The History of Apple -- Recommend a Book


macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Sep 13, 2006
Charlotte, NC
I'm a recent switcher (right after the switch to Intel), and I've become increasingly interested in the history of the company we all know and love. Can anyone recommend a good book on the history of Apple? I've searched and browsed Apple, but nothing really jumps out at me. Ideally, I'd like it to cover from the beginning up to the last 3-4 years.

Before getting into anything else, let me be the first to welcome you over to the Good Side of the Force... :)

Anyhow, seriously, in your quest to learn about Apple, one of the things you have to understand is that there is an awful lot of biased "historical" materials out there, so anything you read should be read wearing a bias filter, so to speak.

Apple has hired some of the greatest people in the computer profession at each point in their history, from co-founder Steve Wozniak to Bill Atkinson to the late Jef Raskin through Jon St. Ives, and many, many others. Not all, but many of these people either were or went on to become legends in their own right, and any number of these people have egos as big as, if not even bigger than that of Steve Jobs himself.

Perhaps one of the better sources of information is Steve Wozniak, both from his web site and his recent autobiography, iWoz (see - iWoz )

Another Apple alumnus, Andy Hertzfield, has also written a historical work, Revolution In The Valley (see - Revolution in the Valley )

Another good choice I'm told is Owen Linzmayer's Apple Confidential 2.0 (see - Apple Confidential 2.0 )

Additionally, a number of us here have been around in both the computer world and the Apple world for a long, long time. Feel free to ask!

Hope this helps.
Now, in addition to the books I mentioned above, here's a brief outline, which I encourage anyone else here with the knowledge to expand upon or even correct, if I manage to flub a detail.

In the late 1960s / early 1970s, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had met and were friends. During this time, Steve Wozniak was experimenting with a lot of electronic inventions. The two things he became known for at the time was his dial-a-joke service (he'd record new jokes daily on an answering machine), and gave this away for free. The second thing he was also known for was building what was called a "blue box".

The "blue box" was a device which hooked up to a phone line and, when a button was pressed, generated a 2600 hertz tone. The 2600 hertz tone would put the phone network that that phone was attached to in a sort of diagnostic mode, and while in that mode "test" phone calls could be placed, without charge, anywhere in the world. This was something originally discovered by John Draper, a.k.a. Captain Crunch, while he was messing around with a toy whistle then packaged in boxes of Cap'n Crunch children's cereal.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (aka "The Two Steves") went on to start building computers, and eventually attracted the interest of A. J. "Mike" Markula, a venture capitalist. This began the serious business history of Apple. They graduated from building motherboard-only Apple I computers (which you had to wire up, build a box for, get a keyboard for, etc.) to fully-manufacturered Apple IIs, then Apple IIes, and so forth.

Sometime in the very, very early 80s, Steve Jobs learned of Xerox's combining of Bell Labs' "computer mouse" invention with a prototype graphical user interface system, the bulk of this work being done by their Palo Alto Research Center (aka "PARC"). They ultimately non-exclusively licensed this entire technology from them and 1983(ish) released the Lisa, the forerunner to the present-day Macintosh platform and the forerunner to the "Classic Mac OS" operating system platform.

In 1984, they released the Macintosh (aka "Macintosh 128").

However, by 1985, Steve Jobs had made enough enemies within Apple based on his approach to management, leadership, and other factors, and the board fired him. Steve ultimately went on to found both NeXT (with investments by oil-tycoon H. Ross Perot) and Pixar.

Steve Wozniak left Apple shortly thereafter.

Apple has had a series of CEOs since then, including John Sculley, Michael Spindler, and Gil Amelio.

Under their collective watch, Apple had transitioned, processor-wise, from the Motorola 68000 to the 68020, 68030, 68040 (including variations), co-founded the Apple-IBM-Motorola (aka "AIM") Alliance, which then produced the PowerPC series of CPUs. This took the Mac through the 601, 603 (including variations), 604 (including variations), and up to the G3 processor. The Mac also transitioned from a 512x384 black-and-white display computer to an open, expandable and color computer.

Unfortunately, none of these people really "got" it, and so Apple really floundered as a business during this time. It grew but ultimately became a very internally divided company, with various divisions known to aggressively compete against each other (actually not all that unlike what's going on internally with Sony now-a-days).

Steve Jobs was hired on by Gil Amelio as an advisor, and within about a year or two took over and became interim CEO, ultimately assuming the CEO-ship, which he presently holds.

Under Steve's new watch, we've seen the introduction of the iMac, the first "New World ROM"-based Mac, the first Mac to have USB ports (and eliminating ADB, SCSI, and other interfaces altogether); the G3 Blue and White tower, the G4 series of CPUs, Mac OS X (which is largely based on the NeXTstep OS from Steve's NeXT computer line), G4-based Macs, G5s, the iPods, and now the switch to Intel CPUs, as well as Apple's foray into dedicated video products (the AppleTV) and telephony (the iPhone).

I know this glosses the heck over a lot of details, so as I said, I welcome others' additions to it.

I thought you might find this interesting as a sort of quick run-through of Apple's history.

For what it's worth, Apple's list of pioneering achievements includes:

  • First commercial (general public targeted) computer with a floppy drive
  • First of that type of computer with a 3.5" floppy drive
  • First of that type of computer with SCSI
  • First of that type of computer with polyphonic sound
  • First of that type of computer with high-resolution graphics capabilities
  • First of that type of computer to actually make full use of USB (even though PCs were shipping with USB ports since the days of Win95 and back in 1997)


macrumors member
Mar 16, 2007
A nice review!

I read, back in the day, the autobiography of John Scully. An interesting read. He came from Lays Pepsi Co to head Apple, at the bequest of Jobs (He came to see Scully in New York with a prototype mac and used the famous line: "Do you want to sell sugared water, or do you want to change the world"

It ends with Jobs leaving I think, but it was neat nonetheless. It also gives some insite into New Coke!


macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Sep 13, 2006
Charlotte, NC
Wow, awesome info everyone. Thanks for that very succinct overview there, Mike! :) I've definitely got quite a bit of reading ahead of me. Thanks for the links and book recommendations, keep 'em coming if anyone know's of more.


macrumors regular
Jul 15, 2007
Near Aspen
I highly recommend "Fire in the Valley" by Paul Freiberger. Even though it deals with the early days of the computer revolution, the author spends a great deal of time discussing the early days of the two Steves as well as the founding of Apple all the way to Apple rehiring Jobs. I first bought this book a few years ago and was floored at how cool Woz and Jobs were. It was at this time that a little :)apple:) seed was planted in my mind that Apple deserved my respect instead of my laughing at their puny market share :eek:. This culminated in me buying my first mac today. Awesome read!