Apple Computer History: Sadly Saying Goodbye

There comes a time when we must say goodbye. So it is with me and a significant slice of computer history – Apple Computer history, to be precise. The Apple II computer system I purchased in 1979 at the dawn of the personal computer age must go. It is time to face the fact that my wife and I need the storage space in order to make everyday living bearable these days. My system has been carefully packed away and stored in the garage for many years, now, while I have periodically turned to the newest, latest, most powerful personal computers that have come along. My latest is the Apple MacBook Air laptop which I purchased several weeks ago.

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I purchased my Apple II in 1979 from a small local computer store (remember those?) here in Sunnyvale, California, called Computer Plus. I still have the original sales receipt, my cashed personal check, and the business card of the salesperson who sold me the system: Mark Wozniak, the younger brother of Apple co-founder and designer of the Apple II, Steve Wozniak!

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The Apple II was my initiation into the world of computers and computing systems – a realm not served by college and university curriculums in the nineteen-sixties when I was at Stanford – consequently a realm of knowledge which presented us working engineers with a very steep learning curve in the late seventies. Yes, we had the Hewlett Packard HP 35 scientific pocket calculator since 1972 which replaced the old slide rule, but simulating electrical circuit designs on one’s own personal desktop computer was a wholly-different ballgame which required a tremendous learning leap. Such personal engineering computing and the replacement of tubes with transistors in electronic circuits were the two major “leaps” my generation of engineers were required to make in order to stay highly productive… and employable – especially in Silicon Valley.

Comparing the Apple II with my newest computer, Apple’s MacBook Air, is somewhat akin to parking a Model T Ford automobile next to a Ferrari. There are similarities between those two cars: They both have four wheels and an engine – that’s pretty much it! Similarly, the two computers also have similarities: They both have electrical circuits for computational purposes, and they both have memory in which to store information. Other than that, it is truly astounding to contemplate the vast difference in capability between the two computers. The Model T Ford compares infinitely more favorably to the Ferrari than the Apple II to today’s computers. Take a bow, Mr. Wozniak and Mr. Jobs; equally astounding is the fact that this has all taken place in less than thirty-five years!

The year 1979 marked the beginning of Apple Computer’s tumultuous rise in the fledgling personal computer arena. Aside from hobbyist kits, there were few competitors – Radio Shack’s TRS-80 and the Commodore PET were the most notable. IBM’s “PC” was still two years away. I remember distinctly the dawning of the commercial personal computer age for me: I was an electrical engineer with the Memorex Corporation in 1976. One afternoon, I came across two colleagues examining an advertising flyer in the hallway. One was excitedly pointing out the Commodore PET computer which had just been announced…the first integrated, affordable, desktop PC.

 Woz & Jobs & Apple IISteves Wozniak and Jobs and the Apple II – ca. 1979

At the same time in 1976, two youngsters named Jobs and Wozniak had, like good surfboarders, anticipated the coming wave and were tinkering with computers in the garage of Jobs’ parents in nearby Cupertino, California. Thanks to their efforts, Cupertino, in the heart of Silicon Valley, was destined to become corporate headquarters of one of the most valuable companies in the world – Apple Computer. Apple is currently uprooting a considerable tract of nearby land to build their huge (and revolutionary) “circular ring” headquarters – in Cupertino, of course. Apple currently occupies a myriad of large and small buildings throughout the Valley region, so space consolidation will surely result.

The whole Apple saga and the travels of Steve Jobs – Apple’s corporate visionary – is already the stuff of legends. In thinking about it, only Henry Ford and Thomas Edison come to mind as corporate individuals who have had equal influence on the way we live our lives, today. Other corporate giants come to mind, but not many possessing the flair, foresight, and imagination brought to bear by these three.

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My Apple II system is very unique and desirable for a number of reasons:

  1. It is a complete system with matching Apple CRT monitor and twin Apple Disk II floppy disk drives. This, in itself, makes my Apple II very unusual.
  2. The entire system is in pristine, working condition – also rare.
  3. All boxes, packing, and papers that originally came with the various components are present.
  4. I have the original system software cassettes and system floppies as well as a plethora of various Apple Manuals – all in “like new” condition. Also present: The famous Apple II “Redbook” system reference manual.
  5. I am the original owner and have the original sales ticket, my cancelled personal check, and Mark Wozniak’s business card from Computer Plus.

Basically, I would describe what I have as a one-in-a-million Apple II system which qualifies as far better than museum quality.

Gee, the more I talk about my Apple II, the more reluctant I become about putting it up for sale soon on E-Bay. I think I’ll wrap up this post right now!

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