A decade before the Apple II there was Apple Electronics, née Fiftyshapes Ltd., a division of The Beatles’ newly-minted business enterprise, Apple Corps.
Running the CE unit was Alexis Mardas, an inner-circle associate who ingratiated himself with his “Nothing Box” — a small container with an array of randomly blinking lights that kept John Lennon amused during acid trips.
Lennon dubbed him “Magic Alex,” and the self-proclaimed tech inventor — in reality a TV repairman from Greece — would be given his own lab to pursue intriguing but ultimately impractical projects, many based on existing patents.
Alexis "Magic Alex" Mardas on board the Magical Mystery Tour bus with Paul and Ringo.
Among his more outlandish concepts: an artificial sun; a levitating house; a protective force field for the Beatles’ homes; “electrical paint” that would change colors on walls and cars; and a flying saucer.
But other unrealized ideas, for futuristic CE devices, would eventually prove prophetic: a voice-controlled phone with caller ID; a solar-powered electric guitar; encoded broadcasts to prevent listeners from recording songs off the radio; and noise cancellation technology to help isolate instruments in the recording studio.
John with Mardas' blinking "Nothing Box."
The money-squandering Mardas was later fired by Beatles manager Allen Klein in an Apple Corps house cleaning, and he went on to develop terrorist-resistant limousines of questionable effectiveness for billionaires and heads of state.
In 2007, 40 years after Mardas first set up shop in London, Apple Corps and Steve Jobs’ Apple Inc. ended a 28-year-long series of trademark infringement suits.
Last week, Magic Alex died in Greece, reportedly of pneumonia, at the age of 74.
See Magic Alex in an Apple Corps promotional video, appearing briefly at 0:59: