The Second Personal Computer, The Apple II

Apple ][ picture from Wikipedia
The 1977 Apple II, shown here with two Disk II floppy disk drives and a 1980s-era Apple Monitor II. The Apple II featured an integrated keyboard, sound, a plastic case, and eight internal expansion slots.
My story of the Apple II starts with the first product of Steve Jobs and Steve ‘Woz’ Wozniak, the Blue Box. In 1971 Americans home phones were owned by AT&T (aka Ma Bell). Ma Bell had the legal authority to ban other phones from it’s network, for national security reasons of course. The two Steves produced their first product, a small device that let people make free phone calls over the consumer hostile telephone company network. The team of the brilliant circuit designer and the brilliant marketer produced an icon of freedom.

In April 1st, 1976 Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Gerald Wayne started the Apple Computer Company. The Apple 1 was close to being a personal computer and sold well for the day. They next step will be a full personal computer.

While the Apple 1 was a better version of what was already on the market, the Apple II was full on innovations. Woz familiarity with main frames and determination to make that computer fill his needs drove him to make a device that would be the most advanced personal computer for several years.

Despite Steve Jobs trying to sell the next computer in the form a bare circuit board, perhaps in the style of the Apple 1, people around him had better ideas. Paul Terrell wanted a full computer to sell in The Byte Shop, not a part of one. Once convinced about the inclusion of a power supply Jobs insisted that is was a good one, and Rod Holt designed a good one for them. In the tradition of the Blue Box and making a place for hobyist to expand the computer with hacking devices, Woz insisted on eight expansion slots.

The Apple II was introduced to the world at the first West Coast Computer Faire and went on sale on June 10, 1977. The next year Woz had a floppy disk drive for the Apple II, the first affordable floppy disk drive for a personal computer. The Apple II had several negatives, including being more expensive then the Commodore PET and Radio Shack TSR-80, only upper case characters, and  “color fringes“.

While other personal computer companies had limited marketing, Jobs marketed to the general public. His knowledge, enthusiasm, and charisma captured the public’s harts and imagination like few people have done before, or since.

At first the TSR-80, and then the PET, were selling better then the Apple II. This changed in 1979 when VisiCalc was released on the Apple and the MECC chose Apple as their primary computer.

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