The Apple I

Filed under: Hardware,People

40 years ago, on July 29th, 1975, Steve Wozniak booted up for the first time the computer he designed and built on his own.


At the beginning of March 1975, in Menlo Park, Gordon French hosted in his garage the first meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club, where the Altair was demoed.

Wozniak participated with his friend Allen Baum and his imagination was struck most of all by Altair’s Intel 8080 microprocessor. Suddenly, he had an insight.

As stated in Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs”:

“[Wozniak] had been designing a terminal, with a keyboard and monitor, that would connect to a distant minicomputer. Using a microprocessor, he could put some of the capacity of the minicomputer inside the terminal itself, so it could become a small stand-alone computer on a desktop.”

That same night, after the HCC meeting, Wozniak started to sketch out (on paper) the schematics of what would later become the Apple I.

For months every night Wozniak would head back to Hewlett Packard (where he was an employee) to labor on his project, figuring out which components to use, and how, and to write the software code.

Then, at the end of July, the young engineer reached a milestone. As he recalls in Isaacson’s book:

“I typed a few keys on the keyboard and I was shocked! The letters were displayed on the screen.”

He showed his computer to Steve Jobs, who peppered him with questions about its potential and expandability, helped him obtain components and showcase it around.

Nine months later, on April 1, 1976, Wozniak and Jobs met with HP colleague Ron Wayne in his apartment, and drew up a partnership agreement: Apple was born.

Note: The image of Wozniak in ASCII ART is from the Instagram account of Verde Binario, the MIAI (Museo Interattivo di Archeologia Informatica) in Cosenza, Italy.

Tuesday 30 June 2015, 3:14 am
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1 comment

1 Comment »

  1. An important part of the recipe was the new and very low price 6502:
    “ADAM McCRANIE: Why did you use the 6502 microprocessor in your design?

    WOZNIAK: In 1975 an 8080 microprocessor cost $370 and you could only get it
    from a distributor set up to deal with companies, not individual computer
    enthusiasts. The 6502 was introduced at Wescon with a unique marketing
    approach (thanks, Chuck Peddle) and was sold over the counter (like register
    chips at the local surplus stores) for $20. I bought mine from Chuck and his
    wife themselves. I couldn’t afford more.”

    Comment by EdS — July 1, 2015 @ 12:47 pm

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