10 Most Popular Computers in History

Apple II
Steve Wozniak, designer of the Apple I and II series, shows off an Apple IIe. And a great belt buckle. © Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS

In 1977, the same year Sinclair released the $100 Timex Sinclair 1000, Apple released the Apple II. Apple's second hobbyist computer cost a bit more than the Sinclair at a starting price of about $1300, but there's a reason one company no longer exists and the other is the richest corporation on the planet. The Apple II was an incredible success. It built on the design of the Apple I by retaining a simple 1MHz processor and 4KB of RAM and adding a case and keyboard.

Eight expansion slots on the Apple II board made the computer extremely customizable for hobbyists, and the system could be configured with up to 48KB of RAM. That was a ton in 1977. But it was software that truly set the Apple II apart. Apple's Steve Wozniak designed an affordable 5 1/4-inch floppy drive add-on, the Disk II, that was relatively inexpensive to produce, thanks to a new software approach to reading and writing. More importantly, spreadsheet software VisiCalc made the computer a powerful tool for corporations, who were perfectly willing to pay more than $1000 per machine.

The Apple II was one of the best selling computers on the market for five years, selling more than 1 million units in the young computer market, spawning offshoot models like the Apple IIe, and placing Apple on the Fortune 500 list [source: Old Computers]. Apple introduced the Macintosh in 1983 and had sold 1 million units by 1987. While the Macintosh name has stuck, the Apple II made a tremendous impact on the computer industry.

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