A Short History of Apple Part 1: How The Mac Computer Evolved To Today

From humble beginnings to worldwide leaders, how have Apple grown from designing and creating circuit boards in a bedroom to being named the most valuable company (albeit briefly) on the planet?

From humble beginnings to worldwide leaders, how have Apple grown from designing and creating circuit boards in a bedroom to being named the most valuable company (albeit briefly) on the planet? In this series, I will be looking at the history of Apple inc., it's products and projections for the future in a post-Steve Jobs world. Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne founded Apple Computers in 1976 with the intention of selling the Apple personal computer. Wozniak had designed and hand built the initial prototype in Job's bedroom and financed the project by selling some of their posessions including Job's Volkswagen van. The idea had originally started as a hobby but after discussions with a local businessman, Paul Terrell, who was opening a new computer shop, they hand built and sold 200 units at $666 each. The Apple I was largely unrecognisable from today's personal computers, consisting of a circuit board which housed a microprocessor, 4kb of RAM and connectors for keyboard and monitor (which the user had to purchase separately). The Apple I was an instant hit and still continued to sell well a year later when the Apple II was introduced. The Apple II improved on its predecessor by being sold as a comple home computer system complete with case, inbuilt keyboard and monitor capable of displaying colour graphics. The Apple II also had an upgraded 1MHZ microprocessor and the ability to install programmes via an audio cassette interface (a floppy disk drive was introduced later). As the Apple II had multiple expansion slots, users were able to add or remove additional hardware which enabled Apple to strike up deals with third party developers and essentially corner the personal computer market. In 1979, the company introduced the Apple II Plus which came pre-installed with AppleSoft Basic, a feature that had previously only been available as an upgrade and had been designed by Microsoft as Wozniak was too busy designing peripherals for the Apple II. Apple decided to venture into the international markets and released variations for Europe, Australia and the Far East called the Apple II Europlus ( J-Plus in Japan). Along with a different keyboard and software for the Japanese market, Apple added different power supply modifications as well as Pal support for Europe although to keep costs as low as possible, the American layout keyboard was used which did not have support for regional differences. The Apple II plus continued to sell well and was joined in 1980 by the Apple III which was intended to be a cross over machine capable of being used as both a home as well as business computer but was a massive failure, partly due to the fact that it cost between 4 and 8 thousand dollars but mainly because it suffered from massive stability failures the main being overheating of the circuit board. Apple recalled the machines and at huge cost to the company replaced the faulty boards but although Apple introduced an updated machine in 1983 ( the Apple III PLus ) which featured a redesigned keyboard, 256 kb RAM and intergrated clock, by 1985 both models had been discontinued. When Apple introduced the Apple III, it was designed to be a replacement for the Apple II but as it had failed to sell in vast numbers, the board decided to resurrect the earlier model and in 1983 introduced the Apple IIe. The new model borrowed substantially from the III but featured a full keyboard with the ability to input both upper case and lower case letters. It was shipped with 64kb RAM ( expandable up to 1 mb), a 1.023 KHZ microprocessor as well as internal cassette recorder. The IIe proved to be such a success that Apple continued to produce it until 1993 when it was discontinued. Apart from a few cosmetic changes, a motherboard enhancement and the addition of a numerical keyboard, the Apple IIe remained virtually the same as when it was first introduced and once again, turned Apple into a major player in the home computer sector. Apple introduced three more variations of the Apple II, the IIc, which was billed as their first truly portable computer ( minus screen and battery), the IIgs, a powerful home computer which featured a 16 bit 2.8MHZ microprocessor, higher resolution and mouse and the IIc plus which had an internal power supply, smaller 3.5 inch floppy drive and 4MHZ processor. By 1993, Apple sold almost 6 million Apple II computers which made it one of the most successful home computers of its day. 1983 also saw Apple introduce the first personal computer with a graphical user interface ( GUI ), which enabled users to navigate through programs via on screen icons rather than by text commands. Although the Apple LISA had amongst its features a hard disk operating system, faster processor and large high resolution display, many users were put off by its high price tag ( almost $10,000 ) and lack of software and it failed to sell in large numbers. The next year, Apple introduced its latest range of low cost personal computers 'The Mackintosh', which sold well initially but really took off when affordable laser printers and desktop publishing software became available. The Mackintosh incorporated soft of LISA's features, including the GUI and Apple's own operating system rather than Microsoft Windows. Although successful, users complained of a lack of features such as a hard disk drive and small memory. Apple addressed these issues by creating the Mackintosh Plus in 1986 which came with multiple expansion slots and the ability to upgrade the RAM. The Mackintosh was hugely successful and continued to sell well up to being discontinued in 1990. Upgraded versions of the machine included the Mackintosh II, which featured a fast Motorola processor, internal hard drive and the ability to connect to multiple displays, the Mackintosh SE, their first all in one machine and the Mackintosh Portable, a battery powered machine capable of being easily transported. Although the portable machine received critical acclaim, it failed to sell well as it was heavy, bulky and difficult to read in strong lit as originally it did not have a backlight facility which Apple addressed later. In 1991 and still feeling the effects from the failure of its portable machine, Apple introduced the PowerBook, a machine that had a battery life of 12 hours and was significantly lighter and more powerful than its predecessor. The PowerBook sold well and brought in massive revenue for the company and continued to be produced up to 2006 when it was replaced by the MacBook And MacBook Pro. Around the same time, Apple formed a partnership with IBM and Motorola and together they created the Power Mac, a tower design computer aimed at professionals and created to give users a way to use software designed for Motorola CPU's through an emulator. In 1997 and after suffering huge losses, Apple struck a deal with Microsoft to create a Mac compatible version of Office and introduced the Apple online store which enabled them to offer the ability to build and sell Apple computers to order giving customers more flexibility and hardware options. 1998 saw a massive change for Apple with Jonathan Ive leading a team of designers with a simple goal- to create a computer that was not only powerful but also different to anything currently available. Ive's team came up with the iMac ( the 'i' standing for internet), an all in one computer encased in a colourful design. Ease of use and setup were the main features showcased by Apple along with the inclusion of a USB slot which enabled users to add hardware easily from other developers. The iMac has gone through major design changes through the years including the iMac g4 which featured an lcd monitor sat on a hemisphere which housed an optical drive and it's current design, an intergrated screen housed in an aluminium body which continues to sell well globally but still far behind windows based computers. Since 2006, Apple computers have used Intel duo core processors across its range. Currently, Apple offer several different versions including the iMac, MacBook Air and Mac Mini. In the last 5 years, Apple has seen their Mac sales grow faster than Windows based computers and they continue to grow year on year but with the introduction of the iPad, will Apple be able to convince their customers that they need a home computer at all?
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