Apple Founding, Incorp. and IPO (1976 - 1980)

The Founding of Apple

Apple was established on April 1, 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne to sell the Apple I personal computer kit. The kits were hand-built by Wozniak and first shown to the public at the Homebrew Computer Club. The Apple I was sold as a motherboard (with CPU, RAM, and basic textual-video chips) — less than what is today considered a complete personal computer. The Apple I went on sale in July 1976 and was market-priced at $666.66 ($2,723 in 2012 dollars, adjusted for inflation.)

The Incorporation of Apple Computer, Inc.

Apple was incorporated January 3, 1977 without Wayne, who sold his share of the company back to Jobs and Wozniak for $800. Multi-millionaire Mike Markkula provided essential business expertise and funding of $250,000 during the incorporation of Apple.
The Apple II was introduced on April 16, 1977 at the first West Coast Computer Faire. It differed from its major rivals, the TRS-80 and Commodore PET, because it came with character cell based color graphics and an open architecture. While early models used ordinary cassette tapes as storage devices, they were superseded by the introduction of a 5 1/4 inch floppy disk drive and interface, the Disk II.

Apple and the Business Market

The Apple II was chosen to be the desktop platform for the first “killer app” of the business world—the VisiCalc spreadsheet program. VisiCalc created a business market for the Apple II, and gave home users an additional reason to buy an Apple II—compatibility with the office. According to Brian Bagnall, Apple exaggerated its sales figures and was a distant third place to Commodore and Tandy until VisiCalc came along.

By the end of the 1970s, Apple had a staff of computer designers and a production line. The company introduced the ill-fated Apple III in May 1980 in an attempt to compete with IBM and Microsoft in the business and corporate computing market.

Xerox PARC

Jobs and several Apple employees including Jef Raskin visited Xerox PARC in December 1979 to see the Xerox Alto. Xerox granted Apple engineers three days of access to the PARC facilities in return for the option to buy 100,000 shares (800,000 split-adjusted shares) of Apple at the pre-IPO price of $10 a share. Jobs was immediately convinced that all future computers would use a graphical user interface (GUI), and development of a GUI began for the Apple Lisa.

Apple’s Initial Public Offering (IPO)

In August 1980, the Financial Times reported that “Apple Computer, the fast growing Californian manufacturer of small computers for the consumer, business and educational markets, is planning to go public later this year. [It] is the largest private manufacturer in the U.S. of small computers. Founded about five years ago as a small workshop business, it has become the second largest manufacturer of small computers, after the Radio Shack division of the Tandy company.”

On December 12, 1980, Apple launched the Initial Public Offering of its stock to the investing public. When Apple went public, it generated more capital than any IPO since Ford Motor Company in 1956 and instantly created more millionaires (about 300) than any company in history. Several venture capitalists cashed out, reaping billions in long-term capital gains.