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What is Apple II? The history behind Apple's second personal computer

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8 min read
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  • Apple II is an 8-bit personal computer created by Steve Wozniak and marketed by Apple Inc.
  • Co-founder Steve Jobs designed the molded plastic case, while Rod Holt designed the switching power supply.
  • Apple II was the first-ever computer spreadsheet, Visicalc, developed in 1979 for the Apple II by Software Arts.
  • Several versions released, including Apple II Plus, Apple IIc, Apple IIe, Apple IIGS, and Apple IIc plus.
  • Over 6 million Apple II computers sold by 1984.
  • Revolutionized personal computing, paving the way for modern-day computers.



The Apple II computer, launched in April 1977, was a pioneering 8-bit personal computer designed by American computer engineer Steve Wozniak and marketed by Apple Inc. Co-founder Steve Jobs directed the creation of the computerā€™s molded plastic case, while Rod Holt designed the switching power supply. It was the company's first consumer-oriented computer aimed at American households, unlike its predecessor, the Apple I, which required customers to furnish vital pieces such as a case and power source. At the time of its launch, the Apple II was seen as a revolutionary machine, with a user-friendly design and graphical display. It came with 4 KB of RAM, but it could be expanded to 48 KB, had a BASIC interpreter, and supported graphics and a color monitor. Image credit: How-To Geek The Apple II initially used cassette tape storage before the introduction of an external floppy disk drive. One of its most important features was the eight expansion slots on the motherboard, which enabled consumers to add cards from Apple and other vendors. These expansion cards included floppy disc controllers, SCSI cards, video cards, and CP/M or PASCAL emulator cards.

The Apple IIā€™s video controller produced monochrome text on the screen, with 40 columns by 24 lines of upper-case-only text. However, it was suitable for display on a TV monitor or a conventional TV set through a separate RF modulator. The first-ever computer spreadsheet, Visicalc, was developed in 1979 for the Apple II by Software Arts, resulting in a considerable number of Apple II purchases. This ā€œkiller applicationā€ made the computer immensely popular, leading to its improvement and upgrade multiple times. By the time the Macintosh was released in 1984, over 2 million computers had been sold. Image credit: ArtStation The Apple II computer had a massive user base and was a popular game development platform from the 1970s until the early 1990s. Some of the most popular games include $100,000 Pyramid and 221B Baker Street. It had a ROM of 12 kB and was valued at $1,298 (equivalent to $5,543 in 2020). The first computers had an MOS Technology 6502 microprocessor running at 1.022,727 MHz, two game paddles, 4 KiB of RAM, and an audio cassette interface for data storage and program loading. Different aspects of the Apple II design were influenced by Atariā€™s arcade video game Breakout (1976), designed by Wozniak.

Several versions of the Apple II computer were released, including the Apple II Plus, Apple IIc, Apple IIe, Apple IIGS, and Apple IIc plus. The Apple II Plus was the first improved version of Apple II and had better graphics and disk-booting capability in the ROM. It was virtually identical to the original II. The IIe, with 64K RAM, was a modified version that had a MOS 6502 or 65C... processor. RAM prices plummeted during 1980-81, and all II+ machines shipped with a full 48k of memory already installed. Over six million Apple II computers had been sold by 1984, and the last of the Apple II line was discontinued in 1993.

The Apple II, with its game-changing design, revolutionized personal computing, paving the way for the development of modern-day computers. Steve Wozniakā€™s and Steve Jobsā€™ efforts created a computer that was more accessible and easier to use than any before it, opening the doors for the personal computer revolution of the late 1970s and early 1980s.




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