August 29, 2013

A Look Back at the Early Days of Apple

Apple, capitalized at $485 billion, stands as one of the richest companies in the world. Located in Cupertino, California the company has been at the forefront of revolutionizing the personal computer world through the creation and development of its iconic Apple brand products. The company became more of a household name when its legendary 1984 ad aired during Super Bowl XVIII on January 2, 1984.

From its beginning in 1976 (a year after the formation of Microsoft between Paul Allen, Bill Gates and Ric Weiland), friends and colleagues Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne came together to incorporate Apple Computers. Wozniak was employed by Hewlett-Packard at the time while Jobs and Wayne worked at Atari, the late gaming company. Hanging out in the garage of Job's parents in Los Altos, California the trio shared their love for computers and gaming and combined to form what is now an industry giant in computing technology. The one share of company stock owned by Ronald Wayne was sold 11 days later for $800. Had he held onto the stock today it would have been worth in excess of $20 billion.

The Early Days of Apple Computers

The dual track of personal computer hardware development and competing software began to take form early on, beginning with the development of the company's Apple I computer. The system, consisting of an enclosed circuit board and a homemade case that Wozniak designed, sold in electronics stores for $666.66. Although 200 units were produced, customers were allowed to receive discounts on its highly successful mass produced Apple II that was introduced in 1977 and sold for $1,298.

Acquiring Xerox's GUI Technology 

The biggest coup for the fledgling company came in 1979. With the successful launch and mass production of the company's Apple II personal computers underway, Jobs would visit Xerox's Palo Alto, California research facility to meet with its team of engineers and programmers. Jobs wanted dollars from Xerox and proposed an exchange of one hundred thousand shares for $1 million for a chance to look under the Xerox hood. Xerox got a piece of Silicon Valley's prized tech start-up and Jobs came away with two innovations--the graphical user interface (GUI) technology, which is the forerunner of the commonly referred to WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) technology, and the mouse. These two acquisitions would forever set Apple computers apart from IBM-based PCs.

The Apple Way 

The dominant personality at Apple was Steve Jobs. Although much is written about Jobs personality and the clashes he had with employees and industry rivals. One of the most bitter rivalries was that between Jobs and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The roles of these two technology giants within their respective companies were very different. Jobs was a P.T. Barnum-like showman and constant promoter while Gates was a geek savant.

Many of the early products of Apple were the creations of Wozniak, although Jobs tended to be the public face of the company, relegating Wozniak to a Wizard-of-Oz man behind the curtain role. Wozniak speaks kindly of his relationship with Jobs, who died in 2011, calling him a strong, brash leader who was always kind and a good friend.

Both men left the company in the mid-1980s, Wozniak for having completed his computer science degree from Cal-Berkeley, and Jobs for his infamous clashes with then CEO John Sculley.

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