And now, some breaking news from 1977: There is a new company in California that makes computer kits for individual hobbyists. It’s called The Apple Computer Company, according to Kilobaud magazine, and it looks like it might be a huge hit.
“Rich Travis of Sunshine Computer Company in Southern California reports he sold ten Apples in three weeks … his customers were looking for a complete, ready-to-run system that was inexpensive,” writes Sheila Clarke of Kilobaud. “Because the system is really easy to buy and use, the system may well be in the homes of several hundred hobbyists within a few months.”
After Business Insider recently published a charming set of photos taken by Apple’s earliest employees, veteran tech writer Sheila (Clarke) Craven got in touch and sent us this gem from February 1977: “The Remarkable Apple Computer,” a lengthy dissection of Apple’s launch product that Craven wrote after flying to San Francisco and interviewing founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. (Kilobaud eventually went out of business and its founder, Wayne Green, died in 2013.)
Craven says she believes it was the first article ever written about Apple. We checked with Wozniak, and he agrees.”Seems quite the way it was,” Wozniak told us. “The only thing I can note is that we were demonstrating the Apple ][ before we shipped any Apple I’s, so we knew that it was a temporary project.”
We’ve published the entire Kilobaud article below. But be warned — it’s a dense catalogue of computer arcana from the days when using a computer required knowledge of the BASIC programming language.
“My interview with the two Steves took place while they were still in the folks’ garage,” Craven tells Business Insider. She remembers it this way:
I flew up from L.A., and the two Steves picked me up in a red Chevy Luv Truck, tossed my suitcase in the back, and put me between them in the front seat. We went someplace for lunch, and talked about their plans.
Of course, Steve Jobs did all the talking. After lunch we drove to his parents home in Palo Alto — never went inside the house — straight to the garage. On a workbench sat a pc board. above the workbench on a shelf sat a TV set where wires dangled from it to the PC board.
The whole time Steve Jobs was talking, explaining, outlining future plans for marketing and development, he was just about dancing on his tippy toes in his tennies. The Woz sat at the workbench, initiating the operating system (I suppose) to demonstrate a program. Woz was pretty quiet. I got that he was the engineering brain power, and Jobs was the idea guy.
One of the things Jobs told me was that they would make certain there would be an Apple in every classroom and on every desk, because if kids grew up using and knowing the Apple, they would continue to buy Apples and so would their kids. The computers would be donated by Apple Computer. I understand that when that article came out, orders starting pouring in, and Apple Computer was seriously launched.
Tech writer Sheila (Clarke) Craven, in 1977 and now.
At the time, Apple consisted of just the two Steves in Jobs’ parents’ garage. There was no office, Craven says. Craven spent four hours with the pair, including lunch. After Wozniak booted up the machine, Jobs loaded a game of Blackjack onto it to demonstrate its powers.
Craven regarded the Apple I as “just another homebrew product” rather than the beginning of a machine that would change the world.
“We never met again, although of course I continued to encounter Jobs at computer expos, Comdex, CES, etc.,” Craven says, although “I don’t think he ever manned a booth.”
The article says some things that were true of Apple then and, 40 years later, remain true today. Such as:
- “For the inexperienced, getting a program up seems to have been made relatively simple.”
- Updates would be made available to existing customers for free.
- Apple was trying to create “a network of program exchange” to develop games and other apps that would make the computer more fun and more useful.
- “Steve Jobs confesses that the Apple is not for everybody.” (It cost $US788.66, a lot of money at the time.)
At the same time, the article contains some nuggets that illustrate how comically primitive computing was at the time. For that $US788 you would get:
- “A complete system on a board. Complete that is if you’re willing to forgo extras now, like hard copy output, floppy disk storage, and colour graphics.”
- “If you must purchase a black and white monitor, add the cost to the system; but you’ll probably run over my proposed budget.”
- “Although the Apple-1 comes with 4K bytes of RAM, 4K more is available for $US120.”
- “BASIC is the language of the people,” say Steven Jobs and Stephen Wozniak, Apple Computer Company owners. Soon, they add, people won’t care which chip is used in the CPU, but will want to know more about the computer’s capability and how easy it is to use.”
- “We’re not in the business of making things more expensive,” say Jobs and Wozniak, when discussing their design philosophy.”
Craven’s main impression was that “the two Steves care … they’re responsive to user enquiries and are open to suggestions and criticisms (to a point). Because the system is really easy to buy and use, the system may well be in the homes of several hundred hobbyists within a few months.”