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History of Apple: how Apple came to lead the tech industry

Nik Rawlinson | Aug. 20, 2015
Our History of Apple begins with a look at Apple's not so humble beginnings, follow the Apple story with us.

How right he was, as Tim Barry revealed in a later InfoWorld piece in which he described an experience that would have been familiar to many:

'When I first used VisiCalc on an Apple II, I wanted to get a version that could take advantage of the larger system capabilities of my CP/M computer. Alas it was not to be... We ended up buying an Apple II just to run VisiCalc (a fairly common reason for many Apple sales, I'm told).'

Apple itself credited the app with being behind a fifth of all series IIs it sold.

Apple II success: colour graphics

So a piece of software worth a little more than $100 was selling a piece of hardware worth ten times as much. That was uncharted territory, but even with the right software the Apple II wouldn't have been a success if it hadn't adhered to the company's already established high standards. The February 1984 edition of PC Mag, looking back at the Apple II in the context of what it had taught IBM, put some of its success down to the fact that its 'packaging did not make it look like a ham radio operator's hobby. A low heat-generating switching power supply allowed the computer to be placed in a lightweight plastic case. Its sophisticated packaging differentiated it from ... computers that had visible boards and wires connecting various components to the motherboard.'

More radically, though, the Apple II 'was the first of its type to provide usable colo[u]r graphics... contained expansion slots for which other hardware manufacturers could design devices that could be installed into the computer to perform functions that Apple has never even considered.'

In short, Apple had designed a computer that embodied what we came to expect of desktop machines through the 1980s, 1990s and the first few years of this century - before Apple turned things on its head again and moved increasingly towards sealed boxes without the option for internal expansion.

Almost six million series IIs were produced over 16 years, giving Apple its second big hit. Really, though, the company was still getting started, and its brightest days were still ahead.

For VisiCalc, the future wasn't so bright, largely because its developers weren't quick enough to address the exploding PC market. Rival Lotus stepped in and its 1-2-3 quickly became the business standard. It bought Software Arts, VisiCalc's developer, in 1985 and remained top dog until Microsoft did to it what Lotus had done to VisiCalc - it usurped it with a rival that established a new digital order.

That rival was Excel which, like VisiCalc, appeared on an Apple machine long before it was ported to the PC.

 

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