Apple II turns 30; machine revolutionized home computing

“The world’s thoughts turn back 30 years to a long-distant computer conference and a triumphant moment in the life of a company that has seen big wins and big losses: the introduction of the Apple II computer at the first ever West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco,” Tom Yager writes for InfoWorld.

“Born 30 years ago, the Apple II was not created in a garage as myth would have it. Apple II was a follow-up to a market flop, the Apple I. The failure of that first effort was a blessing. The added time, plus new semiconductor technology that became available in the interim between Apple I and Apple II, made it possible for co-founder and resident engineering genius Steve Wozniak to rework the machine’s design. Apple II stood out with a color display, eight expansion slots, a documented and user-accessible logic board, sound, and game controller ports. Apple II had more in common with commercial arcade games than with competing home computers of the day. That’s no coincidence; Wozniak and Jobs worked together on Atari’s Breakout game, and Breakout was one of Apple II’s signature games,” Yager writes.

Yager writes, “Apple II’s aesthetics showed the first evidence of Steve Jobs’ influence. Like competitors’ systems at the time of its release, the initial Apple II used a cassette recorder for storage and sometimes called for the use of arcane debugger-like commands for simple tasks. But Jobs’ notion that an unimposing enclosure and high-quality documentation would make the product accessible to ordinary consumers clicked. Apple II almost immediately became the box to beat in the home market, and it maintained that status even after IBM mixed its starched shirt attitude, office equipment background, and revered name to create the very impersonal but very successful PC in 1981.”

“Apple continues to make systems that make new and seasoned users, kernel hackers, and commercial artists feel at home while they’re working. Apple is the constant brunt of derision for its adherence to the original Apple tenet that is the reason for its success: Technology should be equal parts leading edge and enjoyable to use,” Yager writes.

Full article here.

“The first Apple II computers went on sale on June 5, 1977 with a MOS Technology 6502 microprocessor running at 1 MHz, 4 KiB of RAM, an audio cassette interface for loading programs and storing data, and the Integer BASIC programming language built into the ROMs. The video controller displayed 24 lines by 40 columns of upper-case-only text on the screen, with NTSC composite video output suitable for display on a monitor, or on a TV set by way of an RF modulator. The original retail price of the computer was US$1298 (with 4 KiB of RAM) and US$2638 (with the maximum 48 KiB of RAM). To reflect the computer’s color graphics capability, the Apple logo on the casing was represented using rainbow stripes, which remained a part of Apple’s corporate logo until early 1998,” – Wikipedia.

Full article here.

Related articles:
PC World’s 50 Best Tech Products: Apple, two in the top 10, seven overall – April 03, 2007
PC World’s Greatest PC of All Time: Apple II – September 14, 2006
Innovative Apple has changed the course of the personal computer revolution many times – April 02, 2006
Mobile PC names Apple PowerBook 100 the “Number One Gadget of All Time” – February 19, 2005
BusinessWeek: Steve Jobs changed the world three times – with the Apple II, Pixar, and the iPod – October 27, 2004
Newsweek: Steve Jobs’ Macintosh changed personal computers forever – March 02, 2003

21 Comments

  1. I think I just got teary eyed. I remember making a joystick for these babies from components at Radio Shack. Aaahhh, the good old days of writing programs in assembler on an Apple II. Life will never be the same.

  2. Actually, I do miss Apple’s once legendary backward compatability. That was one thing that many, many people loved – no matter what machine you had, you could always be assured that, for the most part (albeit slow, I know), it would run the latest and greatest operating system and an amazing amount of software.

    Alas… No more.

    MW: cut As in… Dammit Steve, cut your hair, you damn Hippie.

  3. I used to go by the Byte Shop and lust after the Apple II in 77. I couldn’t afford the 1300 for one, but I could afford the 500 for a Radio Shack model 1.

    mw: moral as in the moral of the story is… who the hell knows

  4. i have three iigs machines in my basement. fully backward compatible with the original ii. instead of “BEEP” it’s “BONG”. awesome little machine, the iigs.

    alas, i’m just a LITTLE too young to have fond memories of the apple ii. my first computer was a commodore 64. =)

    mw: standard. apple set the standard, and then for awhile commodore ran with it.

  5. Being a kid of 12 at the time, visited my uncle who had the Apple II and ran Visicalc on it. He couldn’t stop talking about it . There was nothing else to compete with it. That software alone sold thousands of Apples.

  6. My Apple II and Apple IIc+ both still work.
    Not that I use them for anything except an occasional romp through my old college and graduate school papers. Remember “Bankstreet Writer” and old “Apple Writer”? Ah, yes … those where the days!

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