When The Apple II Was New

I’ve been so busy recovering from birthing my book (the stitches have come out, thank you) that I have not paid attention to anniversaries. I was reminded by the post on Cult of Mac yesterday (here) that it was on June 10, 1977 that the full Apple II system with case was first shipped.

Apple II, Panasonic RQ-2102 cassette, and TV
Apple II, Panasonic RQ-2102 cassette, and TV – Photo credit: Carl Knoblock, Phil Pfeiffer

This computer was nearly twice as expensive as the competitors that would be available for purchase later in the year (the Commodore PET 2001 in August, and the TRS-80 Model I in November), but offered expandability right out of the box that neither of those competitors could provide without a retrofit or redesign.

Okay, if you’ve read this blog in the past, you know of my opinion about the significance of this computer, but let me reiterate: It established Apple as a company, and turned on a fire-hose of cash that funded the next several years of stumbles with other products (the Apple III, Lisa, and original 128K Macintosh). It was such a significant player that the company had to intentionally hobble it in its later years, so it would not pull customers away from the Mac.

The Apple II also set the stage for the appearance of computers on desktops for years to come. The popularity of the beige color was copied endlessly by other competing products that were released, well into the 1990s, when the term “boring beige box” came into its own. Yes, the Apple II was indeed beige — but it was the first to be beige.

Wozniak’s design was also unique in being the ideal hacker’s platform. Here I do not mean “hacker” in the sense of one who maliciously breaks into other computer systems with the intent of stealing or vandalizing. Rather, this refers to “hacker” in its original sense, that of one who could create new things, be it software or hardware, that brought functionality to the Apple II that went beyond what Woz originally envisioned. The eight slots allowed hardware expandability that other platforms did not as easily offer, and many of those add-ons were accessible by amateur programmers through its built-in BASIC and powerful 6502 assembly language.

All said, the release of this computer was a significant event in computing history. Happy 37th birthday, Apple II !

3 Comments on “When The Apple II Was New

  1. There is another fact that makes the Apple II unique: it spawned a whole generation of programmers. Its combination of simplicity and power allowed your skills to grow. Many seasoned Microsoft and Google engineers learned to program and developed their abilities on an Apple II. Without the Apple II, there wouldn’t be so much quality software in other (unrelated) platforms!

  2. I purchased # 000105 in El Paso TX.
    I also got the simulated leather carrying bag.
    I still have that.
    The logo on it has no bite out of the apple.

    I see no mention of it in any of the ads or documentation.
    Why is that?

    • You are right; the carrying bag is a part of the experience of those early adopters of the Apple II. I guess amongst all of the other details of the computer, I neglected to include this fact. I honestly do not know how long this was offered with the Apple II.

      Strictly speaking, it was likely not really a useful item; I mean, how many people actually carried their desktop computer from place to place using that bag?

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