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The Two Steves

 

One of the greatest success stories in the history of computers began with the sale of a Volkswagen van and a calculator. The sale gave Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs enough money to start the Apple Computer Company. Jobs was 21, and Wozniak was just a few years older at the time. Neither had graduated from college yet.

Steve Wozniak fell in love with electronics while still in grade school. While in the sixth grade, he built a calculator out of spare parts. By the time he was in high school, he was programming minicomputers for a local business. Wozniak enjoyed working with computers so much that he wanted to own one himself. But even the smallest computers at that time cost tens of thousands of dollars. While he was in college, he had a chance to fulfill his dream. Staying up nights and drinking cream soda, he designed and built what he called the Cream Soda Computer. That design eventually led to the Apple I.

Steve Jobs also became interested in electronics at an early age. When he was 13, he called up William Hewlett, one of the founders of the Hewlett-Packard Company, to ask for some spare parts. He got the parts and a summer job at Hewlett-Packard too. After high school, Jobs attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon for a semester. He dropped out of college to start designing video games as one of the first 50 employees of Atari. He left that job to travel in India with a friend, Dan Kottke.

When Jobs returned to the United States, he and Wozniak attended meetings of the same computer club. With the money from the sale of the van and calculator, they bought inexpensive parts at electronic stores. Wozniak put together a microcomputer, the Apple I. The Apple I was not the first microcomputer, but it was smaller and easier to use than the others that were available. Wozniak built the computer to show to the other members of the club. Jobs had a more commercial idea. He showed Apple I to the owner of the first computer store who placed an order for 50 of them. The computer store would pay Jobs and Wozniak 30 days after delivery. Apple Computer was in business. But they had no money to buy parts to make more computers. With the order in hand, Jobs convinced parts suppliers to give him the materials he needed. He also got the suppliers to take payment after the computer store paid him. Jobs hired his sister and Dan Kottke to help put the computers together in the Jobs' family garage.

The Apple I's sold quickly, but they were not designed to be used by the average person. They had no keyboard because hobbyists often had their own keyboards or could find them. To make the computer more useful, Wozniak designed a new version, the Apple II, with a keyboard, the BASIC programming language, and color graphics built in.

The Apple Computer Company grew quickly. No other company has grown so large so fast. Apple became the youngest company to enter Fortune magazine's list of the 500 largest American companies, and it sold almost a billion dollars worth of computers in 1983.

The 'portable' Apple I

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