Exactly 45 years ago, on April 1, 1976, two young people under the age of 30 and an investor came together to create a company. The goal? Produce personal computers, a concept that was still in its infancy at the time. These young people were Stephen Gary Wozniak e Steven Paul Jobs, and the investor was Ronald Wayne. The company? Apple Computer Company.

In this almost half century, the history of has gone through ups and downs. From a startup in a garage to one of the leaders in the personal computing market in the USA, followed by near bankruptcy and a triumphant return that has made it the most valuable company in the world.

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And throughout this journey, she has influenced the world of technology like few others, helping to shape the way you see a computer, interact with it and integrate it into your day-to-day life.

Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs at the head of an Apple-1
Steve Wozniak, on the left, and Steve Jobs, on the right, with an Apple I

The beginning

To kick-start the company, “Woz” and Jobs sold their only possessions: an HP-65 scientific calculator and a Kombi. Wayne, who was 41 years old and had experience developing documentation for Atari products, would be the “responsible adult” for breaking ties and assisting in business management. 

The first product, the Apple I, was designed by Wozniak initially for personal use. It was little more than a circuit board with a processor and memory, which could be connected to a television and a keyboard. Something revolutionary at a time when the main form of interaction with a computer was through a teletype, which printed the results of programs and commands on paper.

Apple-1 Steve Wozniak Apple Auction
An Apple-1 computer: created by Steve Wozniak, the model was the first to be sold by Apple in 1976 (Image: RR Auctions / Disclosure)

The first units were sold to one of the first computer stores in the San Francisco region, the “Byte Shop”, which bought 50 boards already assembled for $ 500 each. The consumer price was $ 666 because Wozniak, always playful, likes repeated figures.

Apple II, the first success

The company's first major success came in 1977 with the launch of the Apple II. In addition to the most powerful hardware, capable of producing color graphics, it was one of the first computers sold "ready" to the end consumer, in a plastic cabinet with the keyboard and all components assembled. Just connect to a TV and use it.

Along with Commodore's PET 2001 and Radio Shack's electronics store chain's TRS-80, the Apple II formed the “Trinity of 77”, which helped kick-start the US personal computing market.

Apple II in a "typical" configuration for 1977, with black-and-white monitor, two "paddles" for games and a cassette recorder for storing programs. Image: FozzTexx / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 4.0)
Apple II in a “typical” configuration for 1977, with a black-and-white monitor, two “paddles” for games and a cassette recorder for storing programs. Image: FozzTexx / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

Many companies have started to computerize with an Apple II and a copy of VisiCalc, the first successful spreadsheet, and over more than a decade thousands of students at schools in the USA have had their first contact with computers through an Apple II or their descendants.

Macintosh: a new concept

In 1984 the Macintosh came, a bold bet on a new concept: the graphic interface. Instead of memorizing different commands for each application, the user would only need to move an arrow across the screen using a new device called a "mouse", pointing to pictures (the icons) and selecting commands at the touch of a button. 

With its compact and friendly design, the “Mac” was an attempt to transform what was still seen by many as a “bogeyman” into an “appliance” accessible to everyone.

Apple Macintosh, original model from 1984

All operating systems for personal computers today, including the Windows, Linux, Mac OS X ou Chrome OS, use concepts that can be traced directly to this common ancestor.

In 1985, shortly after the Mac's launch, Steve Jobs fell out with Apple CEO John Sculley and left the company. Over the next few years, she lost her focus and leadership, unable to compete with the success of increasingly cheaper PCs, mass produced in Taiwan and resold worldwide.

The return of Jobs and Apple's revival

In 1997 Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy when it bought NeXT, a company created by Jobs, and brought its founder back, initially as a "consultant". He quickly took the lead, simplifying the product line, reducing production costs and focusing on development efforts.

The first success of this new “Jobs era” came in 1998, with the iMac. A computer with rounded lines, friendly, that repeated the strategy of the original Mac: transform something frightening into an appliance, simplifying access to something that at the time was still being born: to Internet.

The first model of the iMac. Friendly technology for everyone. Image: Rama / David Fuchs / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

In 2001 the company made a bold bet: to develop not a computer, but a consumer electronics. A portable device that took advantage of the success of the MP3 format to put “1.000 songs in your pocket”, accessible anytime, anywhere.

Was born iPod, which accelerated the music industry's transition from a business model based on physical objects (vinyl records, CDs, cassettes) to the digital age.

The first model of the iPod. Monochrome display and internal 4 GB hard drive for “up to 1.000 songs”. Image: Aaron Logan / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-2.5)

The iTunes Store digital store, in 2003, was the next step: for the first time it was easier to buy a song in digital format than to download a pirated copy on a sharing service or “rip” a CD.

The store's business model, with tracks sold individually at low prices, helped to end the concept of a “musical album”. And the global reach proved to be a blessing for artists and independent labels, who for the first time could distribute their works on an equal footing with the great names in music.

The iPhone revolution

Four years later, in 2007, Jobs took the stage to announce “three products”: an iPod with touch controls, a phone and a “revolutionary mobile communication device”. The three, in fact, were one: the iPhone. And our pockets, bank lines (remember them?) And time on the bus on the way home have never been the same.

The iPhone was not the first “smartphone” (companies like Nokia, Palm and Microsoft took the lead) but, again, it was the first that transformed something complex into an “appliance”. Small and easy to use, the device soon became an object of desire. 

Steve Jobs announcing the iPhone in 2007

With the arrival of “apps” and the App Store in 2008, a revolution in software development began. Small developers have started to create applications to fill niche markets or use the technology available on devices in innovative ways. Fortunes came as a consequence, and also services that we now consider essential as WhatsApp, Instagram or Uber, just to name a few.

The iPhone wiped out existing competitors from the map and was directly responsible for creating its only true rival, Android. The project was already underway but was "reset" as soon as the Apple smartphone was announced, since Google was fully aware that to compete it would take something much more sophisticated than what was being developed.

The Apple Store proved that a technology company could succeed in retail. Image: Apple / Disclosure

In 2008 Apple announced the Macbook Air and redefined notebooks, transforming them from "bricks" of a few kilograms into thin, light and elegant machines. In 2010 it was the turn of the iPad, which did for tablets what the iPhone did for smartphones.

In 2015 came the Apple Watch, which created a new category of smart devices and, literally, saved lives. And we don't even talk about the Mac OS X, Apple Stores, AirPods, from Apple TV and so many other products, services and ideas.

Celebrating the company's 45th anniversary, CEO Tim Cook quoted Steve Jobs in a tweet: "The journey so far has been incredible, and yet we have barely started." May the next 45 years be even more incredible.