30 November 2008
Apple II computer
The first commercially available, preassembled
personal computer, the Apple II helped move computers out of
the workplace and into the home.
The people behind the invention:
Stephen Wozniak (1950- ), cofounder of Apple and designer
of the Apple II computer
Steven Jobs (1955-2011 ), cofounder of Apple
Regis McKenna (1939- ), owner of the Silicon Valley public
relations and advertising company that handled the Apple
Chris Espinosa (1961- ), the high school student who wrote
the BASIC program shipped with the Apple II
Randy Wigginton (1960- ), a high school student and Apple
Inventing the Apple
As late as the 1960’s, not many people in the computer industry
believed that a small computer could be useful to the average person.
It was through the effort of two friends from the Silicon Valley—
the high-technology area between San Francisco and San Jose—
that the personal computer revolution was started.
Both Steven Jobs and StephenWozniak had attended Homestead
High School in Los Altos, California, and both developed early interests
in technology, especially computers. In 1971, Wozniak built
his first computer from spare parts. Shortly after this, he was introduced
to Jobs. Jobs had already developed an interest in electronics
(he once telephoned William Hewlett, cofounder of Hewlett-
Packard, to ask for parts), and he and Wozniak became friends.
Their first business together was the construction and sale of “blue
boxes,” illegal devices that allowed the user to make long-distance
telephone calls for free.
After attending college, the two took jobs within the electronics
industry. Wozniak began working at Hewlett-Packard, where he
studied calculator design, and Jobs took a job at Atari, the video
company. The friendship paid off again whenWozniak, at Jobs’s request,
designed the game “Breakout” for Atari, and the pair was
paid seven hundred dollars.
In 1975, the Altair computer, a personal computer in kit form,
was introduced by Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems
(MITS). Shortly thereafter, the first personal computer club, the
Homebrew Computer Club, began meeting in Menlo Park, near
Stanford University. Wozniak and Jobs began attending the meeting
regularly. Wozniak eagerly examined the Altairs that others
brought. He thought that the design could be improved. In only a
few more weeks, he produced a circuit board and interfaces that
connected it to a keyboard and a video monitor. He showed the machine
at a Homebrew meeting and distributed photocopies of the
In this new machine, which he named an “Apple,” Jobs saw a big
opportunity. He talked Wozniak into forming a partnership to develop
personal computers. Jobs sold his car, and Wozniak sold his
two Hewlett-Packard calculators; with the money, they ordered
printed circuit boards made. Their break came when Paul Terrell, a
retailer, was so impressed that he ordered fifty fully assembled Apples.
Within thirty days, the computers were completed, and they
sold for a fairly high price: $666.66.
During the summer of 1976,Wozniak kept improving the Apple.
The new computer would come with a keyboard, an internal power
supply, a built-in computer language called the Beginner’s All-
Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code” (BASIC), hookups for adding
printers and other devices, and color graphics, all enclosed in a plastic
case. The output would be seen on a television screen. The machine
would sell for twelve hundred dollars.
Selling the Apple
Regis McKenna was the head of the Regis McKenna Public Relations
agency, the best of the public relations firms that served the
high-technology industries of the valley, which Jobs wanted to handle
the Apple account. At first, McKenna rejected the offer, but
Jobs’s constant pleading finally convinced him. The agency’s first
contributions to Apple were the colorful striped Apple logo and a
color ad in Playboy magazine.
In February, 1977, the first Apple Computer office was opened in
Cupertino, California. By this time, two of Wozniak’s friends from
Homebrew, Randy Wigginton and Chris Espinosa—both high school
students—had joined the company. Their specialty was writing software.
Espinosa worked through his Christmas vacation so that BASIC
(the built-in computer language) could ship with the computer.
The team pushed ahead to complete the new Apple in time to
display it at the First West Coast Computer Faire in April, 1977. At
this time, the name “Apple II” was chosen for the new model. The
Apple II computer debuted at the convention and included many
innovations. The “motherboard” was far simpler and more elegantly
designed than that of any previous computer, and the ease of
connecting the Apple II to a television screen made it that much
more attractive to consumers.
The introduction of the Apple II computer launched what was to
be a wave of new computers aimed at the home and small-business
markets.Within a few months of the Apple II’s introduction, Commodore
introduced its PET computer and Tandy Corporation/Radio
Shack brought out its TRS-80. Apple continued to increase the
types of things that its computers could do and worked out a distribution
deal with the new ComputerLand chain of stores.
In December, 1977, Wozniak began work on creating a floppy
disk system for the Apple II. (Afloppy disk is a small, flexible plastic
disk coated with magnetic material. The magnetized surface enables
computer data to be stored on the disk.) The cassette tape storage
on which all personal computers then depended was slow and
unreliable. Floppy disks, which had been introduced for larger computers
by the International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation in
1970, were fast and reliable. As he did with everything that interested
him,Wozniak spent almost all of his time learning about and
designing a floppy disk drive. When the final drive shipped in June,
1978, it made possible development of more powerful software for
By 1980, Apple had sold 130,000 Apple II’s. That year, the company
went public, and Jobs and Wozniak, among others, became
wealthy. Three years later, Apple became the youngest company to
make the Fortune 500 list of the largest industrial companies. By
then, IBM had entered the personal computer field and had begun
to dominate it, but the Apple II’s earlier success ensured that personal
computers would not be a market fad. By the end of the
1980’s, 35 million personal computers would be in use.
While IBM and other corporations were devoting massive
resources and talent to designing a small computer in 1975,
Steven Paul Jobs and Stephen Wozniak, members of the tiny
Homebrew Computer Club, put together the first truly userfriendly
personal computer in Wozniak’s home. Jobs admitted
later that “Woz” was the engineering brains. Jobs himself was
the brains of design and marketing. Both had to scrape together
money for the project from their small salaries as low-level electronics
workers. Within eight years, Jobs headed the most progressive
company in the new personal computer industry and
was worth an estimated $210 million.
Little in his background foretold such fast, large material
success. Jobs was born in 1955 and became an orphan. Adopted
by Paul and Clara Jobs, he grew up in California towns near the
area that became known as Silicon Valley. He did not like school
much and was considered a loner, albeit one who always had a
distinctive way of thinking about things. Still in high school, he
impressed William Hewlett, founder of Hewlett-Packard in
Palo Alto, and won a summer job at the company, as well as
some free equipment for one of his school projects.
However, he dropped out of Reed College after one semester
and became a hippie. He studied philosophy and Chinese
and Indian mysticism. He became a vegetarian and practiced
meditation. He even shaved his head and traveled to India on a
spiritual pilgrimage. When he returned to America, however,
he also returned to his interest in electronics and computers.
Through various jobs at his original company, Apple, and elsewhere,
he stayed there.
See also : BINAC computer ; Colossus computer ; ENIAC computer ; Floppy disk ; Hard disk ; IBM Model 1401 Computer ; Personal computer ; Wikipedia - Steven Jobs