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History of Apple: how Apple came to lead the tech industry

Nik Rawlinson | Aug. 20, 2015
Our History of Apple begins with a look at Apple's not so humble beginnings, follow the Apple story with us.

'Jobs and Woz didn't have two nickels to rub together,' Wayne told NextShark in 2013. 'If this thing blew up, how was that going to be repaid? Did they have the money? No. Was I reachable? Yes.'

Family and friends were roped in to sit at a kitchen table and help solder the parts, and once they'd been tested Jobs drove them over to Byte Shop. When he unpacked them, Terrell, who had ordered finished computers, was surprised by what he found. As Michael Moritz explains in Return to the Little Kingdom, 'Some energetic intervention was required before the boards could be made to do anything. Terrell couldn't even test the board without buying two transformers Since the Apple didn't have a keyboard or a television, no data could be funnelled in or out of the computer. Once a keyboard had been hooked to the machine it still couldn't be programmed without somebody laboriously typing in the code for BASIC since Wozniak and Jobs hadn't provided the language on a cassette tape or in a ROM chip finally the computer was naked. It had no case.'

Raspberry PI and the BBC's Micro Bit aside, we probably wouldn't accept such a computer today, and even Terrell was reluctant at first but, as Isaacson explains, 'Jobs stared him down, and he agreed to take delivery and pay.' The gamble had paid off, and the Apple I stayed in production from April 1976 until September 1977, with a total run of around 200 units. Their scarcity has made them collectors' items, and Bonhams auctioned a working Apple I in October 2014 for an eye-watering $905,000.

If your pockets aren't that deep, Briel Computers' Replica 1 Plus is a hardware clone of the Apple I, and ships at a far more affordable $199, fully built.

When you consider that only 200 were built, the Apple I was a triumph. It powered its burgeoning parent company to almost unheard of rates of growth - so much so that the decision to build a successor can't have caused too many sleepless nights in the Jobs and Wozniak households.

The debut of the Apple II

The Apple II debuted at the West Coast Computer Faire of April 1977, going head to head with big-name rivals like the Commodore PET. It was a truly groundbreaking machine, just like its predecessor, with colour graphics and tape-based storage (later upgraded to 5.25in floppies). Memory ran to 64K in the top-end models and the image it sent to the NTSC display stretched to a truly impressive 280 x 192, which was then considered high resolution. Naturally there was a payoff, and pushing it to such limits meant you had to content yourself with just six colours, but dropping to a more reasonable 40 rows by 48 columns would let you enjoy as many as 16 tones at a time.

 

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