ORIGINALLY AIRED: 1/6/2005
One man was an engineer, the other a dreamer. Together they changed the history of computing, one home at a time. On this episode of Icons, we take a bite into the history of Apple II.
The genius of Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs first collided in the Home Brew Computer Club in Menlo Park, California. Though they'd attended the same high school and previously been introduced by a mutual friend, it was the computer club that eventually brought them to collaborate on a project. The duo designed a small computer with a keyboard and a tv screen to show off to the club; this pc soon became the prototype for Apple I, which they released to the public on April Fool's Day of 1976 for the cost of $666.66.
Within a year, two competitors were released, but Wozniak and Jobs already had a new product of their own: the Apple II. Envisioned by Wozniak as a computer that would revolutionize both the home computing and game markets, the Apple II featured speakers, paddles, and a sleek, sexy exterior.
The first Apple II's were shipped out in June 1977 and retailed for $1298 each. Jobs and Wozniak knew marketing the personal computer would be tricky; consumers couldn't fathom why they would possibly have the need for a computer sitting on a desk.
Initial sales weren't bad, but two new features eventually skyrocketed demand for the new system: the introduction of an affordable disk drive and the release of the first spreadsheet software program, VisiCalc.
By 1980, there were close to 300,000 Apple II users and over 1,000 Apple employees. An improved Apple II Plus was on store shelves as the latest in a line of ways to repackage essentially the same machine to try to make it more friendly to consumers in one way or another.
As the company grew, it hired new leaders, most of whom relied upon their fresh MBA's rather than brilliant ideas. They led the company to create the Apple III, a business computer poised to take on the successful IBM PC. But the initial units had to be recalled due to a flaw, and even the corrected versions turned out to be less powerful than its competitor. The Apple III was a massive failure, but Apple II continued to perform.
But in the end, it was Apple itself that did what none of its competitors could accomplish: bringing an end to Apple II. Steve Jobs had little faith in the company's new Lisa computer, so he began investing his time and resources into a project called Macintosh, which simplified software and streamlined the computer and screen into one box. Many felt Jobs wanted to see the Macintosh succeed and everything else fail; some claim he did everything he could to eliminate Apple II sales.
Despite the shift in attention from Jobs, the Apple II continued to generate an enormous amount of money for several years until the Macintosh finally did catch on. Today, the impact of the Apple II and its creators is still felt in the world of computers. Known as the very first attractive, all-in-one computer, the Apple II was affordable, user-friendly and probably responsible for launching an entire personal computer industry.