Apple, the iPhone, and the iPad are some words which most of the world knows by now. The history of Apple, however, remains a mystery to many people, especially the younger generation who has no reference other than the company’s modern devices.
The fact is, however, that the history of Apple goes back more than four decades. Because most of the recent history is well-known or has been covered by some of our other posts, this article will skip through a lot of it.
The early days
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were actually friends before they went on to create Apple. In fact, the pair were introduced in 1971 by Bill Fernandez, a mutual friend and an early Apple employee.
While they both loved technology, it was always obvious that Wozniak was the more tech-minded of the two whereas Jobs was more of a visionary who wanted to be an active participant in the future of consumer tech.
Since those early days, the pair had a consistent dynamic: Wozniak would get to work designing and building things while Jobs would come up with ideas and become a master negotiator and marketer.
In 1976, Wozniak started to attend the Homebrew Computer Club, a hobbyist group that exchanged ideas. Around the same time and inspired by what he saw there, Wozniak designed and built what would eventually become known as the Apple I.
Though initially hesitant, Wozniak decided to present the machine to the Club. As luck would have it, Jobs was also attending that day and recognized the potential that the Apple I could have in the commercial market.
The two Steves founded Apple in April 1, 1976 alongside another friend, Ronald Wayne, who left a few weeks later, selling his 10% stake for $800 and a later payment of $1,500, the equivalent of about $9,300 today.
Jobs managed to convince Wozniak to sell the Apple I for a profit. Jobs saw this as an opportunity to expand much further, especially if they could manage to get the Apple I off the ground.
To accomplish that, he made a deal with Paul Terrell, the owner of a local computer store called the Byte Shop. The deal was that the two Steves would deliver 50 machines and Terrell would pay $500 (or $2,100 today) for each of them.
With a lot of effort, persuasion tactics from Jobs, and a lot of help from family and friends, the order was completed on time.
Moving on to the Apple II
Following all of that, Wozniak was far from content. His vision was limited in scope due to financial difficulties during the production of the Apple I but that was now a thing of the past. With the money earned from the Apple I sales, he immediately began working on its successor, the Apple II.
The Apple II had a redesigned TV interface with a graphical UI and, later, color. Building a lot of these machines would not have been financially possible if not for Mike Markkula who invested $250,000 (more than $1 million today) in the company, making it possible for the company to introduce the Apple II in the West Coast Computer Faire on April 16, 1977.
With a high price tag, what ultimately made the Apple II successful was not really its hardware but one piece of software: VisiCalc. Though spreadsheets are now ubiquitous, VisiCalc was revolutionary at the time and was only available on the Apple II platform.
Apple III, Lisa, and beyond
In the history of Apple, there have been few failures and more than a few innovations. During this period, the company saw quite a bit of both.
The Apple Lisa is perhaps the greatest example of that. Named after Jobs’ daughter (though disputed at the time), the Lisa was a commercial failure but also introduced a lot of concepts which are standard today such as the mouse and the desktop.
During that same period, there was a rivalry inside Apple of teams who were working on Lisa and those who were working on another project, the Macintosh.
In fact, Jobs was almost obsessed with the Lisa and for seemingly good reasons Having seen the Xerox Alto and its UI which revolved around the mouse, Jobs was confident that graphical interfaces with that kind of input were the future.
However, Lisa was incredibly expensive and quite prohibitive. The Macintosh (which launched later) proved to be a tremendous success. Its commercial in 1984 also set the tone for the kind of incredible marketing that Apple would become known for over the years.
Some turbulence and Apple soars
The whole truth is a lot more complicated than that. People were fighting, blaming each other for failures, misattributing successes. For instance, Steve Jobs is remembered for launching the Macintosh but Jef Raskin was already working on the project for two years.
Of course, Jobs did push for the graphical interface and other features such as the mouse which help solidify the Macintosh’s success. More than that, it was a simple, complete box that contained everything you would need.
By 1985, the rising success of Apple and the constant need for more innovation left Steve Jobs with a bad reputation as a hot head who did not care for anyone but his ideas. John Sculley and Steve Jobs did not go along well at all and, ultimately, the board voted Jobs out.
During this time out, Jobs did a lot of things like acquire Pixar (and work on Toy Story as the executive producer) as well as found NeXT. Meanwhile at Apple, Sculley had reorganized the company with a completely different vision.
The Macintosh family of products featured multiple products, some succeeding and others failing, up until 1997 when Jobs rejoined the company after Apple had acquired NeXT in December 1996.
Instead of attempting to battle it out with Microsoft, Apple decide to enter a partnership with them which would solve their disputes, see a major investment in Apple, and the release of Microsoft Office on the Macintosh.
2001: An Apple Odyssey
Any struggles that the company had until 2001 were almost forgotten then. In a single year, Apple introduced Mac OS X (which was based on NeXT technology) and the iPod, two products which would prove immensely successful.
The iPod in specific was a tremendous financial success. This also prompted Apple to yet another direction of more sophisticated designs which established its products as premium offerings.
The following years saw Apple releasing at least one new and successful product almost every year. In 2003, for instance, the company launched iTunes which saw an incredible 2 million downloads in the first two weeks alone.
The recent history of Apple should be well-known to anyone with the slightest interest in mobile devices. In 2007, the first iPhone was released. In 2010, the iPad was released. Both products defined their respective markets and have essentially made Apple what it is today.
With a story spanning more than 40 years, a near-bankruptcy, some incredible products, and being named as the world’s most valuable brand, the history of Apple has been nothing if not varied and interesting.
While most people today will merely think of Apple’s latest products when thinking of the company, it is important to consider its history to better understand how it came to be and why the name Apple is so familiar nowadays.