While it might seem like a joke, it isn’t – Apple Inc., the company that started a massive shift in computing technology, began its life on April 1st.
Initially founded by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in California, the pair began things with a simple goal; to make computers small and accessible at home.
At the time, such a proposal seemed insane. But it was the foundation of their future.
Jobs and Wozniak met through a mutual friend, Bill Hernandez. At the time, Jobs was working at Atari as a hardware and game developer, and Wozniak was at HP.
The pair would do some of their earliest work together on the Atari game Breakout. They also cooperated on a number of tech-based pranks, including ‘Blue Boxes,’ which would allow them to call long distance without paying.
The pair also ended up joining the local Homebrew Computer Club in Menlo Park, where they corroborated with other computer makers to build and improve their craft. It was during their time here that Wozniak built the very first Apple I.
What made the Apple I stand out at the time was the ability to attach a television screen and a typewriter-style keyboard. That might sound basic for computer users in 2020, but this premise was a game-changer at the time.
Jobs, at that time, still a mere employee, saw the potential of such a device. So he pushed Wozniak to consider making the Apple I a marketable product. Wozniak relented at first due to his shyness. But with enough goading and the financial support of his partner (Jobs sold his VW Microbus to fund the project, estimated to have cost between $15,000 and $20,000 considering 2020 inflation), Wozniak gave in with time.
And so, the team founded the company together on April 1st, 1976.
Jobs and Wozniak were the co-founders, although they also had the help of Ronald Wayne to design the early logo in exchange for 10% of Apple’s stock.
They chose the name “Apple” because Jobs believed it sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.” In that first year, the pair began selling the Apple I to customers, albeit without a monitor, keyboard, or even a casing to keep all the parts in.
At the time, each computer was built, by hand, by Wozniak. It was a tedious affair, taking a lot of time to produce the number of products desired by the public. It was also difficult to fund the products based on early numbers, since getting the components and maintaining a profit was difficult. Not everyone was willing to take the aforementioned risks.
Ronald Wayne sold his 10% company ownership back to Jobs and Wozniak within 12 days of the company’s opening for $800.
It wasn’t until a local store, Byte Shop, purchased and sold 500 Apple I computers that Apple finally found itself in a place that it could potentially reap profit from their expenses. It was a gamble, to be sure.
The owner of the shop told Jobs’ biographer that they were taking quite a risk on such a device at the time. But they sold around 200 units in the short period that the monitor-less Apple I was available.
In the coming years, Apple would add a built-in monitor and keyboard with increasing sales. These key years would be integral to the exponential growth of Apple as a whole, setting the standard for future projects.