In 1976, Wozniak started attending meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club. New microcomputers such as the Altair 8800 and the IMSAI inspired him to build a microprocessor into his video terminal and have a complete computer.
At the time the only microcomputer CPUs generally available were the $179 Intel 8080 ($773.00 in present-day terms), and the $170 Motorola 6800 ($734.00 in present-day terms). Wozniak preferred the 6800, but both were out of his price range. So he watched, and learned, and designed computers on paper, waiting for the day he could afford a CPU.
When MOS Technology released its $20 ($82.00 in present-day terms) 6502 chip in 1976, Wozniak wrote a version of BASIC for it, then began to design a computer for it to run on. The 6502 was designed by the same people who designed the 6800, as many in Silicon Valley left employers to form their own companies. Wozniaks earlier 6800 paper-computer needed only minor changes to run on the new chip.
Wozniak completed the machine and took it to Homebrew Computer Club meetings to show it off. At the meeting, Wozniak met his old friend Jobs, who was interested in the commercial potential of the small hobby machines.
The Apple I was sold as an assembled circuit board and lacked basic features such as a keyboard, monitor, and case. The owner of this unit added a keyboard and a wooden case.
The very first Apple Computer logo, drawn by Ronald Wayne, depicts Isaac Newton under an apple tree.
The Apple logo in 1977 created by Rob Janoff with the rainbow color theme used until 1998. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had been friends for some time, having met in 1971, when their mutual friend, Bill Fernandez, introduced 21-year-old Wozniak to 16-year-old Jobs. Jobs managed to interest Wozniak in assembling a machine and selling it.
Jobs approached a local computer store, The Byte Shop, who said they would be interested in the machine, but only if it came fully assembled. The owner, Paul Terrell, went further, saying he would order 50 of the machines and pay US $500 ($2.04 thousand in present-day terms) each on delivery. Jobs then took the purchase order that he had been given from the Byte Shop to Cramer Electronics, a national electronic parts distributor, and ordered the components he needed to assemble the Apple I Computer. The local credit manager asked Jobs how he was going to pay for the parts and he replied, I have this purchase order from the Byte Shop chain of computer stores for 50 of my computers and the payment terms are COD. If you give me the parts on a net 30 day terms I can build and deliver the computers in that time frame, collect my money from Terrell at the Byte Shop and pay you.
With that, the credit manager called Paul Terrell who was attending an IEEE computer conference at Asilomar in Pacific Grove and verified the validity of the purchase order. Amazed at the tenacity of Jobs, Terrell assured the credit manager if the computers showed up in his stores Jobs would be paid and would have more than enough money to pay for the parts order. The two Steves and their small crew spent day and night building and testing the computers and delivered to Terrell on time to pay his suppliers and have a tidy profit left over for their celebration and next order. Steve Jobs had found a way to finance his soon-to-be multimillion-dollar company without giving away one share of stock or ownership.
The machine had only a few notable features. One was the use of a TV as the display system, whereas many machines had no display at all. This was not like the displays of later machines, however; text was displayed at a terribly slow 60 characters per second. However, this was still faster than the teleprinters used on contemporary machines of that era. The Apple I also included bootstrap code on ROM, which made it easier to start up. Finally, at the insistence of Paul Terrell, Wozniak also designed a cassette interface for loading and saving programs, at the then-rapid pace of 1200 bit/s. Although the machine was fairly simple, it was nevertheless a masterpiece of design, using far fewer parts than anything in its class, and quickly earning Wozniak a reputation as a master designer.
Joined by another friend, Ronald Wayne, the three started to build the machines. Using a variety of methods, including borrowing space from friends and family, selling various prized items (like calculators and a VW bus) and scrounging, Jobs managed to secure the parts needed while Wozniak and Wayne assembled them. But the owner of the Byte Shop was expecting complete computers, not just printed circuit boards. The boards still being a product for the customers Terrell still paid them. Eventually 200 of the Apple Is were built.
Main article: Apple II series
Wozniak had already moved on from the Apple I. Many of the design features of the I were due to the limited amount of money they had to construct the prototype, but with the income from the sales he was able to start construction of a greatly improved machine, the Apple II; it was presented to the public at the first West Coast Computer Faire on April 16 and April 17, 1977. On the first day of exhibition, Jobs introduced Apple II to a Japanese chemist named Toshio Mizushima who became the first authorized Apple dealer in Japan.
The main difference internally was a completely redesigned TV interface, which held the display in memory. Now not only useful for simple text display, the Apple II included graphics, and, eventually, color. Jobs meanwhile pressed for a much improved case and keyboard, with the idea that the machine should be complete and ready to run out of the box. This was almost the case for the Apple I machines sold to The Byte Shop, but one still needed to plug various parts together and type in the code to run BASIC.
Building such a machine was going to be fiscally burdensome. Jobs started looking for cash, but Wayne was somewhat gun shy due to a failed venture four years earlier, and eventually dropped out of the company. Banks were reluctant to lend Jobs money; the idea of a computer for ordinary people seemed absurd at the time. Jobs eventually met Mike Markkula who co-signed a bank loan for US$250,000, and the three formed Apple Computer on April 1, 1976. The name Apple was chosen because the company to beat in the technology industry at the time was Atari, and Apple Computer came before Atari alphabetically and thus also in the phone book. Another reason was that Jobs had happy memories of working on an Oregon apple farm one summer.
With both cash, and a new case design in hand thanks to designer Jerry Manock, the Apple II was released in 1977 and became the computer generally credited with creating the home computer market. Millions were sold well into the 1980s. A number of different models of the Apple II series were built, including the Apple IIe and Apple IIGS, which could still be found in many schools as late as 2005.
While the Apple II was already established as a successful business-ready platform because of Visicalc, Apple was not content. The Apple III (Apple 3) was designed to take on the business environment. It was released on May 19, 1980.
The Apple III was a relatively conservative design for computers of the era. However, Steve Jobs did not want the computer to have a fan; rather, he wanted the heat generated by the electronics to be dissipated through the chassis of the machine, forgoing the cooling fan.
Unfortunately, the physical design of the case was not sufficient to cool the components inside it. By removing the fan from the design, the Apple III was prone to overheating. This caused the integrated circuit chips to disconnect from the motherboard. Customers who contacted Apple customer service were told to drop the computer on the desk, which would cause the ICs to fall back in to place.
Thousands of Apple III computers were recalled and, although a new model was introduced in 1983 to rectify the problems, the damage was already done.
In August 1980, the Financial Times reported that Apple Computer, the fast growing Californian manufacturer of small computers for the consumer, business and educational markets, is planning to go public later this year. [It] is the largest private manufacturer in the U.S. of small computers. Founded about five years ago as a small workshop business, it has become the second largest manufacturer of small computers, after the Radio Shack division of the Tandy company. On December 12, 1980, Apple launched the Initial Public Offering of its stock to the investing public. When Apple went public, it generated more capital than any IPO since Ford Motor Company in 1956 and instantly created more millionaires (about 300) than any company in history. Several venture capitalists cashed out, reaping billions in long-term capital gains.
In January 1981, Apple held its first shareholders meeting as a public company in the Flint Center, a large auditorium at nearby De Anza College, which is often used for symphony concerts. (Previous meetings were held quietly in smaller rooms, because there had only been a few shareholders.) The business of the meeting had been planned (or choreographed) so that the voting could be staged in 15 minutes or less. In most cases, voting proxies are collected by mail and counted days or months before a meeting. In this case, after the IPO, many shares were in new hands.
Steve Jobs started his prepared speech, but after being interrupted by voting several times, he dropped his prepared speech and delivered a long, emotionally charged talk about betrayal, lack of respect, and related topics.