APPLE II HISTORY
Compiled and written by Steven Weyhrich (C) Copyright 1991, Zonker Software
(PART 4 – THE APPLE II, CONT.) [v1.1 :: 12 Dec 91]
THE APPLE II: OTHER DESIGN FEATURES
Since Steve Wozniak was the designer of the AppleI and II, exactly what contribution did Steve Jobs make to the effort? Unlike Wozniak, who would not think much of extra wires hanging out of a computer that worked properly, Jobs had an eye for the appearance of the final product. He wanted the AppleII to be a product that people outside the Homebrew Computer Club would want to own:
"Jobs thought the cigar boxes [housing the home-made computers] that sat on the… desk tops during Homebrew meetings were as elegant as fly traps. The angular, blue and black sheet-metal case that housed Processor Technology's Sol struck him as clumsy and industrial… A plastic case was generally considered a needless expense compared to the cheaper and more pliable sheet metal. Hobbyists, so the arguments went, didn't care as much for appearance as they did for substance. Jobs wanted to model the case for the Apple after those Hewlett-Packard used for its calculators. He admired their sleek, fresh lines, their hardy finish, and the way they looked at home on a table or desk."<1>
The final case design made the AppleII look quite different from most of their competition. The other computers looked like they had been assembled at home (and many of them were). The Apple had no visible screws or bolts (the ten screws attached at the bottom). It had the appearance of some variation of a typewriter, but still looked futuristic enough to be a computer. The friendliness of the design even extended to the lid, which popped off easily to allow access to the expansion slots, almost inviting the user to look inside (unlike most electronic devices that held the warning "CAUTION! NO USER SERVICEABLE PARTS INSIDE").<2> Other aesthetics to which Jobs paid attention were the color of the keyboard, vents for heat dissipation (avoiding the need for a noisy fan), and a shape and color that would blend in with other items in a home or on a desk. He also hired an engineer who was good with analog circuitry (not Wozniak's area of interest) to design a reliable, lightweight power supply that would stay cool. The engineer, Rod Holt, was working at Atari at the time, but was convinced to help Jobs and Wozniak. He developed a new approach (for microcomputers) by taking household current and switching it on and off rapidly, producing a steady current that was safe for the expensive memory chips. The final design of this switching power supply was smaller than a quart carton of milk and was quite reliable. Holt also helped design the television interface for the AppleII.<3> The new company was racing to have the AppleII ready for the First West Coast Computer Fair in April of 1977. Some last minute bugs had to be eliminated; because of a static electricity problem affecting a sensitive chip, the keyboards went dead every twenty minutes. Chris Espinosa and Randy Wigginton, two high school students who were early employees of Apple, had written programs to demonstrate the computer's color and sound. They were hurriedly working to duplicate these programs on cassette. People at Apple were working to fix blemishes in the computer cases that had returned from the plastics molding company. The name for this new computer was also finalized as "AppleII", following the example of Digital Equipment Company, who had given each newer version of its PDP series a higher number (PDP-1, PDP-6, etc.). They stylized the "II" in the product name by using right and left brackets, and displaying it on the case as "][". The final product bore the mark of each person at Apple:
"The computer that appeared at the West Coast Computer Faire was not one person's machine. It was the product of collaboration and blended contributions in digital logic design, analog engineering, and aesthetic appeal. The color, the slots, the way in which the memory could be expanded from 4K to 48K bytes, the control of the keyboard and hookup to the cassette recorder, and the BASIC that was stored in the ROM chip–in effect the motherboard–was Wozniak's contribution. Holt had contributed the extremely significant power supply, and Jerry Mannock the case. The engineering advances were officially recognized when, some months later, Wozniak was awarded U.S. Patent #4,136,359 for a microcomputer for use with video display, and Holt was given Patent #4,130,862 for direct current power supply. But behind them all Jobs was poking, prodding, and pushing and it was he, with his seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy, who became the chief arbiter and rejector… [Finally,] the combination of [Mike] Markkula [Apple's first president], Jobs, and the McKenna Agency turned Apple's public bow [at the West Coast Computer Faire] into a coup."<4>
THE APPLE II: PRODUCT INTRODUCTION
As they prepared for the display at the First West Coast Faire, it was decided to create a new corporate logo. The original one, used in sales of the AppleI, was a picture of Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree, with a phrase from Wordsworth: "Newton...'A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought...Alone.'" Jobs had been concerned that the logo had part of the slow sales of the AppleI, and the Regis McKenna Agency was hired to help in the design of a new one.
"Rob Janov, a young art director, was assigned to the Apple account and set about designing a corporate logo. Armed with the idea that the computers would be sold to consumers and that their machine was one of the few to offer color, Janov set about drawing still lifes from a bowl of apples ... He gouged a rounded chunk from one side of the Apple, seeing this as a playful comment on the world of bits and bytes but also as a novel design. To Janov the missing portion 'prevented the apple from looking like a cherry tomato.' He ran six colorful stripes across the Apple, starting with a jaunty sprig of green, and the mixture had a slightly psychedelic tint. The overall result was enticing and warm ..." "[Steve] Jobs was meticulous about the style and appearance of the logo... When Janov suggested that the six colors be separated by thin strips to make the reproduction easier, Jobs refused."<5>
For the Faire, Markkula had ordered a smoky, backlit, illuminated plexiglas sign with the new logo. Although Apple had a smaller booth than other companies displaying their products at the Faire, and some of the other microcomputer makers (Processor Technology, IMSAI, and Cromemco) had been in business longer, Apple's booth looked far more professional, thanks to Markkula's sign. Some of the other participants, companies larger than Apple, had done no more than use card tables with signs written in black markers. Because they had been one of the first to commit themselves to displaying at the Faire, Apple's booth was near the entrance and was visible to everybody entering the convention center. They demonstrated a kaleidoscopic video graphics program (possibly an early version of "BRIAN'S THEME") on a huge Advent display monitor, catching everybody's attention. But, after the Faire its organizer Jim Warren (Homebrew club member and editor of DR. DOBB'S JOURNAL) didn't think that Apple was a strong exhibitor. Byte magazine, in their report of the show, failed to even mention Apple. Despite these early opinions by influential people, over the next few months Apple received about three hundred orders for the AppleII, over a hundred more than the total number of AppleI's sold.<6>
THE APPLE II: COST
Prebuilt systems were also sold by Commodore (the 6502-based PET, for $595), and Radio Shack (the Z80-based TRS-80, for $600). This was quite a bit less than the AppleII's premium price of $1,298 for a 4K computer, a pair of game paddles, and an audio cassette with demo programs. This price did not include a cassette recorder or monitor (which both the PET and TRS-80 did include). The hardware limitations and lack of expandability of those machines, however, offset some of the price difference. Also, one other hardware introduction for the AppleII that happened in mid-1978 set it well ahead of its immediate competitors; we'll get to that shortly.
THE APPLE II: EXPERIENCES OF EARLY USERS
The original manual for the AppleII was sparse. It consisted of thirty photocopied pages, including some handwritten notes from Woz. The cover stated, "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication: introducing Apple][, the personal computer." In early 1978 these original photocopied manuals were replaced with the new "AppleII Technical Reference Manual" (also known as the "Red Book"), and copies were mailed to previous customers. Steve Jobs realized that people often viewed the quality of a product by the quality of its documentation, and so he took pains to get manuals that were easy to read and had a professional appearance.<7> Setting up an early AppleII was fairly simple. The lid popped off easily, and one of the first things you would attach was the Sup'r Mod (RF modulator). This was plugged onto two pins sticking up from the back rear of the motherboard, near the video output jack (assuming that you did not also buy a REAL computer monitor). The game paddles were two small black boxes, with a knob on the top attached to a potentiometer (similar to volume controls on a radio) and a tiny black button on the side. These boxes were attached via a narrow cable to a plug that looked (and was) fragile; this plug also went into a small socket in the motherboard. Lastly, you attached your data storage device (the cassette recorder) to the input and output jacks in the back of the computer. After turning on the AppleII, the first thing to greet you was a screen full of random alphabetic characters and symbols, and possibly some colored blocks (lo-res graphics mode might be turned on). Here you had to press the RESET key in the upper right hand side of the keyboard, which, after releasing the key, would cause a "beep!" and an asterisk to appear in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. (If the lo-res graphics mode had been on, it would now be off). Next to the asterisk (which was a prompt to show that you were in the Monitor) was a flashing box, the cursor. To get into BASIC, you had to press the "Ctrl" key and the "B" key simultaneously. Now you would see a different prompt, one that looked like a ">". At this point, you could either begin entering a BASIC program, or try to load one from cassette. To load from cassette was not always easy; it took time to get the right volume and tone settings on the tape player in order to avoid getting the "ERR" or "*** SYNTAX ERR" message. (And if you didn't have much memory, you might get a "*** MEM FULL ERR" message!) When you got it properly loaded, you could type RUN and see what happened. Beyond that, it was more or less up to you to actually find something to DO with your new toy.<8>
THE APPLE II: EARLY HARDWARE ADD-ONS
Aside from the M&R "Sup'r Mod" that allowed early AppleII users to run their computer on their color TV's, some other enterprising hackers designed their own versions of modulators. One used by an early member of an Apple user group in Washington State (Apple Pugetsound Program Library Exchange, or A.P.P.L.E.) was somewhat better shielded than the "Sup'r Mod". It had its own power supply and plugged into the video output jack on the back of the Apple. The "Sup'r Mod" was by far the biggest seller, however.<9> At first, there were no interface cards for any of Woz's eight slots. With the limited funds that computer purchasers had then (and now) there was not much they could afford after shelling out anywhere from $1200 to $1800 just to get their own AppleII. But they were innovative, and like many other hardware hackers of the day managed to make do with old or surplus parts. Some people, for instance, had gotten their hands on used teletype printers, such as the ASR-33 (called "battleships" because they were so rugged and heavy). Since there weren't any printer interface cards to plug into the slots to allow the computer to communicate with the teletype, they used a trick they learned from Woz himself. The AppleII had four single-bit output pins on the game controller socket that could be used for various purposes. A schematic floated through the various user groups that showed how to connect the teletype to an annunciator pin; along with it was a machine language program that re-directed output from the screen to that one-bit port, and on to the printer.<10>
NEXT INSTALLMENT: The Disk II
<1> Michael Moritz, THE LITTLE KINGDOM, p. 186.
<2> Steven Levy, HACKERS: HEROES OF THE COMPUTER REVOLUTION, pp. 263-264.
<3> Moritz, p. 189.
<4> Moritz, pp. 190-191.
<5> Moritz, p. 188.
<6> Moritz, pp. 192-193.
<7> Philip Chien, "The First Ten Years: A Look Back", THE APPLE II REVIEW, Fall/Winter 1986, p. 12.
<8> -----, APPLE II BASIC PROGRAMMING MANUAL, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, pp. 1-19.
<9> -----, "A.P.P.L.E. Co-op Celebrates A Decade of Service", CALL-A.P.P.L.E., Feb 1988, pp. 12-27.
<10> Val J. Golding, "Applesoft From Bottom To Top", CALL-A.P.P.L.E. IN DEPTH #1, 1981, p. 8.