Category Archives: Anniversaries

Happy Birthday Apple!

Apple's first logo, drawn by Ronald Wayne, features Sir Isaac Newton and the apple tree
Apple’s first logo, drawn by Ronald Wayne, features Sir Isaac Newton and the apple tree

Today is the 40th birthday of the Apple Computer Company, which is now the world’s most valuable firm, but back when they started up their world-changing venture in Los Altos, California, USA, on 1 April, 1976, they were just three guys with a dream – to make computers for the rest of us.

Incorporated as Apple Computer, Inc. on 3 January, 1977, Apple was renamed Apple Inc. on 9 January, 2007, to reflect its shifted focus toward consumer electronics. The technology firm has risen from early days in a Californian bedroom and Steve Jobs’ family’s garage to being worth more than £486 billion ($700 billion USD).

Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne (who was to leave the company before it became a major success) joined forces to make and sell the Apple I personal computer kit. Electronics engineer and computer programmer Wozniak (now affectionately known as Woz) was the man who single-handedly designed the first and much of the second early Apples of the 8-bit era.  Jobs was to become the company’s now legendary (if occasionally controversial) inspirer and marketing guru. Wayne provided administrative oversight of the fledgling start-up. He also drew the first Apple logo, wrote the three men’s original partnership agreement, and wrote the Apple I manual.

The Apple I computer kits were first shown to the public at the Homebrew Computer Club in Silicon Valley, California. Strictly a hobbyist machine, the Apple I was sold simply as a motherboard (with CPU, RAM, and basic textual-video chips), which left the buyer to sort out a power supply, keyboard and monitor. Some even built their (now exceedingly rare and valuable) Apples into wooden boxes – kind of an Apple crate, in fact!  The Apple I went on sale in July 1976 and was at $666.66 ($2,772 in 2016 dollars, adjusted for inflation).

Apple I at the Smithsonian Museum, USA (Pic by rebelpilot - click to view page)
Apple I at the Smithsonian Museum, USA (Pic by rebelpilot – click to view page)

Forty years after starting up, the company now has a massive space-age headquarters in Cupertino, California (with another being built) as well as more than 480 retail stores in 18 countries worldwide and reported income of more than $18 billion US dollars – £12.4 billion – for the first quarter of this year.

Come in number ][

The Apple I became the inspiration for one of the first mass-produced home, educational and business computer systems, the Apple II (or Apple ][ )range, and the shoulders upon which the later Macintosh range, still selling in its modern incarnation today, was to stand.

Apple II computer on display at the Musée Bolo, EPFL, Lausanne (pic RAMA, click for info)
Apple II computer on display at the Musée Bolo, EPFL, Lausanne (pic RAMA, click for info)

Of course no company has ever had a straight line course to success, and Apple had its own ups and downs, including problems with machines such as the Apple III and sales of the later incarnations of the Mac itself in the 1990s.

Revolutionary
The original Macintosh 128k, affectionately known as the Mac, 1984
The original Macintosh 128k, affectionately known as the Mac, 1984

The Macintosh 128k was introduced in 1984 as ‘the computer for the rest of us’.  It was Steve Jobs’ pet project– a friendly alternative to the corporate, user-unfriendly, business machines, typified by the DOS-based IBM PC. The ‘Mac’, as it has been affectionately known ever since, despite then being relatively underpowered, and expensive, built upon and popularised the WIMP concepts (Windows, Icons, Mouse, Pointer) which have since inspired other companies. It was the beginning of a revolution that brings us to where personal computing is today.

Of mice and men

It’s been a decades-long roller-coaster ride that almost came off the rails in the late 1980s-1990s, when Steve Jobs was pushed out of the company in the mid-1980s after the Mac range struggled and he attempted to oust then chief executive John Sculley.

That later period also saw faltering sales, too many similar models and miniscule market share compared to IBM PC’s and the myriad cheap clones which flooded the market, but after some years spent wandering in the wilderness (Pixar and NeXT, actually) Jobs returned in triumph in 1997 at a time when Apple was suffering a financial crisis, and bringing British design guru Sir Jony Ive’s (now Sir Jony for services to design), launched the colourful and fruity iMac the following year.

Years of innovation and style icons
iMac G3 ad (Apple Computer Inc)
iMac G3 ad (Apple Computer Inc)

The iMac (aka iMac G3), effectively a return to the original Mac, albeit in a colourful and more powerful new incarnation, as the ‘computer for the rest of us’, started to turn the whole ship around, and became phenomenally popular, but was to be just the first in a string of hardware products that includes successor LCD-screen based iMacs, Power Macs and Mac Pro’s, the iPod, iPhone and iPad, as well as the iTunes Store that cemented Apple’s place as an industry leader. The non-computer products have helped buil wider acceptance and interest in the Macs, especially the new-generation iMacs, and so the wheel turns.

New generation iMac ad (Apple Inc)
New generation iMac ad (Apple Inc)

In the late 20th and early 21st century, the company that was born in a bedroom and a garage and that eventually gained a remarkable reputation for refining existing technologies, adding inspiration and top design, and making them mainstream, has gone from strength to strength.

The company recently revealed that there are now more than one billion active Apple devices being used around the world.

End of an era
Steve Jobs (pic Steve Jurvetson)
Steve Jobs, 2007 (pic Steve Jurvetson, click to visit site)

Sadly, the inspirational marketing genius and saviour of Apple, Steve Jobs, passed away in 2011 of pancreatic cancer; the company might have wobbled a somewhat then, but has since carried steadily on with new CEO Tim Cook at the helm.

Steve Wozniak (pic Michael Bulbenko)
Steve Wozniak (pic Michael Bulbenko)

Engineer and programmer Steve Wozniak, creator of the first Apples and pioneer of the personal computer revolution, is still about, doing his own thing and being surprisingly accessible through his website www.woz.org and social media. Since being one of the top partners at Apple in the early years, he’s still technically a stipended employee and is also an Apple shareholder, but has gone on to run several companies and other ventures as well as working in academia.

Today, forty years after the firm was official incorporated as The Apple Computer Company Apple has changed the world and the way we see, hear and communicate with it.

And what about the Mac, the computer which built on Apple’s early success, struggled for a while and has now become ubiquitous? It may not be so obvious as the iPhone in millions of hands and the iPad in millions of homes, but since the arrival of OS X in 2001 there has been a steady increase in sales in its hi-tech iMacs and MacBooks in spite of a global drop in PC sales. The wheel turns.

The future

Where the future of Apple lies has still to be determined. There’s a good chance they’ll lead the way in technology for the rest of us, one way or another. The iWatch, for one latest example, has surely been a sign of the times. Technology is all around us, worn by us, and in some cases, is inside us.

In the words of Steve Jobs, though, as long as they can keep on coming up with just ‘one more thing’, they’ll continue to be the amazing success that seemed so far away and so unlikely all those years ago.

Happy Birthday Apple, and many happy returns of the day.

 

Retro Computing News is produced and edited using a 2008 Mac Pro 8-core. Our editor and publisher Stuart Williams has been a Mac user since 1995, and being of a retro disposition, is currently in the process of acquiring an Apple IIe for the very first time.

Happy 30th Birthday, Amiga!

Thirty years ago today, at the Lincoln Centre in New York, one of the most advanced home computers ever was launched – the Commodore Amiga A1000. And the world of desktop computing was changed, forever.

The Amiga A1000
The Amiga A1000

A decade ahead of much of the market as it was then, and rightfully recognised as the first multimedia computer, it and its successors were to find a place in the heart of many who are still dedicated followers today, as part of the retro hobby scene. But it was first and foremost one of the most popular home computers of a generation, and sent a seismic shock around the digital globe.

The Amiga was not only THE gaming machine par-excellence, with more colours and better sound than the competition, in fact neither IBM or Apple had anything to touch it at the time!

But, more importantly, it was to become the top – and equally importantly, one of the most affordable – creative digital content computers of its time.

The so-called ‘industry standard’ IBM PC was then limited to a 16 colour display and the Apple Macintosh, with no Mac II then in sight, only had plain black and white. The new Amiga A1000, which had been taken over by Commodore, had a 12-bit colour palette and was capable of displaying up to 4096 colours (Hold And Modify ‘HAM’ mode) – startling in its day, though it had its limitations as well. The Amiga also had astonishing stereo sound, offering 4 × 8-bit PCM channels.

All this meant that the Amiga was to have an enormous impact on TV and video special effects and music, as well as turning up on space-age projects for NASA!

The Amiga A500
The Amiga A500

Today, after a string of evolutionary successors to the A1000, and despite the end of mass-market Amiga production in the mid-1990s, there is still a huge and loyal community around the world, dedicated to using and preserving surviving computers and software, and to adapting aging Amigas to modern times with aftermarket hardware, software and emulation, as well as using those few Amiga-compatible computers which have since been produced in small numbers.

These Amiga fans can be found everywhere online on websites and blogs, on Facebook in groups and on Twitter, and on forums ad infinitum in cyberspace…

Amiga A2000 (pic Trafalgarcircle, Wikipedia)
Amiga A2000 (pic Trafalgarcircle, Wikipedia)

Now, after such historic 8-bit predecessors as the Sinclair Spectrum, BBC Micro, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 have already, and rightly, celebrated their own thirtieth birthdays, it is time to do so for the Amiga, and Retro Computing News has been cheering the Amiga on as loudly as anyone.

And, in a very real sense, this magazine site exists entirely because of the Amiga – our own editor and publisher, Stuart Williams, owned an Amiga A1000 himself, and wrote for Amiga User international and Amiga Computing magazines, back in the day!

Today is the day

So, the big day is today, 23rd July, 2015 – but much has already been happening to mark the anniversary of the A1000 launch, as we have reported, and much more will continue to happen over the year ahead.

So, watch this space for more Amiga news over the next few weeks and months. Meanwhile…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMIGA!

The legendary Amiga Boing Ball demo
The legendary Amiga Boing Ball demo

Competition for teenage girls to mark Ada’s 200th birthday

Watercolor portrait of Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (Ada Lovelace), 1840
Watercolor portrait of Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (Ada Lovelace), 1840

Coming soon – Teenage girls with an interest in computing and technology are being invited to enter a competition to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ada Lovelace.

The competition, run by The National Museum of Computing and the University of Oxford in conjunction with Cs4fn at Queen Mary University, London, asks girls what 21st century technology they would like to tell Ada Lovelace about.

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852), was the English daughter of a brief marriage between the Romantic poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabelle Milbanke, who separated from Byron just a month after Ada was born. Four months later, Byron left England forever. Ada never met her father (who died in Greece in 1823) and was raised by her mother, Lady Byron.

Trial model of a part of the Analytical Engine, built by Babbage, as displayed at the London Science Museum (pic Bruno Barral/Wikipedia)
Trial model of a part of the Analytical Engine, built by Babbage, as displayed at the London Science Museum (pic Bruno Barral/Wikipedia)

Ada was a brilliant mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on mathematician Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.  Ada met Babbage in 1833, when she was just 17, and they began an extensive correspondence on the topics of mathematics, logic, and ultimately all subjects, including his designs for the Engine. They became lifelong friends.

Her notes on the Analytical Engine include what is recognised as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. Because of this, she is often regarded as the first computer programmer.  The computer programming language, Ada, was named in her honour in 1979.

Full details of the competition will be announced at the beginning of July.

Potential entrants and others wishing to receive details, should please email: Ada.lovelace@tnmoc.org with Ada in the subject line.

An ‘appy Apple II anniversary!

Apple II computer on display at the private Musée Bolo from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (pic courtesy Rama, Wikipedia)
Apple II computer on display at the private Musée Bolo from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (pic courtesy Rama, Wikipedia)

On this day in 1977, the now-legendary Apple II computer went on sale for the first time, marking the real beginning of the mighty American corporate entity that climbed from humble beginnings in bedroom and garage to become one of the world’s wealthiest and most influential companies.

The Apple II (its trademark style being apple ][) was (and is, as a practical modern collector’s item) an eight-bit home computer, and was one of the first highly successful mass-produced microcomputers.   It had a great influence on later computers and on software, with its moulded plastic case and expansions slots, as well as being the computer for which the now-ubiquitous and essential ‘spreadsheet’ program was first developed – the first being Visicalc (released in 1979).

Woz with an Apple 1 Board (pic Steve Wozniak)
Woz with an Apple 1 Board (pic Steve Wozniak)

The Apple II was designed primarily by Steve Wozniak, with the late Steve Jobs overseeing the development of the computer’s case and Rod Holt developing the power supply.

Apple II with Micromodem II (pic courtesy Dale Heatherington, Wikipedia)
Apple II with Micromodem II (pic courtesy Dale Heatherington, Wikipedia)

The computer was first introduced in 1977 at the West Coast Computer Faire by Steve Jobs and was the first consumer product to be sold by Apple Computer (the original Apple I was aimed at serious hobbyists and makers who could build and case their own).  The first Apple II computers went on sale on 10th June, 1977.

Woz and Jobs working on the Apple II in their garage in Mountain View, Claifornia,, 1 January, 1976 (pic Apple Computer)
Woz and Jobs working on the Apple II in their garage in Mountain View, Claifornia,, 1 January, 1976 (pic Apple Computer)

They were initially assembled in Silicon Valley, California, and later in Texas.  Printed circuit boards were manufactured in Ireland and in Singapore.

A MOS Technology 6502 microprocessor running at 1.023 MHz was the heart of the machine.  The computer was able to use two game paddles, and in its most basic form was equipped with 4 kB of RAM.

An audio tape cassette interface for loading programs and storing data was built-in, and the Apple II’s ROMs contained an implementation of the Integer BASIC programming language.

The Apple II’s video controller displayed 24 lines by 40 columns of monochrome, upper-case-only characters on the screen,.  Output was  NTSC composite and could be used with a monochrome (often green screen) monitor. It could also be used with a television set as its display by purchasing an accessory RF modulator.

Apple II advertisement (Apple Computer)
Apple II advertisement (Apple Computer)

The Apple II cost $1,298 USD at launch and with the base 4kB RAM installed.  With a full compliment of 48kB RAM the price went up to a substantial $2,638 USD.

For the first time, Apple branded its first mass-produced consumer computer with the rainbow-striped Apple logo which defined its corporate brand until 1998.

The original Apple II went on to spawn a series of similar but steadily evolving computers (apart from the more advanced IIGS) which continued to be produced until the final model, the IIe, after which production ceased in November 1993, by which time the Apple Macintosh computer range had become the company’s primary product.

Today, the Apple II range is popular as a collector’s item amongst retro computing hobbyists and in museums; computers typically sell for anything from £150-£300 in the UK with a floppy drive or two, in clean working order and depending on expansion, being quite a bit cheaper in the USA where they were always more common.

It is still a good tool for anyone looking for a practical collector’s item which can actually do something useful instead of just playing games. In that way (and in its past popularity in the American education system) it shares similarities with the more specialised British Acorn BBC Micro.

For more information on the history of the Apple II range, check out the Wikipedia entry as a good starting point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_II