1977 – APPLE ][

This wasn’t the beginning of Apple computer… Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs had already been selling the first Apple computer for a little while by 1977.  But this was indeed THE computer that built Apple’s first empire.  There has been many many pages of information written on the APPLE ][ already, entire books on its origins and inner workings.  It is a fascinating machine and stands out as something well ahead of its time.  Not only was it the first of the famed “Trinity of 1977” (the others being TRS-80 and Commodore’s PET) to make a showing, but it was clearly the most versatile and advanced machine of the three.  And, it was also the most expensive… but of course, that’s also become known as the APPLE markup.  😉

The Apple II with a cassette – the only external storage option for over a year.

What I find so fascinating when playing around with the available software on the three systems of the era is how much variety the Apple II had.  It had some sound, hires and lowres graphics modes, and a variety of text display modes.  The biggest overall benefit was that Wozniak designed the Apple II with 8 expansion ports, against the desires of Steve Jobs who wanted a more closed system.  But it was these expansion ports that allowed for all sorts of future hacks, enhancements, new features and products.  Some of the most common expansion ports (like memory and a hard disk controller) were worked into additional models of Apple II’s down the road.  First the Apple II+, then the Apple IIe, etc.

Another aspect of this early computing world that we really don’t sense these days is how archaic it was.  We’re talking about adjusting volume controls on cassettes and typing in commands into a machine-language monitor to load and run them.  Commands such as these would appear on various cassettes:  200.2fffR  200G    (and that was a relatively straightforward one).  In fact, the earliest Apple II’s you had to first load Applesoft BASIC from a cassette (or insert an expansion module) to get you to the famed “]” prompt.  Then you could use more familiar commands like CATALOG, LOAD, and RUN.

It’s really remarkable, then, that in this early era there was any commercial game software at all.  But people like Bob Bishop managed to put out some remarkable hires games that used analog controllers that shipped with the Apple.  Games like ROCKET PILOT, SAUCER INVASION, STAR WARS…  they all first shipped on those simple cassettes and clearly showed off the abilities of the Apple II.  Compared with the no-graphics TRS-80, and the character graphics enabled Commodore PET… well, it simply had no equal.

Here’s another of Bob Bishop’s classics… an animated music/dance/graphic demo called Apple Vision.  This was groundbreaking stuff, and all possible on that amazing new Apple II computer of 1977.

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