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