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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.

However, this enforced switching of sides meant that Jobs - technically - ended up on the losing team. The Lisa launched in 1983, with its graphical user interface in place; the Macintosh debuted the following year. The race had been won by the more expensive machine.

It was a pyrrhic victory, though. The Macintosh, which we'll be covering in more detail in the next instalment of the series, was a success, and Apple's current computer line-up - iOS devices aside - descends directly from that first consumer machine.

You can't say the same of the Lisa. It cost four times the price of the Macintosh, and although it had a higher resolution display and could address more memory, it wasn't nearly as successful. Apple released seven applications for it, covering all of the usual business bases, but third party support was poor.

Nonetheless, Apple didn't give up. The original Lisa was followed by the Lisa 2, which cost around half the price of its predecessor and used the same 3.5in disks as the Macintosh. Then, in 1985, it rebranded the hard drive-equipped Lisa 2 as the Macintosh XL and stimulated sales with a price cut.

At this point, though, the numbers didn't add up, and the Lisa had to go. The Macintosh went on to define the company.

By 1984, Apple had proved twice over that it was a force to be reckoned with. It had taken on IBM, the biggest name in business computing, and acquitted itself admirably. The Apple I and II were resounding successes, but while the Apple III and Lisa had been remarkable machines, they hadn't captured the public imagination to the same degree as their predecessors. Apple needed another hit, both to guarantee its future and to target the lower end of the market, which to date it had largely ignored.

That hit, we all now know, was the Macintosh: the machine that largely guaranteed the company's future.

All change: Jef Raskin versus Steve Jobs

We'll always remember Steve Jobs as the man who launched the Macintosh, but he only arrived on the project in 1981 - two years after Jef Raskin had started work on the low-cost computer for home and business use. Jobs quickly stamped his mark on it, and Raskin left in 1982 - before the product shipped. We must give Raskin credit for original idea and its name (his favourite kind of apple was the McIntosh, but this was tweaked to avoid infringing copyright), but otherwise the machine that eventually launched was a fair way away from the one he'd originally envisaged.

Raskin's early prototypes had text-based displays and used function keys in place of the mouse for executing common tasks. Raskin later endorsed the mouse, but with more than the single button that shipped with the Macintosh. It was Jobs and Bud Tribble, the latter of whom is still at Apple, that really pushed the team to implement the graphical user interface (GUI) for which it became famous.


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