The start of the personal computer
This week of June 25 through July 1 across Apple's four decades, from 1976 to 2016, also includes another milestone that is recognized, though, and yet another that -- if Bill Gates had been given his way -- would probably have destroyed Apple. Not because he wanted that, though: he had plans for the company that he genuinely believed would be good for it.
That's the thing about Apple history: it's a business story and it's a technology story, but it's ultimately always about people. So as we start with a rare step further back than the formation of Apple Computer, don't picture the technology. Picture the man.
It's after business hours on the evening of June 29, 1975, and Woz has returned to his cubicle at Hewlett Packard, where he works during the day. This evening, as on so many previous evenings though, he's working on own time, and on his own designs, for his own computer.
"I typed a few keys on the keyboard and I was shocked! The letters were displayed on the screen," he told Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs' biographer. "It was the first time in history anyone had typed a character on a keyboard and seen it shown up on their own computer's screen right in front of them."
This is what's hard to comprehend now, because we do this all day, and because we know that it's how computers have worked since long before Woz and his little machine. The key word is little. The key phrase is Woz and his machine. This was a personal computer. Instead of you typing at a terminal and the keypress being sent to a remote computer before teletype or any other kind of response comes back, this was all happening inside the machine right there, and using its own processor.
Again speaking to Isaacson, Woz says his thinking of processors after a Homebrew Computer Club meeting that led to this point. He had been mentally designing a terminal that would connect to a remote computer, just like others of the day, when instead: "This whole vision of a personal computer just popped into my head. That night, I started to sketch out what would later become known as the Apple I."
It's a strange thing to think, but Woz designed the Cream Soda Computer, then the Apple I, then the Apple II -- and none after that. As much as he worked on other computers like the Apple III, he didn't design any more. Yet he'd done enough: there is surely a straight line from June 29, 1975 to June 29, 2007. If you're having any trouble placing that date, this is one small thing that happened. David Pogue, then of The New York Times, summed up what had gone on sale at 6PM on that date.