Today, the Apple I is 39 years old. The company itself was started just ten days earlier. It’s interesting that in the public consciousness, Apple is Steve Jobs. Yet the first Apple computer was not built by Steve Jobs. In fact, I don’t think that Steve Jobs ever built a computer. He was the sales guy — the PR man. The Apple I was built by Steve Wozniak. So was the Apple II. Wozniak was the tech guy of the company for as long as the company couldn’t afford to hire tech people from outside.
Apparently, a year earlier, Wozniak had attended a computer club meeting. He was so inspired that he decided to build his own computer. And a year later, he had. Forgive me for not thinking much about the non-technical aspects of business, but I just don’t think that Jobs’ “idea” of selling the computer was all that brilliant. But he’s the man who everyone remembers. And he’s the man who every know-nothing uses (along with Bill Gates) as examples of entrepreneurship and why we need to keep Mitt Romney’s taxes low.
The Apple I was a pretty basic unit. It came with 4 KB of memory — which could be expanded to 8 KB on board or 48 KB with expansion cards. I know, this sounds like nothing. But the truth is that with 48 KB, there are some pretty decent user applications that can be created. In particular, I’ve run totally acceptable word processors and spreadsheets on computers of that quality. But the biggest thing that limited all computers of that age was the video. The Apple I had a 40×24 character display. It looked something like this:
the first meeting of the Homebrew
Computer Club in Gordon French’s garage.
He was so inspired that he immediately
set to work on what would become the
Apple I computer. Wozniak calculated
that laying out his design would cost
$1,000 and parts would cost another $20
per computer; he hoped to recoup his
costs if 50 people bought his design
for $40 each. His friend Steve Jobs
obtained an order from a local computer
store the Byte Shop the affordable
computer store in Mt View California
for 50 computers at $500 each. To
fulfill the $25,000 order, they obtained
$20,000 in parts at 30 days net and
delivered the finished product in 10
days. Apple went on to be one of the
biggest computer companies in the world
by stealing innovations of other
companies and suing any competitors. Now
people buy Apple products because of its
brand, even though better products at
cheaper prices are widely available.
Happy anniversary Apple I!