Today in 1977, on the second day of the West Coast Computer Faire, Apple Computer formally introduced the Apple II.
Harry McCracken in Time magazine: “The Faire’s attendees may have understood that they were in on the start of something big. At the time, however, there wasn’t any consensus that Apple and its computer were more significant than any number of other exhibitors among the 180 who filled the hall. Creative Computing‘s article on the conference didn’t get around to mentioning Apple until halfway through the third page; BYTE‘s report didn’t reference the company at all.
It didn’t take long until it was obvious that the Apple II was going to matter. The machine started shipping in the summer of 1977, and by the end of the year, it was gaining fame as was one of a trio of consumer-friendly, ready-to-use systems that were taking the personal computer beyond its hobbyist origins. The other two were Commodore’s PET 2001, which had also been displayed at the Faire, and Radio Shack’s TRS-80, which was announced in August….
…The platform that Woz created was, indeed, a platform — the best and most successful container of its generation for interesting and useful hardware and software add-ons from third companies, much like the iPhone and iPad today. It’s no coincidence that VisiCalc, the first blockbuster PC application, was available only for the II at first.
So much for the Apple II’s insides. The outsides were also important, and that in itself was noteworthy. The earliest PCs, such as the Altair, looked like lab equipment. The PET resembled a desktop calculator that had gotten too big for its britches. The TRS-80 appeared to be designed by someone who regarded even a modicum of attractiveness as an unnecessary frippery. But the Apple II’s beige, rounded case, designed by Jerry Manock, looked great. It still looks great — it’s aged far better than certain more recent Apple products, such as the bulbous original iMac.
The computer was marketed like a big-time product, too. Apple followed up on its surprisingly fancy Computer Faire booth with an unusually ambitious advertising campaign, created by Silicon Valley marketing guru Regis McKenna…. Apple, unlike most of its competition, understood that there was a huge theoretical market for its products – if it could explain to normal people why they might want a computer in their home or business….
…Of course, the Apple II readied the world for the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad and, come to think of it, every other major technology gadget of the past 35 years. More than any single other computing device, it’s the one that crawled out of the primordial ooze and scampered assertively in the right direction. Countless others followed its lead, and continue to do so.”