The Apple II was the first popular microcomputer manufactured by Apple. The Apple II was the first computer many people ever saw, and its price was within the reach of many middle-class families. The most popular model of the Apple II was manufactured with relatively minor changes into the 1990s. Throughout the 1980s and much of the 1990s, the Apple II was the de facto standard computer in American education; some of them are still operational in classrooms today.
Introduced at the West Coast Computer Faire in1977, the Apple II was one of the very first and most successful personal computers. The Apple II's direct ancestor was the Apple I, a limited production circuit board computer for electronics hobbyists which pioneered many features that made the Apple II a commercial success.
The Apple II was popular with business users as well as with families and schools, particularly after the release of the first microcomputer "killer app" the first-ever computer spreadsheet, VisiCalc, which initially ran only on the Apple II.
The Apple II series of computers had an enormous impact on the technology industry and on everyday life. Its popularity bootstrapped the entire computer game and educational software markets and began the boom in the word processor and computer printer markets.
Many businesses bought Apple IIs just to run VisiCalc, because it was the only spreadsheet available at the time. Apple's success in the home market inspired competitive home computers such as the VIC-20 (1980) and Commodore 64 (1982, with estimated sales between 17 and 25 million units). Through their significantly lower price point, these models introduced the computer to several tens of millions more home users, acquiring most of Apple's market share in the process.
The success of the Apple II in business spurred IBM to create the IBM PC, which was then purchased by middle managers in all lines of business to run spreadsheet and word processing software, at first ported from Apple II versions.
One valuable lesson from the Apple II was the importance of an open architecture to the success of a computer platform. The first Apple IIs shipped with an Apple II Reference Manual containing a complete schematic of the entire computer's circuitry and a complete source listing of the "Monitor" ROM firmware that served as the machine's BIOS (later this guide had to be purchased separately, and in the case of the Apple IIGS, the full technical documentation ran to several volumes).
The Apple II's slots, allowing any peripheral card to take control of the bus and directly access memory, enabled an independent industry of card manufacturers who together created a flood of hardware products that let users build systems that were far more powerful and useful (at a lower cost) than any competing system, most of which were not nearly as expandable and were universally proprietary. Even the game port was unusually powerful and could be used for digital and analog input and output.
Even after the introduction of the Macintosh, the Apple II had remained Apple's primary source of revenue for years: the Apple II and its associated community of third-party developers and retailers were once a billion-dollar-a-year industry. The IIGS model was sold through to the end of 1992. The IIe model was removed from the product line on October 15, 1993, ending an era.When I first got to play with an Apple IIe when I was 7 or 8 years old I became obsessed with computers. I asked for a computer for my birthday every year until I finally got one when I turned 15. It changed my life. I was able to play video games write my own programs and oddly enough I thought spreadsheet where awesome. The Apple II was one of the many things that where "born" the same year I was that have at least in my mind changed our culture.