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Comment on "Thirtieth Anniversary of the Apple II"
by Bill Coleman — Apr 16
Scott Wrote:
The original announcement predates me...

Gosh, Scott, you're younger than 30?

It's hard to get a clear perspective on the impact of the Apple ][ from today's world. Today, just about everyone has computers, and many had them for sometime.

The earliest personal computers sold were backplane types -- the box consisted of a interconnect bus and several connectors, and a power supply. Some units had front panels. The real guts of the system came from the slide-in boards. The Altair 8800, IMSAI 8080, SWTPc 6800 and the machines that followed were basically all of this type.

There were also single-board computers (SBCs), usually not much more than a hardware evaluation board from the microprocessor manufacturer. The KIM-1 is probably the most famous of this type -- it had a hexadecimal keypad an a six-digit seven-segment display. The Apple I was also an SBC.

The Apple ][ hybridized these two ideas. The motherboard had the main components, but a bank of connectors allowed for expansion. A case, keyboard and efficient power supply rounded out the package. All you needed was a monitor and a cassette recorder (to store/load programs) to be programming.

About the only computers even close to this form factor at the time were the Processor Technology SOL (an excellent product, but expensive), and the Sphere (a product plagued with internal signal path problems, due to cost-cutting in the design).

Another brilliant part of the design was the inclusion of a large ROM, with BASIC language available. In the days before the floppy disk drive was common, this was important -- you didn't have to wait 4-5 minutes for your BASIC interpreter to load from cassette tape.

Interestingly, it was exactly this type of design that IBM chose to replicate almost exactly four years later, with the original IBM PC. Of course, they didn't have Woz's brilliance for eliminating needless circuitry. The IBM Monocrome Display Adapter (MDA) had more components than the entire Apple ][ mother board -- and it didn't even do color!

Apple stopped selling the Apple II product line in the early 90s, so the product has like been discontinued longer than it was in production at this point.

Still, the success of the Apple II allowed Apple to go forward with the Mac, which changed the computing world fundamentally, although it took many years to see that revolution through. Perhaps Apple has a few more revolutionary ideas up its sleeves....
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