Apple is currently the world’s largest tech company, but it hasn’t always been plain sailing. Established on 1 April, 1976, Apple has moved from CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs’ garage, to offices in 317 locations around the world, plus 323 Apple Stores. The past 10 years has seen Apple redefine consumer electronics and become a household name. With Apple at the height of its success, we look back over the past 35 years to see what made it the company it is today.
1976: Jobs, Wozniak and Sculley
Apple goes from strength to strength but a new CEO leads to a power struggle
Today Apple Inc. is the world’s most valuable technology company. The iPad, iPhone and Mac are now a huge success. However, things could have turned out quite differently. Speaking in 1998, Apple co-founder and current CEO Steve Jobs said: “Without Blue Box, there would have been no Apple.”
Blue Box? Apple’s story has its roots in US counter-culture, as hippy college dropout Jobs was into Buddhism, vegetarianism and technology. That last interest led him to take a part-time job at Hewlett-Packard in 1972, with friend Steve Wozniak (‘Woz’), who would later become another Apple co-founder. Together they eventually joined the Homebrew Computer Club, a regular meeting of engineering hobbyists. They struck a good balance, Wozniak said. “I was shy, he was outward.” In latter years, “I created, he sold.” “Woz was the first person I met who knew more about electronics than I did,” Jobs said.
Woz and Jobs founded Apple with third partner, Ron Wayne, in 1976. Along the way they learned the secrets of Blue Box phone phreaking from venerable programmer and phone phreak, John Draper, aka, Captain Crunch. Highly illegal (Draper went to jail three times for it), this was a way of tricking the telephone network into delivering free calls. Jobs said this taught both men about how to think about networks and computer machines.
1984 was, perhaps is, the defining ad for Apple. Directed by Ridley Scott, it depicts an athlete on a dash to smash totalitarian control – a nod to the struggle between Apple and IBM
Wozniak, it emerged, was an engineering genius. He saved the cash to design his own computer, based on the MOS Technology 6502 chip. Jobs took the prototype to local computer store The Byte Shop, sold 50 units and Apple was in business. The Steves worked day and night to build those machines; 200 were eventually made. This was followed by the more successful Apple II, and Apple III. Apple III – aimed at taking on IBM in the business environment – had a fatal flaw. Jobs had refused to fit a fan as he wanted heat to dissipate through the system chassis. It didn’t work.
Damaged by overheating, thousands of Apple III’s were recalled. But this didn’t stop Apple’s initial public offering on 12 December, 1980 from generating record-setting capital. More than 40 Apple employees left work as wage-earners and returned the next day as millionaires.
However, Jobs soon committed his first big error. Jobs and the company board felt Apple needed a business-class executive to lead it. “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?” he asked Pepsi president, John Sculley, as he wooed him to the role. Sculley joined Apple as CEO in 1983. Things started well enough, but Sculley was unable to handle Jobs’ unconventional management and product development style and a power struggle ensued.
Jobs (left) and Wozniak check incoming components in the first Apple production facility, Jobs’ foster parent’s garage
Asked to resign in 1985 aged just 30, Jobs said: “I feel like somebody just punched me in the stomach and knocked all my wind out.” That same year, Microsoft quietly introduced Windows 1.0. Jobs moved on to found NeXT Software and in 1986 he acquired Pixar animation studios from George Lucas for under $10m.