The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



History of Apple Computers

Marty Schroeder | Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It’s that bohemian style of computing that no self-respecting artist, designer or anyone who wants to look hip is without. Where Apple Computer came from though, is a complex maze of innovation, design and conflict. Always in the shadow of Bill Gates and his Windows leviathan, Apple has returned and is the source of the must-have, technologically innovative gadgets.

Conceived in 1976, Apple was one of the pioneers of personal home computing. The first major Apple product was the Apple II microcomputer, sold for a then hefty $970. One of the first computers that could be used in the home, it was a response to the Apple I. The first model was designed for electronics enthusiasts but the Apple II brought computing power into the home. This computer ran the first ever spreadsheet program -VisiCalc – and became the standard in American education and business during the 1980s and 1990s. At the end of its production in 1993, more than two million units had been sold.

One of the innovations of this computer was its appearance. Instead of looking like a piece of complicated electronic hardware, it could have passed for an ordinary appliance. The Apple computer could be used almost anywhere and would not look out of place. Although a dinosaur today, the computer once looked fashionable and functional – a motif Apple keeps today.

The early 1980s marked the beginning of the Apple-PC battle for personal computer supremacy. IBM used an open hardware standard and bundled its hardware with Microsoft’s new MS-DOS operating system. Due to over-heating issues with the new Apple III, a wary consumer market developed and many people shifted to PCs with Microsoft software.

A resurgence

One of the most famous commercials ever aired in 1984. Directed by Ridley Scott, Apple used George Orwell’s famous “1984” as its basis and people woke back up to Apple. Steve Jobs knew that personal computers were headed the way of the Graphic User Interface (GUI). Apple developed the Lisa based on this prediction, but in 1985, Gates introduced the first incarnation of Windows. Using many of the features found on the Macintosh OS, Gates was able to secure a lion’s share of the computing market, which he has kept until the present day.

Apple, having lost many of the personal computing market to Microsoft, turned to other areas of innovation and came out with the PowerBook 100. This portable computer (Apple’s second attempt at the portable computer) proved to be a Godsend for Apple. The PowerBook 100 brought much needed revenue and established the basic layout of laptop and notebook computers.

The Goliath to Apple’s David, Microsoft and Intel teamed to create easy to use software with relatively low cost hardware. Many people, finding Windows easier to use, turned to PCs, and Apple again lost ground. In the early 1990s, Apple’s civil suit against Microsoft for theft of intellectual property dragged on for years. Apple poured money into lawyers and courts instead of finding ways to effectively counter Microsoft.

A blossoming

In the late 1990s, Apple began to work on products of its own rather than what what Microsoft was doing. The 1998 release of the iMac was a watershed for Apple and brought the company its first profitable year since 1993.

This was only the beginning. Using interesting and differentiating designs for its products, Apple introduced software packages among the best in the industry. Final Cut was purchased from Macromedia and Astarte’s DVDirector was remade into iDVD and DVD Studio Pro for consumers and professionals.

However, the rock that hit Goliath was the introduction of the iPod and the iTunes music store. This revitalized Apple into the fashionable and technologically sound company it is today.

From an electronics company in the late 70s to now having U2 do its commercials, Apple’s journey has been convoluted. It seems that Apple has finally hit its stride, focused on its products and not the competition. The future appears as bright and promising as the day when the first Apple computer was released.