Computers

Apple II: The World Catches On

Often it’s an artist’s second book or album that draws the public’s attention—so too with Apple’s number 2, whose story is excerpted here from Core Memory, photographed by Mark Richards and written by John Alderman.

Name: Apple II
Year created: 1977
Creator: Apple Computer, Inc.
Cost: $US1,298 with 4KB of RAM; $US2,638 with 48KB of RAM
Memory: 4K semiconductor
Processor: MOS technology 6502

Spurred on by the small but encouraging success of the original Apple, the two Steves, Wozniak and Jobs, retreated to the garage (Jobs’) to craft the personal computer that was the most convincing case yet that such an item could have a mass market. The Apple II started where the Apple I left of, namely, with a case. It didn’t look like an object dropped from a starship or developed in a military lab. It had a familiar, prosaic form of an elongated beige typewriter, though additions like the television monitor and the cassette player used to store programs made it look a little like a college-dorm entertainment centre.

If its appearance was familiar, the Apple II was also attractive to consumers in a way that previous computers just weren’t—even if their manufacturers tried. It shipped with high-resolution colour graphics and sound, and it had a rainbow-coloured Apple logo that seemed both fresh and optimistic. Said Wozniak, “The Apple II, more than any other early machine, made computer a word that could be said in homes. It presented a computer concept that included fun and games—human-type things.” The ability to have a business and a social side was an important sign of computing’s growing relevance.

The price made the Apple II affordable for businesspeople, well-off families, and schools. It was in the education sector that its influence lasted longest—although it certainly made its mark on business as the first platform to run VisiCalc, the first consumer spreadsheet program. It was the programs that really hooked people, and the Apple II had a great roster of educational and entertainment software. By attracting developers, a snowball effect occurred, and a new generation of developers became attracted and then obsessed.

Core Memory is a photographic exploration of the Computer History Museum’s collection, highlighting some of the most interesting pieces in the history of computers. These excerpts were used with permission of the publisher. Special thanks to Fiona!

The top photograph was taken by Mark Richards, whose work has appeared in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Fortune, Smithsonian, Life and BusinessWeek. The eye-candy is accompanied by descriptions of each artifact to cover the characteristics and background of each object, written by John Alderman who has covered the culture of high-tech lifestyle since 1993, notably for Mondo 2000, HotWired and Wired News. A foreword is provided by the Computer History Museum’s Senior Curator Dag Spicer.

Or go see the real things at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

Gizmodo ‘79 is a week-long celebration of gadgets and geekdom 30 years ago, as the analogue age gave way to the digital, and most of our favourite toys were just being born.

Comments (AU Comments | US Comments)

  • Oldbrass

    @ghmlco: Oop! You might be right on that! Makes me want to go to the basement and dust her off and and fire her up.

    My best Apple ][+ memory is playing Ultima V for days. WoW has nothing on Britannia!

    BEEP! Whrrrrrrrrrrrr!

    Oldbrass

  • LolpantsofArabia

    @Neight: Ah, I remember my first computer porn. It was a tiny little GIF (or something similar) of a BJ. About a 1-second loop - maybe less - probably about 80 pixels square. It probably had 256 colours, and ran on an Acorn Archimedes. Blew my 13-year-old mind, it did.

    LolpantsofArabia

  • ghmlco

    @Oldbrass: Ah... I believe that the Plus indicated that it ran Applesoft BASIC instead of the original Apple ][ Integer BASIC.

    ghmlco

  • LeeMarvinsPants

    Nothing could beat the atari 800.

    LeeMarvinsPants

  • armyofchuckness

    I still balk at the fact that the Apple IIgs my parents bought was over $1,700 bucks when new. I'm sure glad they did though. Back then, portable gaming was packing up the Apple so we could play it at the hotel. Ah, the simple life.

  • kernel panic

    @bigusfickes: was logo the intro to programming game where you used text commands to move a turtle, drawing lines?

    kernel panic

  • UnderLoK

    Wait a minute… You mean to tell me this thing did more than Oregon Trail?!

  • CSX321

    @Oldbrass: I did my first programming on an Apple ][, as well, although the first computer I owned was a VIC-20. I still have the VIC-20, and it still works. There's an Apple ][ sitting 10 feet from me here at work, and a TRS-80 Model I over by the wall. It's been years since either of those was fired up.

    CSX321

  • Neight

    @dolo54 blows minds and blows engines!:

    This sounds very much like my childhood as well... I can remember my father bringing home brown bags full of copied floppies from people at his work. Or the late nights of downloading sprees from BBSs. I eventually was forced to get my own line for the same purpose.

    Favorite game? Captain Goodnight and the Island of Fear.

    And don't even get me started on the quality of 80s digital porn. If it wasn't CGA, there was always ASCII to fall back on. I've never been able to look at an @ symbol since then without getting a little randy... Wait.. That's not right.

  • professorjonathan

    I bought my Apple IIe on 12/31/84, and lovvvvvvvvvvved it! Thanks for bringing back the memories, Giz!

  • Michael Boland

    I remember playing Oregon Trail on my elementary school's Apple IIs well into the '90s. These things had staying power.

    Michael Boland

  • bigusfickes

    LOGO got me hooked on computers. Course, that may have been on a IIe

  • Oldbrass

    I actually had an Apple ][+ as my first real computer. I had a TI 99-4A before the Apple, but we won't even go into what a nightmare that thing was.

    I loved my Apple ][+! The "Plus" part meant that it came stock with 16k or memory rather than 4! I personally upgraded it to 64k with an Orange memory card in slot 0. Ahh, the good old days back when Apple made it easy to get into your machine!

    What seams like a billion years later, I'm still a fan of Apple products. As for my ][+, it's in the basement... and it still runs fine. My 5.25 disks are degrading pretty fast these days, though.

    Oldbrass

  • dolo54 blows minds and blows eng

    It seemed to happen all at once. 6th grade, 1980, our school got 2 of these and started a BASIC programming course for those interested. At the same time a friend got a TRS80 (the TRASH80!). All us D&D nerds were taking the BASIC course. I got my commie 64 2 years later. By that time friends had either the Apple IIe or Atari 800. We all had 300 baud modems (one lucky bastard had a 1200baud modem, a $800 piece of equipment back then). To put it in perspective, a dial-up 56k modem is 56,000 baud. 300 baud was so slow you could see each letter appear at a time.

    I started a BBS that I ran after 10pm when my mom would let me use our only phone line. We all learned how to phone phreak. The MCI 5 digit codes were crazy. With millions of customers it didn't take too long to get a working code dialing them at random. Sometimes within 10 tries. The movie Wargames came out. Surprisingly fairly accurate, even if they took a couple liberties with the technology. After that any random dialer was called a wargames dialer. Good times. Sorry about all those $1000 phone bills from the east coast to California, downloading Boulderdash and what not...

  • Xeno

    @thePrototype: Our first computer was a Commodore 64. I remember that my dad wrote out a little instruction set so I could load up games like Commando, Ghostbusters, and Blade Runner. Good times.

    Xeno

  • dolo54 blows minds and blows eng

    @JackTheTripper: yes everybody's first program.

  • tok3ninja; is the best non-star

    I think they still have these at a few of our elementary schools. I kind of want to go there and play Oregon Trail again until I get arrested for throwing a 5 year old off their chair.

    tok3ninja; is the best non-star commenter

  • alexvanduyn

    I wanted one of these soo bad! But at 1- 2gs it was a little out of the family budget which sucked ass for me. The compromise? ATARI 400! Yes I am bitter! But I got my revenge in the end with my AMIGA 1000! with 512k module! WOOHOOO! True multitasking bitch! Then I got the 3000 with the OS on roms! gotta love that, instant startup!

  • Bigbadbikernerd

    The computer I learned on...

  • Diogo Andre De Assumpcao

    @JackTheTripper: RUN

    Diogo Andre De Assumpcao

  • thePrototype

    I had a Commodore 64 and my best friend had a Apple IIe, those were the days...

  • Diogo Andre De Assumpcao

    the Apple II was my very first computer.... warm memories come every time I see a picture of it.

    guess I'm a geek and can't deny it.

    Diogo Andre De Assumpcao

  • JackTheTripper

    Ah.... my first computer. [tear]

    10 print "Gizmodo Rocks!"
    20 goto 10

    JackTheTripper

  • NanSage

    I remember the Apple II C I had. And all my awesome Broderbund games. And writing little programs that would ask your friends their names and then insult them. God, what a magical time.
    Anybody remember the name of the Broderbund game that was a side-scrolling WWII flight-sim with aircraft carriers?

    NanSage

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