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Apple Before The Mac: How Jobs And Woz Survived The '70s

Culture | November 29, 2016

Left: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak ni 1981. Right: An Apple II. Sources: allaboutstevejobs.com; Wikimedia Commons

Today, Apple's Steve "Woz" Wozniak and the late Steve Jobs are two of the legendary figures in the invention of the personal computer, and computing in general. But the destiny of the men who would later bring us the Macintosh was none too clear in 1975, the year they introduced the Apple I computer. The pair scraped together their last resources to produce the Apple I, with Jobs selling his Volkswagen microbus and Wozniak selling his HP-65 calculator to purchase the raw materials. 

Woz built the Apple Is by hand, and the product resembled more of a computer kit than what we now think of as a computer. Apple I sold enough to keep the company going, but it wasn't a blockbuster, and its appeal was limited to tech-savvy home enthusiasts. More could be done to bring computing to more people, the pair of entrepreneurs were sure of it. With this in mind they squeezed into an overcrowded auditorium for the West Coast Computer Faire in 1977.

The Technorati Were Underwhelmed

Left: Steve Wozniak with an Apple I board. Left: An Apple I in a briefcase. Sources: woz.org; Wikimedia Commons

The original Apple I did not make the necessary waves when it was first released. The company still needed a breakout product so they had to go back to the drawing board in 1976. This initial shortcoming did not discourage the dynamic duo, they slogged it out over the next year and delivered an amazing new product that shook up the computing world. That product was the Apple II in 1977.

After the conference, things looked a bit bleak. Their product barely got mentioned, and it did not seem to create much of a buzz; however, they started to get noticed where it counted -- the tech wizards at the conference hadn't given it too much thought, but average Joes buying the darn thing.

When the product started shipping it found equal footing against the other two systems in the personal computing world, the Commodore PET 2001, and Radio Shack’s TRS-80. This meant that they had a fighter in the ring, and a champion had to be crowned.

The Apple II Was A Computer For Regular Folks

Apple II in all her glory

The Apple II stood out from its competition due to the duo’s vision of what a computer should be and how the experience of a user and computer should feel. Just like in current Apple products, the Apple II made sure to have the features it needed, taking special care to make the interface more user-friendly than the competition. The Apple II came with color graphics right out of the box, and even included two game paddles. These features made room for the Apple II to compete not only in the personal computing market but also the game console market. It became an easy choice to choose this hybrid machine in order to have the best of both worlds.

Originally, working with computers required a very high skill set. You needed to know what computer components were and where they went, but the Apple II featured eight plug and play expansion slots. This was a huge development, it lowered the barrier of entry for people who wanted to get a computer and enter this new and exciting world. These expansion slots could be used to increase the memory, improve the graphical interface, sync up with printers, or load up the good old floppy drive.

The Apple II Just Looked Better

Unsurprisingly the Apple II beat out its competition in another aspect, appearance. The shell of the computer had clean lines, a creative modular design which allowed for customized setups, and a sleek beige color. In comparison to the competition, the Apple II was a must have foxy mama while everything else lagged behind as awkward melvins.

The success of the Apple II was the success of Apple. Apple’s vision continued due to this duo’s hard work and dedication. As the company continued to grow in popularity and success, it paved the the way for innovation and intuitive design for years to come.

Tags: 1977 | A Brief History Of... | Apple | Steve Jobs | Steve Wozniak

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Reeves Caldwell

Writer

Reeves is young and eager, passionate about technology, and all things internet. He also likes a good puzzle, but probably loves ice cream a little too much.