Happy anniversary, Mac

January 27th, 2014 10:31 AM
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January 24, 2014, marked the thirtieth anniversary of the release of the Apple Macintosh. Although Apple had by that point already developed multiple platforms with varying degrees of compatibility — the Apple-1, Apple II, Apple III, and Lisa, to name a few — the Mac would prove to be the machine on which they'd focus their efforts long after all its in-house competitors were cancelled. It was not an immediate success: the Apple IIGS, released in 1986, was more popularly received than the Mac. And it wasn't until 1997 that I made the switch.

My family purchased an Apple IIe shortly after its release in 1983 and kept it until we moved in 1988, outfitting the new house with a IIGS. We added a second GS in 1993, when I launched a dial-up BBS. When I started college a few years later, I shuttered the BBS, left the Apple II at home (until recently), and purchased my first Mac, a PowerBook 1400cs. It was around that time that Bernie ][ the Rescue, one of the first Apple II emulators for Mac OS, added the ability to print from AppleWorks. I was insistent on using the Apple II environment, if not the hardware, for as much as my college work as possible. For all four years of my undergraduate studies, almost all my papers were written and printed in the original AppleWorks.

One year into college, I traded the 1400cs for a Wall Street, which Ryan Suenaga considered the perfect Mac with which to emulate the Apple II. It was one of the last models of laptop Mac to feature ADB and SCSI support, offering compatibility with a wide range of Apple II storage and input devices. I used this Mac for five years, until late 2003, when I bought a new laptop that came with Mac OS X. That computer's successor came in 2007, which was then replaced by Apple (under warranty) in 2009, which lasted until my 2013 Retina purchase.

Just as I wouldn't've been led to the Mac without the Apple II, others trod a similar path. Jeff Gamet, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Denver Apple Pi and CoMUG meetings, wrote for The Mac Observer about his own inventory's evolution, and the excellent reasons it took him so long to come to the Mac:

In high school I got my first taste of Apple computers thanks to the Apple ][+ lab. My parents bought me a Franklin Ace 1000 my senior year, and that computer served me well through college. It was an Apple //e clone with 46KB RAM, upper and lower case text support, built-in 80-column text support, and a 5 1/4-inch floppy drive.

When I had the chance to really get to work on a 512K Mac, things changed and suddenly I could do so much more. And yet I still didn't buy one. Instead, I bought an Apple //GS because it came with a powerful 68C816 processor, color graphics, great sound, a graphical interface that looked just like the Mac (but color!), and — best of all — could run all of my Apple //e programs as well as GS-native titles. At the time it felt like I was getting so much more for my money compared to the Mac.

It's not just the users who the Apple II brought to the Mac; the latter platform simply would not have existed without the former. Ross Rubin writes for CNET not only about how the Mac experience has informed iOS, but also how the Apple II inspired the Mac, both in similarities and differences:

When Apple introduced the Mac 30 years ago, it was already a successful computer company with the Apple II, a product that would continue to be successful for years after the launch of Apple's new darling. If it had taken the approach Microsoft had with Windows 1.0, and later Windows 8 and Surface, it would have grafted a graphical interface onto the Apple II — something that actually eventually happened toward the line's decline with the Apple IIGS — and perhaps provided a more limited number of expansion slots.

Instead, the Mac was almost a complete break from Apple's first hit. It had an integrated monitor, eschewed color, said farewell to its ProDOS interface, and seemed to offer a keyboard only reluctantly, omitting cursor keys to push people toward the mouse.

Pessimist Steve Weyhrich predicts the computers may be more alike than different in their ultimate fate. Weyhrich takes exceptions with Jason Snell and Phil Schiller who extol "The Mac keeps going forever". The same was once said of the Apple II, which proved a promise Apple couldn't keep. Any number of scenarios could toll a similar death knell for the Mac: Apple goes bankrupt, the Mac is outmoded, or Apple's growing divide between programmers and users means that Mac OS X is supplanted by the more mobile and restricted iOS.

However we got here, and wherever we're going, I'm grateful for all the fruits produced from that initial union of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. On the occasion of this thirtieth anniversary, I offer the company a platform-agnostic wish: Apple Forever!

The Apple events of June 10

June 10th, 2013 8:25 PM
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Today is a big day for Apple — and not just because iOS 7 was announced this afternoon (with an oddly familiar rainbow logo, at that!). Although Apple's future will be determined by the announcements and decisions made today, it is their past, and thus their existence, that is defined by the events of June 10.

Although there is some disagreement as to the exact date, the authorities of the Computer History Museum and Steve Weyhrich's Apple II History site indicate it was today in 1977 that the first Apple II computer shipped. The Apple II, of course, was the first official product of the newly minted Apple Computer Inc. Its success enabled the company to survive and thrive, going on to innovate, create new products, and redefine entire industries.

If not for today, we wouldn't have iOS, or iPhones, or iPads, or Macs — or the many creations, connections, conventions, and collaborations they have made possible.

Happy birthday to Apple's greatest success. May there be many more to come!

May 25 - Retirement

(Hat tip to ThinkGeek)

The Apple II turns 35

April 16th, 2012 11:58 AM
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Filed under History, Mainstream coverage;
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On April 16–17, 1977, the West Coast Computer Faire was held, marking the debut of the Apple II personal computer. Marked by this public unveiling, the machine turns 35 years old today, and Harry McCracken, former editor-in-chief of PCWorld and now Technologizer / TIME.com columnist, has pulled out all the stops to celebrate the occasion.

McCracken starts by looking back at the invention and inventors that shaped an industry, narrating the creation of the Apple II and the roles Woz and Jobs each played in its design. Demonstrating an intimate knowledge of the subject, McCracken acknowledges the contributions of other, oft-overlooked players, such as Mike Markkula, Rob Janoff, Jerry Manock, and Ron Holt. McCracken's written history features a complementary slideshow of 18 photos, visualizing highlights and milestones of the computer's early life, from its Apple-1 predecessor to Apple growing large enough to warrant a new office. The slideshow's last photo, as well as another from the retrospective article, are from Andy Molloy's KansasFest 2011 online album.

The occasion isn't all dry dates, names, and images. Want to actively participate in the Apple II's birthday bash? McCracken provides 14 ways to celebrate the computer's 35th anniversary:

  1. Read an epic account of its life and time
  2. Watch a so-so TV movie’s depiction of its launch
  3. Read a great first-hand report of the introduction
  4. Watch a very early ad for the Apple II
  5. Watch some later Apple II ads
  6. Buy your very own Apple II
  7. Seek Apple II support from Apple
  8. Play some Apple II games, on whatever computer you’ve got
  9. Watch a movie or TV show guest-starring the Apple II
  10. Visit the Apple II Day Spa in Arvada, Colorado
  11. Watch a 1988 TV show about the aging Apple II line
  12. Attend an Apple II conference
  13. Read classic Apple II coverage at TIME.com

Scott Miller plays Lode Runner

Scott Miller plays Lode Runner at KansasFest 2011
on the computer made famous by Technologizer.
Photo by Andy Molloy; used with permission.

Or, if you're a college student, you might celebrate by receiving a complimentary iPad 3.

Although the Apple II had more affordable and even more popular contemporaries, such as the Commodore 64, the Apple II is especially deserving of recognition. McCracken's closing statement succinctly summarizes:

… if Apple’s only computer had been the Apple I, it would be remembered today only by scholars with an arcane interest in the prehistory of the personal computer. But if the company had folded after releasing the Apple II, it would still be one of the best-known PC companies of all time. The II was — and is — that important.

Here's to 35 more!

Happy birthday to Steve Wozniak and Bill Budge

August 11th, 2011 2:36 PM
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As A2Central.com and Open Apple both recently acknowledged, today is Steve Wozniak's birthday. The creator of the 34-year-old Apple II turns 61 today.

But today is also Bill Budge's birthday! After Woz practically invented personal computers, Mr. Budge was one of the first to see their limitless potential, using the Apple II to create the popular pinball game Raster Blaster and, later, the DIY tool Pinball Construction Set. Mr. Budge's name often received higher billing than the title of the software, a rare status in an era when Warren Robinett had to resort to inventing the Easter Egg to get his name into a game.

Though he may not be as famous as Steve Wozniak, Bill Budge is nonetheless an important person in the computer industry and its history, and I'm glad he's still around to celebrate his 57th birthday.

Happy birthday, gentlemen!

Conflicting birthdays for the Apple II

June 20th, 2011 3:50 PM
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Some important dates to observe this month:

  • • June  5, 1977: Apple ships the first Apple II. (Wired)
  • • June 10, 1977: Apple ships the first Apple II. (Geekazine.com)
  • • June 11, 1977: Apple ships the first Apple II. (Juiced.GS)
  • • June 20, 1977: Apple ships the first Apple II. (Berkeley Heights Patch)

The Juiced.GS date I know to be false; it was given on a wall calendar that came with an insert indicating some dates were marked as estimates, accurate to the year and month but not the day. The sources for the other three dates are a mystery to me.

On the most recent episode of the Retro Computing Roundtable, Carrington Vanston observed how strange it is to see history disappearing within our own lifetimes. We have enough living history that this shouldn't be happening. Who can confirm when the first Apple II shipped?

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