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.

 
LaunchDescriptionUntil
1976
 
$US666.66 4kb
Apple's first computer, the Apple I, was basically a home built circuit board that used a 64x8x5 character generator in a Signetics ROM memory chip, an interface for a 40-column x 24-line video terminal, but not memory-mapped and only a display rate of 60cps, with an interface for a 16-pin parallel ASCII Keyboard, an interface for a Audio Cassette drive (these peripherals all of course cost extra).

However Steve Wozniak had built the first home computer to actually write characters to an ordinary TV screen. Click here for an interview with Steve about that time. Click here for more background on that NTSC signal — 262½ scan lines (having 341¼ dots per line) using 60hz (i.e. 60 scans per second).

In those days operating systems for microcomputers were called resident monitors and its "Woz Monitor", co-ordinating activity between keyboard, screen, cassette and memory, resided in just 256 bytes of ROM (read-only memory). It also came with his version of Apple Basic on tape. Called Integer Basic, it had no provision for floating point calculations.

Still, 200 boards were produced, and all but 25 sold during their 10 months on the market. Click here to see the Apple I's advertisement in October 1976.
Re the price:- Steve Jobs had suggested $777.77 but Steve Woz thought that was too high, so he "took the lucky number 7 and subtracted 1" — regardless of that biblical "mark of the beast" reference

1977
1977
 
$US1298 4kb
$US2698 48kb (but, initially, still excluding a TV monitor and audio cassette drive)
The Apple II came with a fanless power supply and circuit boards now packaged inside a cool, plastic case, memory-mapped display using 1 KB of RAM, plus a keyboard.
It now 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.
1993
1978
 
$US495
With strong encouragement from Mike Markkula (formerly from Intel), and to a huge reception in July 1978, Steve Wozniak designed a hardware controller and released the Apple floppy disk drive, the Disk II. The software for it was called Apple DOS consisting of a File Manager, a BASIC interface, and some simple utilities — written by Paul Laughton in just seven weeks April - June. Click here to read his story, also a copy of the Apple II DOS source code. So after July, 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

Development of the Apple III had started in late 1978 to address weaknesses that the "business" market saw in the Apple II. It was released in May 1980, supporting an 80-column display with upper and lower case characters and a built in floppy disk drive. It was expensive though equivalent to about $US12,600 in 2016 dollars, and there were serious stability issues in the logic boards.

Following a design overhaul, it was formally reintroduced in September 1981 along with a 5mb Apple Profile hard drive (costing $US3500). It was still an 8 bit CPU, and was now following IBM's 16 bit Personal Computer (launched in August that year). And it had no "Prt Scn" key, a most useful introduction on the IBM.
So, following a high introductory price, design issues, a limited software library, then a pretty expensive hard drive, it was, commercially, a "hard to sell" failure.

April 1984
Jan 1983
 
$US9995 1mb
Work on the Apple Lisa also began in late 1978, and with changes of project leadership, Apple spent more than $US50 million and four years developing its graphical user interface, use of a mouse, and running on Motorola 68000's 32 bit processor with 16 bit data bus. After Steve Jobs was diverted over to the Macintosh project in 1982, it was launched in January 1983 with two built in floppy disk drives and 1mb of RAM. But with an introductory price that was close to $US10,000 (that's about $US24,000 in 2016 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
Jan 1984
 
$US1995 128kb
And next the Apple Macintosh (Motorola Advanced Computer System on Silicon) with a relatively low introductory price, under-configured memory (initially 128KB, it was reconfigured in October with 512KB), but finally a limited success. Had simple networking with a $US50 box (LocalTalk).
In March 1985 "Print Screen" (Cmd-Shift-4) also "Capture Screen" (Cmd-Shift-3) added.

Click here for the story behind MacPaint that was released at the same time, its underlying library Quickdraw, and a copy of the source code.

 
1991NeXTSTEP and the WorldWideWeb
 
In 1985 Steve Jobs has a falling out with his board and departs. 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.
 
1994
 
$US1700 8mb
Apple Power Macintosh for business users, running on Motorola's PowerPC processor, using high-speed technology designed by AIM Apple, IBM and Motorola2006
1997Steve Jobs returns as CEO 
1998
 
$US1299 32mb
Apple iMac where the "i" is short for "Internet" having out-of-the-box connectivity inside an All-in-one case using Motorola's PowerPC processor.
In 1999, a new operating system OS X server edition is launched, based on NeXTSTEP. A desktop version followed in 2001.
As Motorola steadily downsized, selling off its microprocessor division in 2005, the iMac switched to Intel in 2006, thus even enabling the user to run Windows, if they wished to
 
2001
 
$US399
Back to 2001. Apple iPod portable media player running on a Samsung processor using technology designed by ARM in Cambridge, England 
2002
 
$US1099 128mb
Apple eMac. Marketed towards educational institutions as a low-cost alternative to the iMac2006
2005
 
$US599 256mb
Apple Mac Mini. A very small computer. Runs initially on the PowerPC processor but switched to Intel the following year 
2006
 
$US2499 1gb
Apple Mac Pro. Apple's fastest computer, replacing the Power Mac for business users, running on a high-speed Intel Xeon processor 
2006
 
$US1099 512mb
Apple MacBook. Apple's portable notebook computer, replacing the PowerBook. Now on Intel2012
2007
 
$US499
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. Initially, apparently, Steve Jobs saw it more like an iPod than a computer. Then 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. 
2010
 
$US499
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 iPhone SE release in 2016) of Apple iPhones, iPod Touch, and iPads. Yes, more succinct than Wikipedia.

 

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