the history of apple computers

The Apple computers a history guide
by Christian Gittings


This report sets out to investigate apple and looks into a number of areas of apple from the history of apple from 1975 to the start of the graphical apple systems in 1983

The History of Apple operating system

By the end of end of 1975 Steven Wozniak one of the founders of apple created a prototype that not knowing to Steven Wozniak would be the first apple computer ever, at the time Steven Wozniak was working for Hewlett Packard, but Hewlett Packard was not interested in building Steven Wozniak’s computer idea, so Steven Wozniak asked Hewlett Packard to release the technology he was working on to start his own company which Hewlett Packard soon agreed to.

This lead to Steven Wozniak, Steven jobs and an Atari engineer named Ronald Wayne stating the apple company on April 1st 1976 in Steven jobs parent’s house, to develop the computer.

The prototype later became the apple I, the apple I was a printed circuit board using a Motorola type chip, which computer hobbyists could build their own computers with by building their own case and adding a ASCII keyboard, monitor and tape player.

The apple 1 was created to make the computers cheap and available to the masses rather than buying a UNIX machine, which cost thousands of pounds, but used a lot in business at the time as the personnel computer market had not really started yet .

The apple 1’s Operating system was a built in firmware management system in a chip on the board and was 256 bytes in size and presented the user with a command line interface which together with the tape of Apple BASIC (Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) included in the package enabled the users to view memory and create and run programs.

This computer only lasted a year and was replaced when the Apple II which came out in 1977, this had the same CPU as the Apple I, but this time released as a whole computer system and over the life of this machine was given lots of operating systems.

The first of these, which came out in 1978, was Apple DOS, created after the need for a floppy drive was thought of, so the computer needed a disk operating system to control it, the first version of Apple DOS was 3.1 below is a quote taken from the website of why the first version was 3.1 and not 1.0

“The first release was called 3.1 and not something like 1.0 because one of the implementers, Paul Laughton, incremented a revision counter x.y every time he recompiled the source code: it started with x = 0, y = 1, and every time y reached 9, x was incremented by 1. Apple DOS was beta tested as version 3.0.“

The next operating system for the Apple II was Apple Pascal, which came from a early operating system called the P-System created by the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) this operating system was used a lot in the 1970’s and beginning of the 80’s and was a operating system which could be used on any platform of computer and was really a virtual machine that ran p-code, which was similar to java’s byte-code, this operating system was develop using another UCSD product which was the Pascal programming language. The apple version of this operating system came out in 1978; Apple Pascal lived as a product for five years.

The next operating system was Apple CP/M, this was made possible when, in 1980 Microsoft developed a co-processor on a board called soft-card which used the Z-80 code made by Zilog, this code was based on the popular CP/M operating system, that came with lots of business software such as the dBase Databases and the WordStar word processor

Apple installed this soft card into the apple II this enabled the apple II to run z-80 programs and so could be used for business.

In 1980 the Apple III was introduced, this computer was built as business machine and used an operating system called Apple SOS (“sophisticated operating system” or “Sara’s operating system” named after Sara a daughter of an engineer who worked for Apple, dependant on which name you view to be right as there are two different views as to what SOS stands for in the Apple Camp).

This operating system comes in two parts, the Kernal, interpreter (which could be part of an application itself or something the application used, dependant on the application) and drivers all of which could be loaded into memory. Over the years this changed into Apple ProDOS

Apple ProDOS came out in 1983 and was used to replace Apple DOS 3.3. Apple ProDOS had the follow changes.

  • Ability for programming in BASIC, assembly language, and machine language.
  • Had better interrupt handing, which made the operating system more efficient at managing the hardware in run on and provided faster disk handling
  • Provided sophisticated file handling as it provided a file structure and could open eight files at a time.

The Next Chapter of the Apples Operating system brings us almost up to date and is very similar to the apple operating system today, in 1983 a machine came out called the “Lisa”, which was the pre runner computer to the Macintosh and it was based on the work of Xerox’s PARC.

This was possible when apple gave Xerox, Apple Stock and shares in exchange for Xerox technology, having said this the Lisa project began before apple visit to Xerox Parc, so it hard to see what was apple’s in-house innovation and what was brought from Xerox

The Lisa had a graphical operating system sometimes called the “Lisa Office System” which had a file system with fully inactive click able icons or physical office metaphor, in other words everything in the real world office, was in graphical form on the computers desktop.

Lisa also had a spreadsheet, chart tool, drawing program and project management programs, Lisa also introduced lots of the features of the apple operating systems to come such as trash can, which drag items you want to delete on to.

In 1984 the Macintosh was born below is a quote taken from the website of how the Macintosh got its name.

“At the turn of the 80s, there was a project called “Annie” inside Apple. At some point, Jef Raskin, Apple employee number 31, changed the name to “Macintosh”, a deliberate misspelling of “McIntosh”, which is a variety of Apples. McIntosh was also the name of a hi-fi manufacturer (McIntosh Labs). The name did come under contention when Apple tried to trademark it, but Apple eventually managed to buy the trademark. During the legal battle, Apple considered acronyms such as MAC (Mouse Activated Computer), which was internally made fun of as standing for Meaningless Acronym Computer.

Raskin also wrote an internal document on personal computing: The Book of Macintosh, that allegedly was the initial primary force behind the Macintosh”.

The Macintosh operating system was a single user; single tasking software, which at first was called “Mac System Software” and was delivered on a 400 KB floppy disk.

The operating system came with a collection of code called the “toolbox” that a programmer could use to build other software with, and contained all the dialogs, pull-down menus, scroll-bars, windows, so all of the software could look and feel the same, below is some other interesting facts about this operating system taken from the website.

“The Macintosh File System (MFS) was a flat file system: all files were stored in a single directory. However, the system software presented a hierarchical view that showed nested folders.

Each disk contained a folder called “Empty Folder” at its root level. New folders were created by renaming this folder, which caused a replacement Empty Folder to appear.

The Macintosh contained many of the Lisa’s characteristics, such as a menu bar at the top (but with an Apple menu) and an iconic trash can (that was automatically emptied every time the system booted). It also heralded Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines.

The Macintosh trashcan is often criticized for being poorly designed, as it is not only meant to destroy files, but also for ejecting disks so that they can be safely put away. Apple’s interface designers once explained the rationale behind this design.

Since the original Macintosh had no hard disk, and a single floppy drive, it was expected that users will typically use several diskettes while working on the Macintosh. A convenience feature of the system was that it cached (in memory) the list of files on a diskette even after it had been ejected. This was indicated by a greyed-out icon for that diskette on the Desktop, clicking on which would prompt the user to insert the appropriate diskette in the drive. If a user wanted to free up the memory used by a diskette’s cache, he would have to drag the greyed-out icon to the trash.

Thus, even if a user intended to permanently eject a diskette, two actions were required: the eject command, and dragging an icon to the trash. The redundancy was removed by combining these actions to a single action: dragging an “active” (non-greyed-out) icon to the trash caused the disk to be ejected, and its cache to be deleted.

The Lisa 2 was introduced simultaneously with the Macintosh. A version of the Lisa 2 with a disk was later sold as the Macintosh XL and came with MacWorks, an emulator to run the Macintosh operating system.

In addition to bringing graphical user-interfaces to mainstream computing, the Lisa and Macintosh were also among the first to provide software controls for hitherto mechanical ones, such as ejecting a diskette, modifying screen brightness, and turning the machine on and off.

Alan Kay once asked (the reader) in one of his papers that if the IBM 3270/PC was the “machine code” way of doing things, whether that made the Macintosh the COBOL of user-interfaces”

From here, Apple made many changes to this operating system, that improved its performance, into the operating system they have today, that operating system and the power of a apple machine it sits on makes it possible for the apple to be used in applications from music production to video editing and is the choice of studios dealing with these applications as the control machine.

The apple is also good for other graphic applications as well such as website design and printing, plus with the apple version of Microsoft office, the apple machines can now be used for business applications as well, making it a all round machine that can used anywhere.

The latest graphics operating system from the Apple stable is OS X.

Reference and Further reading


I, Woz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: Getting to the Core of Apple’s Inventor
by Steve Wozniak, Gina Smith
Published by Headline Publishing Group 2006

Revolution In The Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made
by Andy Hertzfeld
Published by O’Reilly 2004

Apple Confidential: The Real Story of Apple Computer, Inc.
by O. Linzmayer
Published by No Starch Press,US 2003