The Faire, held at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium & Brooks Hall, exposed tens of thousands of enthusiasts and the curious to a coming revolution in computing that would change all of our lives. The first Faire is one of the most significant events in the history of personal computing (emphasis added).
According to TIME, writing on the 35 anniversary of the Faire, “the room brimmed with excitement over a new, futuristic gizmo known as the ‘personal computer’.” It was the largest computer show in the world, “intended to popularize the personal computer in the home.” There were 16 shows; the last was in 1992.
Steven Levy contextualized that first Faire in Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution (1984):
The first Computer Faire was to the hardware hackers an event comparable to Woodstock in the movement of the sixties. Like the concert at Max Yasgur’s farm, this was both a cultural vindication and a signal that the movement had gotten so big that it no longer belonged to its progenitors.
The Faire featured kit computers as well as the debut of the Commodore PET and the Apple II computer, which many credit as “giving birth to the personal computer industry” because it was “the first personal computer used in many businesses, schools and homes.” The Radio Shack TRS-80 debut would come in August.
The Apple II had a color monitor and sound as well as two game controllers; it cost about $1300 ($6,230 adjusted for inflation). The Commodore PET had only a monochrome display and cost about $800.
That 35-year retrospective, again:
[The Apple II was] easily the most visionary of the early personal computers — the one based on the clearest idea of what a PC should be, and where it could go. Given that Apple was barely over a year old and its only previous product was the unremarkable Apple I, it was an astonishing achievement.
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had formed Apple Computer one year earlier. Their personal computer kits would become known as the Apple I computer. The company was formally incorporated on 03 January 1977 and renamed Apple Inc in January 2007.
In 1977, Jobs and Wozniak were in their 20s and had limited capital and business experience.
“We had this Apple II that we thought was so far ahead of the rest in features — color, graphics, sound, games — the computer was the whole deal,” Wozniak said.
With no money to build thousands of the Apple machines, Wozniak and Jobs approached Commodore about distributing the Apple II. “Chuck Peddle from Commodore came to the garage, and he was one of about three people we showed the Apple II prototype,” Wozniak said.
As struggling 20-year-olds with zero savings and no business experience, the idea of a stable job at Commodore comforted them, Wozniak said. “Steve [Jobs] started saying all we want to do was offer [Apple II] for a few hundred thousand dollars, and we will get jobs at Commodore, we’ll get some stock, and we’ll be in charge of running the program,” Wozniak said.
Commodore rejected the idea, preferring instead to develop its own simpler, lower-cost, black-and-white machine without the pizazz of the Apple II, Wozniak said. Commodore could do it more quickly and thought at the time that would be a better course for the company, he said.
Wozniak was the tech geek (the Apple II was mostly his design). and Jobs the visionary who saw what computing might become and marketed the Apple II as such.
[If] Apple’s only computer had been the Apple I, it would be remembered today only by scholars with an arcane interest in the prehistory of the personal computer. But if the company had folded after releasing the Apple II, it would still be one of the best-known PC companies of all time. The II was — and is — that important.
Commodore filed for bankruptcy in 1994 even though it was the first company to sell a million personal computers.
In contrast, in August 2018 Apple Inc. (AAPL) became the first company to reach a market capitalization of $1 trillion. In 2020, it was the first publicly-traded U.S. company to be valued at $2+ trillion. As of April 2022, Apple has a market capitalization of $2.697 trillion. Market capitalization reflects the outstanding shares of stock multiplied by the current stock price.