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The Apple II Age

How the Computer Became Personal

An engrossing origin story for the personal computer—showing how the Apple II’s software helped a machine transcend from hobbyists’ plaything to essential home appliance.
 
Skip the iPhone, the iPod, and the Macintosh. If you want to understand how Apple Inc. became an industry behemoth, look no further than the 1977 Apple II. Designed by the brilliant engineer Steve Wozniak and hustled into the marketplace by his Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, the Apple II became one of the most prominent personal computers of this dawning industry.
 
The Apple II was a versatile piece of hardware, but its most compelling story isn’t found in the feat of its engineering, the personalities of Apple’s founders, or the way it set the stage for the company’s multibillion-dollar future. Instead, historian Laine Nooney shows, what made the Apple II iconic was its software. In software, we discover the material reasons people bought computers. Not to hack, but to play. Not to code, but to calculate. Not to program, but to print. The story of personal computing in the United States is not about the evolution of hackers—it’s about the rise of everyday users.
 
Recounting a constellation of software creation stories, Nooney offers a new understanding of how the hobbyists’ microcomputers of the 1970s became the personal computer we know today. From iconic software products like VisiCalc and The Print Shop to historic games like Mystery House and Snooper Troops to long-forgotten disk-cracking utilities, The Apple II Age offers an unprecedented look at the people, the industry, and the money that built the microcomputing milieu—and why so much of it converged around the pioneering Apple II.


352 pages | 19 color plates, 29 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2023

Computer Science

Culture Studies

History: History of Technology

Media Studies

Reviews

The Apple II Age is a joy to read and an extraordinary achievement in computer history. A rigorous thinker and a bright and witty writer, Nooney offers a compelling account of the initial attempts to make computers inviting to the public. The Apple II Age, like the old microcomputer itself, is bound to intrigue both experts and newcomers to the subject.”

Joanne McNeil, author of 'Lurking: How a Person Became a User'

“Nooney complicates and enriches the men-in-garages Silicon Valley mythology we all know by drawing together a rich cast of software visionaries whose creative and entrepreneurial talents gave life to the machine. A magisterial history and a gift to all curious technophiles.”

Claire L. Evans, author of 'Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet'

“A highly original and insightful book that makes an enormous contribution. Nooney demonstrates how software transformed microcomputing from an arcane hobby into a mass consumer product.”

Kevin Driscoll, author of 'The Modem World: A Prehistory of Social Media'

“In these pages I found the story of my own coming of age with an Apple II, but it is not a nostalgic or sentimental story about boys and their toys. Instead, the monochrome green glow of the CRT is rendered prismatic through Nooney’s rigorous scholarship, painstaking archival research, and always bracing and authentic prose.”

Matthew Kirschenbaum, author of 'Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing'

Table of Contents

Introduction
1                      Prehistories of the Personal
2                      Cultivating the Apple II
3                      Business: VisiCalc
4                      Games: Mystery House
5                      Utilities: Locksmith
6                      Home: The Print Shop
7                      Education: Snooper Troops
Inconclusions
Epilogue: On the Consignment Floor
Acknowledgments
A Note on Archives and Sources
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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