History of Apple Computers

By George Garza
Info Guru,

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A young man enjoys using his Apple laptop.
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Steve Jobs and Apple Computer have an intertwined history.

Considered one of the most innovative computer companies in the world, Apple Computers is run by one man - Steve Jobs - whose history with the company is as dramatic as the company itself. The history of Apple Computers is intertwined with that of founder Steve Jobs.

Yes, it Started in a Garage

In 1976, 21-year-old Steve Jobs quit his day job at Atari and convinced his pal - engineer Steve Wozniak - to quit his job at Hewlett-Packard. Together, in the garage of Jobs' Cupertino, Calif. home, they founded a new company which they called Apple. They wanted to create an inexpensive and simple-to-use computer. So on April Fool's Day in 1976, they released their first system, the Apple I - which sold for $666.66.

Revolutionizing Personal Computing

After the release of the Apple I, Wozniak set to work on improving the product. The Apple II was released on June 5, 1977. It was priced at $1,298 for 4KB of RAM.

Subsequent models were released that improved on the speed and original design of the Apple II. By 1983, the Apple IIe was the most successful of the Apple II line. Apple also released a thermal printer, the SilenType, which generated output of 80 columns and required the use of special thermal paper.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, Apple II computers were the de-facto computing standard for elementary schools, selling over 2 million Apple IIs.

The Rise of the MacIntosh

What was next? Jobs had in mind to build a machine unlike any other. He wanted one that was sexy, bold, and insanely great. Two machines were to be designed - the business-oriented Lisa - and the consumer-oriented Macintosh. But Wozniak was not in the process. He left Apple in 1981 after he crashed his airplane on takeoff. As a result, he had temporary short-term memory loss.

Development of the Lisa started in 1978, with the Macintosh following one year later. A subsequent visit to the labs of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and a demo of the Xerox Alto's Graphical User Interface (GUI) system convinced Jobs that adding the GUI to both the Lisa and Macintosh would heighten its marketability.

The Macintosh

The Macintosh was released to the public on January 22, 1984, following a Super Bowl Half-Time ad which premiered the famous commercial with a woman throwing a sledgehammer into an Orwellian Big Brother video screen representing IBM. It included the Xerox-inspired GUI and two user-friendly programs: MacWrite, a word processor, and MacPaint, a simple graphics program. The Mac retailed at a price of $2,495, much less than the similarly designed and Lisa model ($9,995) released a year earlier.

Jobs is Gone

By 1984, new classes of x86 PC clones were providing low-cost alternatives to the higher-priced and less feature-rich Macs. But Jobs's abrasive managerial style and other struggles with CEO John Scully proved to be his undoing and he was forced out of Apple in 1985.

Desktop Publishing

In 1985, Apple once again became an innovator when it introduced desktop publishing. They included the MacPublisher and Aldus PageMaker. The addition of the first laser printer established Apple's reputation as the desktop publishing giant.

Insanely Great - the Continued Evolution of the Mac

The Macintosh II was release in 1987 and introduced color graphics. The Mac SE, a lower-cost version of the Macintosh II, was also released in the same year to compete with PC clones.

In the late 80s and 90s, Apple produced a line of portables known as the PowerBook. But because of the Mac's proprietary architecture, software programs would always remain expensive and hard to come by.

Scully is Gone and Jobs is Back

By 1992, inexpensive PC clones were hurting sales of Macintosh. For the first time in its history, Apple resorted to marketing clones. Many agreed that the company needed to change focus and Jobs had to be brought back to run the company, notwithstanding his abrasive managerial style. Apple's fortunes changed with the return of Jobs in 1997. Jobs steered the company away from the clones and reversed direction with a back-to-basics approach.

Other Innovations

Jobs also brought an aesthetic vision and leadership that led to the creation of the Apple II. Macintosh computers came back strong in 1998 with the iMac, priced at $999 and designed like the original Macintosh case in clear plastic and trimmed in translucent shades of blue or red.

The history of Apple Computers is one of innovation. Apple Computers is now Apple, Inc. Now there is a focus on all kinds of electronic products, including the iPod, for downloading and playing music, and the recently release iPhone, for making phone calls.

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