As we all know, the Apple I computer didn't last very long as it was supplanted by the hugely successful Apple II about a year later. From what I've been able to find, it seems that since Woz was the sole engineer in those early days, once he finished whatever work was necessary to produce the 1, he went to work on the II.

My question is to any citation or stories around the foresight that led the Steves to silk screen a '1' on the board as it suggests that there would be a '2' or a successor otherwise. I have found that when Woz finished the 1 he already had in mind what he wanted to do for the II, but from a marketing perspective (and even the uncertainty of the 1's success), it doesn't seem to be a good idea to label something as a '1' since it implies something better to come.

I would have thought that the initial run of boards could have omitted the '1' and just been labeled the Apple Computer and when the II was in the works it could have been revised, but the only image I've ever seen has the digit.

Does anyone know more as to why it was labeled this way?

Motherboard label for the Apple Computer 1

  • 3
    My understanding, admittedly not from having done any in depth research, is that the Apple I was never really intended to be a commercial product as such -- the initial sales were to other members of the Homebrew Computer Club and to local shops, and at the time they began the purpose of selling them was simply to fund the first production run, and possibly the development of the Apple II. When the board layout was designed, there was probably only the vaguest of ideas in their minds that it could be a commercially viable product. Marketing tactics were probably far from their thoughts.
    – Jules
    Aug 23, 2018 at 17:54
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    @Jules WHen doing the design, Woz maybe didn't have big business in mind, but when Jobs did collect money for a production run, it was clearly a comercial venue. Their 25,000 USD upfront investment (more than 100 grand of todays money) isn't anywhere near what (rather average) guys spend on a hobby project. Especially not when it means borrowing it.
    – Raffzahn
    Aug 23, 2018 at 18:00

3 Answers 3


Development happened very rapidly in the first two years of Apple. Wozniak did the Apple 1 in 1975 and the Apple ][ in 1976. When the Apple 1 was first presented to the world at the Homebrew Computer Club, it didn't have any name at all, since there was no company called "Apple" at the time. The original thought Woz had was simply to show off the computer he had designed to the club and share the schematics for the design - it was very much a "hacker" community project without thought of a commercial product.

Based on the interest in the Apple 1 design amongst the hacker/hobbyist community, Steve Jobs suggested ordering PCB's and selling them at a profit. While pursuing buyers for the PCB, Jobs made the famous deal with the Byte Shop in Palo Alto, but that deal required fully assembled PCB's to be delivered. This led to Jobs seeking capital from banks, arranging for vendor credit, and other similar business activities needed to launch a real product. So the company was officially founded and named "Apple", and shortly after Mike Markkula got involved and formed Apple, the Corporation.

While this was happening, Woz was already well on his way to developing the successor Apple ][. So the "Apple 1" was named with full knowledge that a company was being formed and would, hopefully in short order, be able to offer the far-superior Apple ][ to its customers.

This quote from a lengthy interview with Wozniak sums up the thinking of the Apple founders at the time:

I went to a store in Southern California, cause I was on vacation, showed them the Apple I, what it was, isn't that, demonstrated it. Got some orders out of that. But it was pretty much, you know, one person at a time, you know, getting small accounts. So we didn't sell very many in the period of a year. And by then, we had the Apple II. We even saw the Apple II coming and part of the Apple II introduction was, we said, you can turn in your Apple I for a real good refund or a discount on the Apple II.

Also, despite the fact that a successor to the Apple 1 was already planned, the company did exercise some discretion in not giving too much away when marketing the Apple 1. It was their only source of income for some months, so the little bit of marketing material that was created simply referred to the Apple 1 as "The Apple Computer".

  • 1
    I think you've confused Markkula with Ronald Wayne, Markkula came along much later
    – mcottle
    Aug 24, 2018 at 6:00
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    @mcottle Wayne left well before before Apple Computer Company was converted to Apple Computer, Inc.
    – 8bittree
    Aug 24, 2018 at 13:21
  • @8bittree I'm pretty sure Wayne was there for the Apple 1, which is what the question is about.
    – mcottle
    Aug 26, 2018 at 12:28
  • @mcottle Wayne was there for less than 2 weeks before bailing, and the Apple 1 didn't go on sale until a few months after his departure. Markkula was there for the entire second half of the Apple 1 sales period. So while Brian H doesn't have any inaccuracies about Markkula's involvement, you are right that Wayne would have a bit more influence with the Apple 1, including writing the manual. It's not clear, at least in my research, whether Wayne had any influence in the numbering of the Apple 1, though.
    – 8bittree
    Aug 27, 2018 at 3:42
  • @8bittree According to Markkula's wikipedia page "Jobs visited him and convinced Markkula of the market for the Apple II and personal computers in general." - Markkula joined in 1977, the Apple II was already on the market and the Apple 1 was history. My original comment stands. I believe Brian H confused Wayne and Markkula. Markkula had nothing to do with the Apple 1.
    – mcottle
    Aug 27, 2018 at 6:42

As we all know, the Apple I computer didn't last very long as it was supplanted by the hugely successful Apple II about a year later.

Let's start with the fact, that it was labeled Apple 1 not I. Not only on the silk screen, but also throughout all manuals and advertisements. Similarly, the Apple II was originally named Apple 2. The II only came later, after Woz did come up with the 'graphical' play with square brackets (][) as start message. Quoting the Apple 1 as Apple I was made by magazines in hindsight.

Why was the original Apple Computer labeled as the Apple I

It's a common practice to add a number to make things sound better. The case could not only be made for the Apple 1, but as well for KIM 1, Osborne 1, PET 2001, Atari 800, OSI Model 500, Altair 8800 and so on. These are arbitrary numbers to make it sound better. Just think Anhilator 2000.


The Apple 1 was a single design, but multiple products

There were multiple incarnations of a particular computer design that would eventually be called the Apple 1:

  1. Wozniak's prototype boards.
  2. Schematic plans shared with members of the Homebrew Computer Club.
  3. Boards fabricated by members of the Homebrew Computer Club, according to Woz's schematics.
  4. Bare, silkscreened boards to be sold for $40 each.
  5. Fully-populated boards sold at the Byte Shop for $666 each.

These are different physical manifestations of the same circuit design. By the time #4 and #5 happened, Woz and Jobs had formed a company called Apple Computer, and Woz was already planning the more sophisticated computer that would become the Apple ][. Thus, it was reasonable to put "Apple 1" on its silkscreen.

The Apple 1 began in 1975 as Woz's need for a home terminal:

BYTE: How did you get to the point of designing the Apple I?

Wozniak: I had worked my way up through software using a terminal on a local time-sharing system. Sometimes I'd call it from work, but I wanted to do it at home. I eventually designed and built a TV terminal and a modem so I could call this computer and play games.

Byte magazine, December 1984, p. A68

Woz showed his computer to the Homebrew Computer Club, shared the schematics, and even assisted members in fabricating their own copies:

Steve and I had both been going down to the (Homebrew Computer) club and giving out schematics for the computer and the terminal, even going over to peoples houses and helping them build and test the computers out.

ibid, p. A69

During this period, Woz realized the limitations of this first design:

In 1975 video terminals were designed with shift registers because there were no cheap RAMs. You'd set up a bunch of shift registers and keep shifting them around to send text to the TV screen. So the Apple I was slow. It could type out 60 characters a second -- one character per scan of the TV screen. My motivation was totally to save chips, not to add features.

BYTE: Was the Apple I really a full-blown computer?

Wozniak: Yes, but its features were a little bit different than the Apple II's and other personal computers that followed. It was slow, and it was text only, but it was a lot faster than the teletypes we were used to. They could only type 10 characters per second.

ibid, p. A68

In particular, Woz saw a demonstration at the Club that inspired him to create a new computer design that would add color:

At the time, Cromemco had just come out with a board called the Color Dazzler that did color graphics on S-100 systems. We had also had a demo, at the club, of a minicomputer running a display of a clock on the screen in color. During one of my times at Atari with Steve, I had designed a little seven-chip circuit to do color on a TV screen and it worked. So I started working on things that I wanted to add to the Apple I. I was thinking about clever color circuits and how to cut the chips down.

ibid, p. A70

As requests for Woz's original design increased, Jobs proposed creating a company to sell professionally-made boards:

BYTE: So how did Apple Computer actually get started?

Wozniak: Steve and I had both been going down to the (Homebrew Computer) club and giving out schematics for the computer and the terminal, even going over to peoples houses and helping them build and test the computers out. Steve said, "Look, people are interested in what you've got. Why don't we make a PC board, have it silkscreened so they know what parts to plug in, and sell it at the club?"

We had about 500 members in the club, and I thought that maybe 50 people would buy it. It would cost us about $1000 to have the board laid out, and each board would cost us about $20. So if we sold them for $40 and 50 people bought them, we'd get our $1000 back. It seemed pretty doubtful. But Steve said, "Well, yes, but at least for once in our lives we'll have a company:" So Steve sold his van and I sold my HP calculator to raise the money to make the PC boards.

Then the Byte Shop asked for fully-built boards:

Right away Steve got a big order from a local computer store to supply completely built computers. They ordered something like 100 units at $500 each, to retail at $666. It was unbelievable -- a $50,000 order. We were in business.


Jobs came up with the "Apple" name:

BYTE: Just to put four or five stories to rest, where did the name Apple Computer actually come from?

Wozniak: It came out of Steve Jobs's head, and he's a sort of private person, so I can't say what led up to it. He came up with an inspiration. He was working from time to time in the orchards up in Oregon. I thought that it might be because there were apples in the orchard or maybe just its fructarian nature. Maybe the word just happened to occur to him. In any case, we both tried to come up with better names, but neither one of us could think of anything better after Apple was mentioned.

ibid, p. A69

Therefore, by the time the silk-screen boards were actually produced, Apple Computer had been formed as a company, and Woz already had plans for an improved computer. It was thus reasonable for them to print "Apple 1" on those boards.

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