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The Rise of Apple Computer
In 1975, two computer enthusiasts, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, founded a company called Apple Computer. This was nothing extraordinary by itself, as there were numerous small companies assembling computers were popping up all over. But, what distinguished Apple from others was its vision and determination to make microcomputer a consumer product for a much greater market of households and non-expert individuals. For this purpose, they packaged the product as a self-contained unit in a plastic case, able to be plugged into a standard household outlet like just any other appliance; it was to incorporate a keyboard to enter data, a screen to view the output and some form of storage to hold data and programs. Jobs and Wozniak also realized that the machine would need software to appeal to anyone other than a computer enthusiastic. With this vision, Apple I came out in 1975, which could plug into a television set display (Young, 1988).
In 1977, a much improved version of Apple called Apple II came out. It used MOS Technologies’ (a spin-off of Motorola) 6502 chips rather than Intel 8080, the standard chips at that time. It used fewer chips than the comparable Altair machines, yet it outperformed them due to superior circuit design. It had excellent color graphics capabilities, which made it suitable for interactive games. Although Apple’s BASIC was written by Steve Wozniak, for Apple II, Microsoft was contracted out for a better version. The fee from this helped Microsoft to overcome the threat of bankruptcy at that time given it had only few contracts for writing software at that time (Manes and Andrews, 1993).
Initially, Apple II used a cassette tape but by the end of 1977, Wozniak designed a disk controller that simplified floppy disk drives that were much more simpler than the ones that were used by Altair and others at that time. Apple’s floppy-disks were 5.25 inches and could hold 113 KB of data. The disk drive sold for $ 495 which included an operating system software and a controller that plugged into one of Apple. It’s internal slots. The operating system was written by Jobs and Wozniak. It was written in UNIX which enabled it to be portable. In 1980, Apple used an attachable card called Soft Card from Microsoft which allowed Apple II to run CP/M. For Microsoft, this piece of hardware was one of the best selling products at that time (Williams and Moore, 1985).
In 1979, Apple Computer added the first spreadsheet software for microcomputers called VisiCalc. It also added a word processing software. With these application software, coupled with flexibility and relative ease of use, Apple Computer demonstrated the potential of a personal computer at the desktop. Apple’s success convinced many others of the feasibility of such a computer. One of the firms that decided to enter in the personal computer industry was none other than IBM, the most dominating firm in the computer industry at that time and this changed the computer industry dramatically since 1980.