Apple IMay 31, 2017
The history, or more correctly prehistory of Apple, can be traced back to 1975 – the dawn of the microcomputer industry. It was the year when the first widely known examples of microcomputers came out (the term personal computer was not in use at that time). Those were MITS Altair 8800, IMSAI 8080 – an upgraded version of Altair designed by IMSAI, Jupiter II by Wavamate, M6800 by Southwest Technical Products and JOLT by Microcomputer Associates. Each of the computers was in the kit form and could be assembled by the user himself. That is why they were bought by enthusiasts only. One had to make great effort and have a deep insight in microelectronics in order to make this kit work. No wonder, the owners of such microcomputers began to form clubs where they could consult on how to assemble, exchange programs and documentations and discuss new constructions.
One of the clubs was located in Silicon Valley in the small town of Palo Alto, California. One of the members, a 26-year-old Hewlett-Packard engineer Steve Wozniak, had long dreamt of assembling a self-designed microcomputer but the lack of funds prevented him from implementing this idea.
At first, Wozniak viewed Intel-8080 as the central processing unit of his system but the then cost of this computer (179$) made Wozniak look for a less expensive option. There was also another chip – Motorola 6800 – which Wozniak was also interested in due to its resemblance to a well known to him minicomputer Nova designed by Data General. However, he gave up on it as well because it cost too much – 175$. Fortunately, he managed to find the chip – MOS Technology 6502. It was almost the same as 6800 but cost just 25$. That fit the bill.
Wozniak designed his machine in such a way that it required using the devices without which modern computers are unthinkable – keyboards and video display terminals. Although, microcomputer users dispensed with tumbler switches on the front panel at that time, less commonly, with a teletype and LED-indicators. A usual TV-set was used as a terminal. The computer had 8 Kb dynamic memory. 4 Kb were taken by BASIC and the other 4 Kb were available for the user’s programs. It had a video output but the user was supposed to connect his own TV-set as well as the keyboard. The device was not provided with sound, colors and graphics, though it had an expansion slot for which there were no cards yet, actually.
This is what the computer that Wozniak brought to the club looked like. Many club members thought that using a different processing unit that was incompatible with Intel 8080 was an insane idea because it was believed that compatibility with Altair-8800 was absolutely necessary and incompatible models had no chances. But Steve Wozniak’s 21-year-old friend supported him. Together they decided to start the production of custom-built kits of this model which was a typical way of selling computers at that time. So, on April 1, 1976 they founded Apple Computer Company.
The owner of “The Byte Shop” Paul Terrell was responsible for selling Apple computers which were later called Apple I. He agreed to sell 50 items but he demanded that the computers were completely assembled. The two Steves had to work hard to meet this demand. Ultimately, Terrell sold almost 200 Apple I computers through his shop within ten months starting from July 1976 at the price of $666,66 apiece.
Apple I was certainly a decent computer at the time. This machine was more advanced and user-friendly than Altair-8800 but it was only after putting Apple II into production when the company achieved fame.
But it’s absolutely another story…