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The History of Apple and Steve Jobs: the Home Computer to the iPod, iPhone and iPad

VO: Rebecca Brayton
This company is credited with inventing the home computer, and with coining such technological terms as mouse, desktop and icon. Apple Computers was founded on April 1, 1976 in Cupertino, California by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. By the next year, they had produced the successful Apple II. When the company went public in 1980, it created the most millionaires of any company that came before it. Apple has become well-known in recent years for its technological contributions such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad, and continues to pave the way for changes in the industry, even after the death of company founder Steve Jobs. In this video, learns more about the origins and history of Apple.

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The Origins and History of Apple

This tech corporation has repeatedly been named one of the world’s most admired companies. Learn more about the origins and history of Apple.

Early Days

Apple Computers was founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in Cupertino, California on April 1, 1976. Wozniak was the engineer behind the computers, while Jobs had the mind for business. The pair struggled to keep the company afloat in early days; however they succeeded in funding the venture without ever giving up shares in the company.

Apple I

Apple’s first product was 1976’s Apple I. Compared to its competition, this machine used few components. This was mainly due to the company’s limited budget.

Steve Wozniak: “When you work on low resources and you’re trying to do it yourself with very few parts, you’re trying to be clever you’re trying to think out the whole solution in the shortest number of steps.”

This made the Apple I a feat of engineering, and it remained on the market until late 1977.

The Invention of the Home Computer

The upgraded Apple II was first sold in June of that year. Ready to go right out of the box, it was a huge success commercially and is recognized for establishing the market for home computers by being accessible and affordable. The Apple II remained the company’s main source of revenue for many years, and by the end of 1980 over one hundred thousand had been sold. 1980’s Apple III was prone to overheating, and was a failure for the company.

Apple Goes Public

However, 1980 was also the year Apple went public. The company generated more millionaires than any other before it, and the popularity of its founders was increasing.

Steve Wozniak: “We started Apple: by 1980, I was going to computer shows and – you know – we’re kinda going public, we’ve made a lot of money, we’ve been in the press long before that, Steve and I. And people are always asking me for an autograph – huh? What do you mean? I was just an engineer, I just did an engineer’s job, I designed a good computer.”

Apple LISA

Meanwhile, Apple was busy at work designing the Apple LISA. Released in June 1983, it proved to be a powerful concept and not a market success. However, it pioneered such terminology as the mouse, icon, and desktop. It was also Apple’s first graphical user interface model, which meant consumers interacted with images rather than text commands.

1984 Commercial

Apple’s next triumph came during the Super Bowl in January 1984.

Steve Wozniak: “The 1984 commercial kind of showed a free-running person overturning somebody who’s dictating 'this is the way it’s going to be. You have no free thought of your own.' That was the theme of that commercial.”

Launch of Macintosh

This ad introduced the Apple Macintosh to the American public, and is now considered one of the prime examples of U.S. advertising. It was just one part of Apple’s aggressive and expensive advertising campaign for the launch of the Macintosh computer, which was released just a few days later.

Stand-out in the Market

The Mac was loved by some and hated by others. Because of its radical differences from the rest of the market, it initially suffered from a lack of software. It was even incompatible with the popular Apple II.

Steve Wozniak: “We lost software in those areas, the left brain areas: accounting, law and engineering. A lot of the software is geared towards PCs, that’s where it exists now.”

Mac + Adobe

Eventually an affiliation with Adobe helped the Mac brand become the standard for computer users in specific industries.

Steve Wozniak: “We could handle such things as photography, with PhotoShop, and videography with programs like Adobe Premiere shortly after the Avid was out. So we could do video editing and photography work and graphics much earlier because we had enough memory to do it. […] So all the artists and the video people and the producers and the movie people all got into Macintoshes and one you’re into it you love it so much it’s very difficult to pry you away.”

The Steves Leave

Despite Apple’s success, problems within the company forced Steve Jobs to leave in 1985. Steve Wozniak left in 1987, though he is still a paid employee.

Apple for Home Users, Mac for Professionals

Meanwhile, Apple continued to market its two brands to different pieces of the population: the Apple II series was best for home users, while more experienced professionals tended towards the Macintosh.

Increasing Popularity of Windows

However by the 1990s, Apple was struggling. IBM was handily winning the marketplace on the success of Windows.

Steve Wozniak: “When IBM came out, they had sales forces in all the big businesses. The market for home computers really wasn’t going to fit the Apple too well. The market for small business computers was much huger, so we kind of lost the business market.”

Return of Jobs

At the end of 1996, Apple purchased Steve Jobs’ new company, NeXT, and brought the founder back to the company. Jobs went on to become CEO, and in December 1997 he introduced the online Apple Store. That same year the company announced a partnership with rival Microsoft that saw Apple adopt Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer as part of its default programs.

Apple's Revival

Apple’s revival began with the release of the iMac in 1998. The company emphasized aesthetic design as one of its major strengths. 2001 was the year Apple opened its first retail stores, introduced iTunes and released the first iPod to the public. It kicked off a decade that boasted a steady upswing for the company, with the release of a number of new products and operating systems.

Steve Wozniak: “We were the first ones to build USB ports into our computers, we invented firewire, we were really the first to ever have a popular mass-produced and sold wi-fi.”

The iPhone

2007 was the year the company changed the cell phone landscape by introducing the iPhone.

Steve Wozniak: “The popularity of the iPod and the iPhone brought a lot of people into the Apple stores, and in contact with the equipment. A lot of people talk to their friends… We’ve always had a strong, strong group of followers.”

The iPad

The iPad went on sale in 2010, and was instantly successful in the tablet market. And in early 2011, Apple continued its trendsetting ways by introducing a new port to replace USB and similar connections.

That same year, after resigning his role as CEO and replacing himself with Tim Cook, Steve Jobs passed away on October 5th following a long bout with pancreatic cancer. Torrents of tributes followed Jobs’ death, and proved his role as a tech icon.

With hundreds of millions of products sold worldwide, Apple is quickly losing its status as a counterculture icon and becoming a mainstay of the mainstream.

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