the fact that the company is off its $700-a-share high, that 6,286% appreciation since the iMac has to come as some consolation.