One fine day in 1976, 21 year old Steve Jobs quit his day job at Atari and convinced computer engineer Steve "Woz" Wozniak to quit his job at Hewlett-Packard. Together, in the garage of Jobs’ Cupertino, CA home, they founded a new company which they christened "Apple". Their goal - create an inexpensive and simple to use computer. On April Fool’s Day in 1976, they introduced their first system, an encased circuit board known as the Apple I (previous computers consisted of circuit boards and switches which produced flashing lights) and sold for $666.66 at the local electronics store. By the time the Apple II and the Mac rolled around, Jobs and Woz had popularized the personal computing revolution, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Revolutionizing Personal Computing: An Apple II for the Everyday User
After the release of the Apple I, Woz set to work on improving the functionality and design of their novel product. First off, the Apple I was a play toy for computer hobbyists; Woz would have to add features to make the computer more attractive to non-computer users. Woz added higher resolution graphics to allow for the display of pictures and words rather than words alone, designed the floppy disk controller for the unit to facilitate simple data storage, and wrote a simple operating system with pal Randy Wigginton.
A compact and self-contained Apple II was released on June 5, 1977. Priced at $1,298.00 for 4KB of RAM (expandable to 48KB), or $2,698.00 for 48KB (remember, RAM was very expensive in those days), the Apple II featured sound capabilities, the BASIC programming language, 16-bit processing using the MOS Technology 6502 1 MHz microprocessor and loading and unloading of programs using an audio cassette-like device. The only glitch was an external TV or monitor had to be attached to the unit. The result was pure genius: a personal computer that was both attractive and easy to operate for the everyday user. The idea would soon make a pair of twenty-somethings working out of a garage into millionaires.
Subsequent models were released that improved on the speed and original design of the Apple II. In 1978, Woz designed the first ever external 5.25" floppy disk controller and drive that attached to the Apple II using an expansion slot. Jobs and Woz expanded the Apple II line with the release of the Apple II Plus in 1979. The Apple II Plus expanded memory capabilities to 48KB (expandable to 64KB using a memory card) and introduced a read-only memory (ROM)-based Microsoft-based BASIC language program called AppleSoft.
At the same time, Apple released its first thermal printer, the SilenType. The SilenType generated output of 80 columns in width and required the use of special thermal paper. The printer attached to the computer by way of an interface card.
The Apple IIe, the most popular and best-selling of all Apple II models, followed in 1983. Enhancements included faster chipsets, dual disk drives, improved graphics and memory capacities of 128KB (expandable with external cards to a whopping 1MB). Other models which came afterwards included the Apple IIc (1984), IIgs (1986) and IIc Plus (1988), and each featured improved chipsets, memory, and greater processing speed than its predecessors.
Throughout the 80s and 90s, Apple II computers became the de-facto computing standard for elementary schools. By the time the Apple II line became defunct, over 2 million Apple IIs had been sold, and personal computers were gaining momentum in households and classrooms nationwide.