Apple I: The Start Of Something Huge

In our kick-off excerpt from the gorgeous coffee table book Core Memory, photographed by Mark Richards and written by John Alderman, we learn of the Cinderella-like beginning of the Apple saga.

Name: Apple I Year created: 1976 Creator: Apple Computer Company Price: $US666.66 Memory: 4KB semiconductor Prcossor: MOS technology 6502

Of course people would want their own computer. But when Steve Wozniak offered a design for one to his employer, Hewlett-Packard, it was rejected. With fate on his side, Wozniak introduced the Apple I to Silicon Valley's Homebrew Computer Club, even if it was a little more than a kit. Kits were popular with hobbyists, and the offerings were often crafted by users onto wooden boards, as pictured here.

Sensing that the market for a personal computer went beyond people who had the time to put together their own, Wozniak (or "Woz" as he is known, and evidently signs his name) and his friend Steve Jobs sold fifty pre-built Apple I computers to The Byte Shop in Mountain View. If the biblical allusions of the price and the image of temptation represented by an apple weren't enough, many believed that "Apple" was a reference to the Beatles' Apple Corps record label. All of these cultural markers conveyed that this computer, and the company that made it, was for cool people who were in on the joke and ready to take the reins of technological power—or at least have a bit more fun with it. The computer industry was beginning to make serious inroads into popular culture—or was it the reverse? It was Steve Jobs whose crafty marketing sense pushed all these themes into play. Not coincidentally, the idea of the computer "evangelist" proselytising about new hard- or software took hold at Apple.

About two hundred models of the Apple I were sold—not as many as the Altair, but to Jobs and Wozniak, they established the concept and provided the fuel to form a company to launch the Apple II, a runaway success. And some important lessons were learned: Maybe it was the lack of a case that impressed on Jobs the importance of a good-looking box. Either way, no one has done more than Apple to turn the home-brewed computer into the beautiful, consumer-friendly machines, from the Macintosh to the iPod.

Core Memory is a photographic exploration of the Computer History Museum's collection, highlighting some of the most interesting pieces in the history of computers. These excerpts were used with permission of the publisher.

The photographs were taken by Mark Richards, whose work has appeared in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Fortune, Smithsonian, Life and BusinessWeek. The eye-candy is accompanied by descriptions of each artifact to cover the characteristics and background of each object, written by John Alderman who has covered the culture of high-tech lifestyle since 1993, notably for Mondo 2000, HotWired and Wired News. A foreword is provided by the Computer History Museum's Senior Curator Dag Spicer.

Or go see the real things at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. Special thanks to Fiona!

Gizmodo '79 is a week-long celebration of gadgets and geekdom 30 years ago, as the analogue age gave way to the digital, and most of our favourite toys were just being born.