Apple II Turns 30 Years Old

Apple ii 30 bday

June 5th will mark the 30th birthday of the Apple II computer. There were other affordable hobbyist computer kits available before, but the Apple II was the first computer that was ready to run out of the box. It's not surprising that an Apple II was the first computer that I used in elementary school since Apple made inroads with the U.S. educational system from their earliest offerings. What may be a surprise is that the Apple II was manufactured up until 1993 (with some redesigns and cost-reduced versions), with many still in operation today. Between five and six million of the putty colored machines were sold, (which still isn't close to the Commodore 64's record of 17 million!).

The Apple II was a versatile machine, serving markets from classrooms to businesses.  Further demonstrating it's strength the Apple II remained a strong seller while the company shifted to the Macintosh line. The Mac was an expensive and unproven machine, so it was a good idea to keep the Apple II around as a reliable source of income.

Appleii30bday2I admire the Apple II's continued availability well after its technology was far from cutting edge. I'm sure that continued income was chief in keeping a 1970's era design around until the 90's - a preposterous idea these days - but there was still life in the old platform yet.

I've always thought that the computer industry has lost touch with the idea of providing people with "just enough" computer. Does your grandma really need a multi-gigahertz PC to send simple emails or read the web? I guess that role was meant to be filled by Palm computers and the many failed internet appliances of the early 2000's.

So we've established that the Apple II is a long lived and well-known commodity. There's still one question no Apple fan has ever been able to answer for me: Why in the hell does that green power light get so hot?  Ouch!

Read more about the Apple II

Modern clone of Apple I

Apple Computer, Inc. turns 30

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Re: Hot power Light

The answer is quite simple: Apple used a genuine lamp for this light - and not a LED - to illuminate the word "POWER" when switched on. You may argue that this is a bit overkill but it still is a bit more user-friendly than a simple LED and the word printed or marked on the case.

Even the IIe which has two red LEDs on its mainboard still used a lamp for the keyboard to illuminate a printed word.

This proved to be useful as the later IIe-models used among other things a different CPU and the type ("65C02") was printed on the lamp shield so the used would know if he could run into compatibility problems.

AFAIK only the last IIe-model, usually called "Platinum", used a green LED for the power light. However, all Platinums used the 65C02 as the CPU so no marking was necessary.


I totally disagree with your statement that the Apple II was a "just enough" computer. You imply that the Apple was on the market unchanged for all those years. When in fact, the Apple had many upgrades and variations throughout it's production history. Not only the II, but the IIe and //c (which was a compact, portable version, though not very expandable.), and the best of all, the //GS which stood for Graphics and Sound and was way ahead of any MS dos or windows machine at the time.
Not only were there different versions, the Apple line was the ultimate for the tinkerer. There were a number of different manufactuerers for add on cards, memory, floppy and hard drives and so on. My //gs had a lot of memory for the time (I don't remember how much, I just remember having to be very careful when I plugged the chips into the card), a SCSI hard drive, multiple floppy drives, etc. etc.
I really loved that computer and hated to part with it.
In closing, the Apple ][, II, //, was much, much more than a 'just enough' computer.

Is the green power light going to start blinking when it turns 30?

Roland, I wasn't intending to say that the Apple II was "just enough". As you say, the expansion possibilities were limitless and helped keep the platform alive for a very long time. We're missing out on that concept today too - really substantial upgrades that would prevent us from getting a new computer every 2-3 years.

What I was trying to say was that it was cool of Apple to continue selling the older machine even though their focus was on Mac. They didn't pull up stakes and try to force everyone into upgrading to their newest computer if the one the had still did the job. It would be like if Dell offered low-priced 500mhz computers in addition to their multi processor machines.

Hope that clears up where I'm coming from.

I would like to have a Just Enough Computer myself; also wish someone would build a system that had a bit more longevity (both in build quality and support). If I can have a camera that lasts 50 years and can be readily serviced and rebuilt, why can't someone build a comparable computer?

Not trying to hijack the post; but I wrote an entry on this some months ago:

My fond memory of the Apple II was when word got around that a chip was available to type in upper AND lower case letters, I had to get one! After I installed it, my word processor wouldn't work! The first of many clunky upgrades!

i still to this day dream of having another apple IIe, just so that i can truly experience "the oregon trail" again. that and other things, like making good ol' fashioned midi music.
i love this blog! while everybody else in the world throws out last years technology to make room for the new, it's nice to know there's a small faction of people not content matte silver colored plastic junk and who appreciate things that take a little more work.

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