Apple II

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Apple II with monitorThe Apple II was designed on the original Apple I but was much more expandable, easier to use, and complete overall. It is the work of one man, Steve Wozniak. It is unarguably the greatest work done by a single person in the computer industry. The Apple II debuted in April, 1977, almost exactly one year after the introduction of Apple's first computer. It included the same MOS Technology 6502 processor running at the same clock speed (1.023 MHz) as the Apple I. The differences most noticeably included a plastic casing, the first of any commercial microcomputer, and an NTSC or PAL video out connector. This is what allowed you to use your TV to connect to an Apple II as a monitor. It offered up to a 16 fixed colors, another first in commercial microcomputing technology, and sound. They were sold with 4 to 64k of RAM, and were more expandable than the original Apple I. The II's first programming evironment, Wozniak's Integer BASIC was burned into the Apple II ROM. It let even non-hackers create programs for there computers using its new advances like color and sound. In August 1977, Apple agreed to pay $21,000 for an eight year license of Microsoft's Applesoft BASIC, designed by a then-teenage Randy Wigginton, who would later write MacWrite, and would be very influential in the creation of the Macintosh. The machine offered a cassette tape interface at the time of its introduction. In 1978 the Disk ][, a 143k 5.25" Disk Drive was introduced. With it came the first full version of the Apple II's OS, DOS 3.1. The Apple II was finally discontinued in 1982, but still has not died. You can often find it living in countless schools, basements, attics, and other rooms of the faithful.

Processor: MOS Technology 6502 processor running at 1.023 MHz as the Apple I.
Memory: came with 4-64k of RAM.
Display: supported 6 fixed colors at 280x192 (High) resolution, and 16 colors at 40x48 (Low) resolution.
Expansion: included 8 expansion slots, with the first slot reserved for RAM/ROM upgrades. Apple II with paddles

Operating System:
Integer BASIC: all versions, designed by Woz
Applesoft BASIC: all versions, designed by Randy Wigginton
DOS: all versions, 3.1 to 3.3.
ProDOS: all versions (I think).

Models in this Series:
Apple II: basic system, came with 4-64k RAM, and ran Integer BASIC. Original selling price was $1298
Apple II+: included at least 48k RAM, ran Applesoft BASIC. Released one year after Apple II for $1195
Apple IIeuroplus: a II+ with a different logo and the ability to display video in black and white PAL (European TV) format.

On the market for: 5 years, 8 months

Interesting Facts:
The BASIC programming language played such a huge role in the success of the Apple II that Steve Jobs encouraged Bill Gates in 1982 to make a version of BASIC for the yet-to-be-release Macintosh. Gates was a little too anxious to release Microsoft BASIC in time for it to ship at the time of the introduction of the Mac, and therefore it was a really bad implementation. Don Denman was also creating a version of BASIC for Apple called MacBASIC which even in beta releases was much better than Microsoft's product. Gates knew their version was much better, so when it came time to renew Apple's license for Applesoft BASIC, Gates said he would only renew it if Apple killed the MacBASIC project. The Apple II could not live without Applesoft BASIC, and Apple could not live without the Apple II which was bringing in the majority of Apple's profits, so they killed the project. The Apple II became one of the most successful machines in computing history, and Microsoft BASIC was eventually discontinued in disgrace. Bill Gates later goes on to say that this was "one of the stupidest deals I have ever done".

Resources and Related Links:
The Apple II entry at Glen Sanford's A History of Apple Computer
The Apple II section of John Stile's
The Apple II History page, with lots of information on maintaining all the models in the Apple II line.
Apple's Apple II support page at

Steven Weyrich's famous "Apple II History" compilation. Download the text file (400k).
Picture at left from A History of Apple Computer, picture at right from Apple Retrospective.