When Steve Jobs announced he was stepping down as CEO of Apple a few weeks ago, his legacy of iPhones and iPads and iMacs- and his cult of personality- was the first highlight in every news story. Less talked about were his younger years, when he sported a bit more hair and a less monochromatic wardrobe.
Before he became a consumer electronics guru, Jobs was a kid in Northern California looking to make enough money for a pilgrimage to India. Relying on his buddy Steve Wozniak to learn the technical aspects of programming, he spent his days working for video game company Atari while he planned his route towards enlightenment. Returning from his trip as a Buddhist, he found a certain form of nirvana, as he and Wozniak built the Apple I, a home-made personal computer. Though it lacked some of the grace of the company’s newer models (see the first version below), the Apple I was sold around Palo Alto for $666.66.
The Apple I entered a field filled with kid geniuses. Just as the dot-com bubble rested on the shoulders of young web designers with venture funding, and the social media world grew out of college parties, the personal computing industry was a world full of young men, garages, and basements. It was this formative environment of the 1970′s that would shape the careers of everyone from Bill Gates to pioneering computer hacker John “Cap’n Crunch” Draper.
At the end of the day, much of Apple- not to mention Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and countless other corporate tech ventures- was started by kids looking to test their abilities, make free phone calls, and have fun. Despite their self-seriousness today, it’s worth looking back at their humble origins. We all start somewhere, after all.
Steve Wozniak’s device for making phone calls for free. (1972)
Ah, the business computer that works for your business- if you have four desks available. (1973)
The first computer to run Bill Gates’ software. (1975)
The Apple II, notable for the free copy of the game “Breakout” that came with every model. (1977)