Did you know that back in 1996, Apple was contemplating a host of Apple Cafes? It was before Apple retail stores arrived in 2001, and just prior to the official return of Steve Jobs to Apple in 1997 and the company’s eventual return to form with the release of the iPod in the early 2000s.

The idea, according to this piece on Co.Design, was to license Apple’s name during an era in which internet cafes weren’t yet an ironic pastiche. In fact, they were positively groundbreaking.

A series of concept images were produced, and according to former Disney imagineer Tony Christopher, who designed the cafes, Apple was looking for a way to “connect to [their] customers.”

“It was the world’s first cybercafe. There wasn’t a cybercafe at this time, and a lot of people who didn’t have computers were looking for a way to go use them. Back in 1998, this was a radical idea!”

You can see from the very 90s concept image above that the plans were for a relatively huge hub where customers could buy products, hang out and use the internet, all with easy access to beverages and snacks.

The idea would involve customers using Apple computers to order food, play games and access the internet.

So, where did the idea go? It looks as though Steve Jobs’ ideas evolved and led to a streamlining of the concept which resulted in the Apple Stores we know today.

“The whole thing went to Steve Jobs, and basically when he saw it, he liked it, but he put it on hold because he had this idea for an Apple Store. Years later, he opened the first one . . . It’s sort of a short story. It’s interesting because this was not Apple as Apple is today. They were just a computer company. But they were interested in, again, making computers for everyone.”

The article is fascinating, and contains a gallery of further images depicting what an Apple Cafe may have looked like. We’d recommend giving it a read, and viewing the rest of the images.