Apple's Timeline 1976-2010 from the Apple I to the new iPad

Apple's first major computer, the Apple II in June 1977, also its predecessor, the Apple I in 1976 was based on a 6502 processor released in 1975 by MOS Technology, and in 1975 the least expensive, fully featured processor on the market.

MOS Technology was a chip-building company that had been joined by designers from Motorola, after Motorola's management had forbidden designers from further work on a low-cost version of its 1974 chip, the Motorola 6800. Famously, the 6502 was seen powering Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 1. It was at the heart of the later BBC Micro that kick-started home computing in the UK, and was a big influence on the ARM chip designs that now power Apple's iPhone, and Google's Android smartphone.

Back in 1977, competition to the Apple were in the form of the Atari video console, basically a games machine, and the Commodore PET, though the PET had delivery problems and was back-ordered for months. And competition to the 6502 was the Zilog Z80, running on Tandy Radio Shack's first home computer. Awkwardly these early Tandy machines had many hardware problems/program bugs.

$US666.66 4kb
Apple's first computer, the Apple I, was basically a home built circuit board and power supply, with interfaces for a 16-pin parallel ASCII keyboard, a TV screen for video output (40-column, 24-line display), also an audio cassette drive (which all of course cost extra). In those days when operating systems for microcomputers were called resident monitors, its "Woz Monitor", co-ordinating activity between keyboard screen and memory, resided in just 256 bytes of ROM (read-only memory). It also came with Steve Wozniak's version of Apple Basic on cassette tape. Called Integer Basic, it had no provision for floating point calculations. But via radio frequencies it could display all its results on that TV screen. Click here to see the Apple I's advertisement in October 1976.1977
$US1298 4kb
$US2698 48kb (but, initially, still excluding a TV monitor and audio cassette drive)
The Apple II came with its fanless power supply and circuit boards now packaged inside a cool, plastic case, plus a keyboard.
Importantly, it offered the user programmable colour commands inside its version of BASIC that would run on that TV screen, pretty much a first for a home computer.
Later that year Apple added floating point calculations through a deal with Bill Gates, providing the user with a licensed copy of Microsoft Basic, calling it Applesoft Basic.
Note too, these were the days when you bought, loaded and saved data and programs on cassette tapes. It was to be 12 months before either Apple (or Tandy) released a floppy disk drive.
With strong encouragement from Mike Markkula (formerly from Intel), and to a huge reception in July 1978, Steve Wozniak designed the Apple floppy disk drive, the Disk II along with the Apple DOS software. A disk operating system for a 6502 (like CP/M microcomputers that ran on Intel chips). So now you could save and read files almost immediately, instead of having to sequentially search a cassette tape. 
1979Now came VisiCalc, the first Spreadsheet program for microcomputers, released in October 1979. The Apple II was more than just a hobby machine, it was a serious business tool. Though from a wordprocessing viewpoint there was no lower case functionality. 
March 1980Microsoft Consumer Products (an end-user/dealer branch for Microsoft) release the Z80-Softcard for $US349, a plug-in board with an 80-column display that came with both the CP/M operating system and Microsoft Basic. Click here for this announcement. CP/M could run Wordstar, first released back in June 1979, a true WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) word processor supporting upper and lower case characters.

At the same time, Corvus Systems "hack" the Apple DOS software and release a file server for this Apple II supporting 5mb and 10mb (and in 1982 20mb) hard drives. It became very popular in primary and secondary education — via this single drive and backup a full classroom of Apple II computers could be networked together.
Click here for an interview with the Corvus Systems manager.

In Mt Gravatt Qld, the Zardax word processor (for a 40-column upper and lower case display) was written and released by Computerland Australia, easy to use, and very popular.

May 1980
$US4340 128kb

The Apple III was released. It supported an 80-column, 24-line display with upper and lower case characters and also had a built in floppy disk drive. In September 1981, the 5mb Apple Profile was launched at a cost of $US3500. So, following a high introductory price equivalent to about $US17,500 in 2014 dollars, a limited software library, then a pretty expensive hard drive, it was, commercially, a "hard to sell" failure.

April 1984
$US9995 1mb
The Apple Lisa came with two built in floppy disk drives, 1mb of RAM, something called "a mouse" and with a GUI interface. But with an introductory price that was close to $US10,000 (that's about $US37,500 in 2014 dollars), again it was, commercially, a failure. Apparently its biggest customer, NASA, used LisaProject for project management and was faced with significant problems when the Lisa was discontinued.

Click here for more about the Lisa's reception in 1983 and 1984.

August 1986
$US1995 128kb
And next the Apple Macintosh with a relatively low introductory price, under-configured memory (initially), but finally a limited success. Had simple networking, a $US50 box (LocalTalk), and both it and the Lisa now ran on the advanced Motorola 68000 processor that had been begun back in 1976. Mac was short for Motorola Advanced Computer System on Silicon. Use of the chip continued right up to 1996. 
1991NeXTSTEP and the WorldWideWeb
In 1985 Steve Jobs has a falling out with his board and resigns. Launches the NeXT computer running the UNIX-based NeXTSTEP operating system in 1988 (for $US6500), followed by the NeXTcube (for $US10,000) in 1990. Expensive machines, they both sold in low numbers, mostly to universities, financial institutions, and government agencies. But one of the purchasers was the world wide web instigator, Tim Berners-Lee, working at CERN in Geneva in 1991. Click here for more details.
$US1700 8mb
Apple Power Macintosh for business users, running on the PowerPC processor again built by Motorola, using high-speed technology designed by AIM Apple, IBM and Motorola2006
1997Steve Jobs returns as CEO 
$US1299 32mb
Apple iMac where the "i" is short for "Internet" out-of-the-box connectivity using Motorola's PowerPC processor inside an All-in-one case.
In 1999, a new operating system OS X server edition is launched, based on NeXTSTEP. A desktop version followed in 2001. In 2006, the iMac switches to an Intel processor, enabling the user to run Windows if they wish to
Apple iPod portable media player running on a Samsung processor using technology designed by ARM in Cambridge, England 
$US1099 128mb
Apple eMac. Marketed towards educational institutions as a low-cost alternative to the iMac2006
$US599 256mb
Apple Mac Mini. A very small computer. Runs initially on the PowerPC processor and switches to an Intel processor the following year 
$US2499 1gb
Apple Mac Pro. Apple's fastest computer, replacing the Power Mac for business users, running on a high-speed Intel Xeon processor 
$US1099 512mb
Apple MacBook. Apple's portable notebook computer, replacing the PowerBook. It now ran on an Intel processor2012
Apple iPhone. A "smart phone" that uses Apple's proprietary iOS operating system and runs on a Samsung processor using technology designed again by ARM in Cambridge, England. In 2008, Google released an "open source" operating system called Android that any phone manufacturer is allowed to use, providing it uses ARM technology, which ARM is quite happy to license for a royalty fee. Android has also been ported to run on an Intel processor chip. 
Apple iPad. A portable tablet computer running on a Samsung processor using technology designed by ARM in Cambridge, England. Numerous competing tablets, e.g. Samsung's own Galaxy Tab which is marketed independently of Apple by using Android, have also been launched since 2010. 

Click here for a great graphical hardware configuration summary (from the earliest release in 2007 to the latest release in 2016) of Apple iPhones, iPod Touch, and iPads. Yes, more succinct than Wikipedia.


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