For some of my teenaged peers, like my best friend, the Apple II and more specifically, the Apple IIe were the machines to get. The first Apple II I ever got my hands on recently celebrated its 32nd birthday last weekend. I’m talking about the Apple IIc.
In the years before Macs and before the IBM PC, Apple IIs ran all the coolest games, and they were such popular systems among hobbyists that you could readily find magazines and books with code to program your own software too. While I had a computer of my own at home (I was one of the very lucky ones), the Apple IIc was the first computer I ever used in school. The Apple IIc was introduced in 1984, the same year the Macintosh made its debut.
The IIc was a downsized version of the Apple II, with a built-in floppy disk drive and a peripheral expansion port, all designed in a much more compact chassis that took up a lot less space on the desktop. It had less internal expandability but less need for it, since Apple integrated much of what had been installed on expansion cards right on the computer. More than three decades later we still see Apple iterating and shrinking its hardware the same way, albeit on a very different scale and different level of sophistication.
The IIc was the perfect computer for a computer lab, which is exactly what my high school did with theirs. I remember having to pass a Keyboarding class as a prerequisite to use them. I did, though just barely, with a D. The class was taught by an old-school typist on IBM Selectrics. I could competently input text on a typewriter, but I’d taught myself to type on computer keyboards. So I didn’t do it the way the teacher wanted.
The Data Processing class was when I first got my hands on the IIc. The teachers taught us the ins and outs of using computers – how to start them up, how to put in discs, how to run software. It was basic stuff at a time when using computers was still largely a novelty. For my friends and I who were already ahead of the rest of the class, it became an opportunity to help the teacher, help the other students, and hopefully have some time to play with the computers ourselves without being burdened too much by the curriculum. Oregon Trail, anyone?
The teachers of that class, Mr. Bernier and Mrs. Ledwith, recognized that I was an enthusiastic computer user. Mr. Bernier took a shine to me and recommended me for my first summer job: Duplicating software for a nearby financial software developer. I’d parlay that experience into getting more clerical work as an office temp with experience on the Mac, and that ultimately led me down the career path I find myself on today.
So thanks, Apple IIc, for being so awesome. You gave early generations of computer users great service, made it a pleasure to use computers in school, and didn’t take up too much space on the desk, either. And happy birthday. (And thanks also to Mrs. Ledwith and Mr. Bernier for helping to give me my first chance to earn money using computers!)