Weird Crap in Mike’s Place, 1.0
Now for a semi-regular column that I am titling: Weird Crap in Mike’s place. Because, I have a whole lot of weird crap, nice crap, but still rather odd.
So the first installment rolls the clock back to 2010.
It was that fateful day that makes all Mac-heads go squeeee! April 3, 2010, launch day for the iPad 1. Naturally I had to go and make the pilgrimage to the Palo Alto store and join the happy throngs waiting to get their collective mitts on one of the blessed gadgets. Standing in line behind me was an “older” woman who did not seem like the stand-in-line-on-iPad-launch-day type. But to prove her street-cred she told me that her husband still had his working Apple III.
Now, the Apple III, as they say, has had a checkered pass. It was Apple’s first real attempt to get into the business marketplace, but became the redheaded stepchild of the Apple line. First announced in May of 1980, the III had serious quality problems from day one. The “basic” ensemble was priced at a whopping $4500, nearly $13,000 in today’s market, giving users a machine that was slightly faster than the Apple II, had 96K RAM, a video card that could do upper and lower case (important for word processing in the office), black and white monitor and an 80 column printer. But due to manufacturing and design blunders many of the computers were DOA, or would eventually die due to heat related issues (Job’s famously didn’t want a fan as it was not “elegant”), loose chips and other such problems. The case that was designed by marketing was too cramped for the components causing many of the headaches. And having an OS named “Sophisticated Operating System,” or “SOS” for short, didn’t help things. (Personal note, back in the halcyon days of the early 90s, the Computer History Museum sponsored a yearly computer trivia contest known as The Computer Bowl. Teams as well as the MC, were various luminaries such as Heidi Roizen, John Doerr, Phillipe Kahn and Bill Gates. On USENET a request went out for questions and I submitted several including one about SOS, the Apple III’s operating system. That made the cut and was read by Bill Gates himself, and you can see it here at about 22:30).
It was Apple’s first true lemon, and even though all of the problems were corrected by 1982 it would languish for another couple of years. It would ultimately sell a total number of units, not much more than typical month’s sales of the Apple II, estimated at 120,000 units
Apple stopped selling it in 1984, overlapping the original Mac by three months and making it a novelty among collectors. Apple would still manage to have some other failed products, but more based on usability issues vs. build quality (three cheers for the hockey-puck mouse!).
So, back to the iPad 1 launch. The woman behind me added that she and her husband wanted to get rid of the thing, but only if they could find someone who could really appreciate it. Duh. I raised my hand. So, on April 3, 2010, not only did I get my new iPad, I came home with an Apple III as well. And yes it did work. And it’s sitting on the other side of my dining room table from where I do all of my coding.