Not a trivial question: How do you spell the name of Apple’s second computer? The question seems trivial, and is simple enough to dive into; but, the answers reveal one challenge that museums, archives, libraries, and collections must face. Knowing one name is not enough – and that not even the company that generated the history gets the history right.
Archivists need to track artifacts. That sounds simple enough. Build a database. Fill in a description of every item. Pat yourself on your back. Then search the database for histories, connections, and relationships. If it was only that simple.
People are not automatons. They don’t know if or how an idea is going to progress. Why worry about consequences decades in the future when you’re scrambling to survive today?
HCLE is fortunate to have number 10 of Apple’s second computer. Great. Lets add it into the recently constructed database. Typos matter. Spell it right. Is it Apple 2, Apple II, Apple ii, Apple //, or Apple ][? Check a bit of history and find that the hardware may have one thing stamped on it. Apple ][. What’s a ][? A ][ is a clever bit of marketing, and a bit of fun, too. A ][ is not, however, something that works well with computers. Isn’t that ironic?
Versions of the machine also used Apple II, Apple ii, and Apple //, if not on the plate, then at least in the literature. Journalists who didn’t check their details created other variants. How about Apple-2? We humans can translate the differences, but we must train our computers to do the same thing. For the archivist, it means knowing which variations to include in the databases so searches, searchers, and artifacts don’t get lost. Knowing all the names is necessary.
Original Apple computers are valuable. HCLE is fortunate enough to have a couple of the earliest, so getting this right is worth our time.
Protecting such valuable artifacts also means keeping them safe and secure, which gets in the way of checking such details. We resorted to the literature. That’s simple enough. Just do a search. And welcome back to the original problem.
Congratulations to Apple. The company is nice enough to have user manuals online that stretch back almost far enough. 36 pages into the support.apple.com/manuals site is a 74 page seemingly typewritten document for the Apple IIe, not the Apple II, but close.
Introduce a major distraction for historians and technical writers. Dive into that file. There are no graphics. Everything is laid out for standard paper. A few key terms are explained in the first few paragraphs. Hardware and software were new terms. Pages 49-62 are Glossary because owners and users had to learn a new vocabulary, some of which is archaic a few decades later, some of which is part of our normal language now. In the middle is a style of user manual writing that is uncommon today. Troubleshooting was broken up by topic, with each topic explained in a few concise but colloquial sentences that described the problem, the solution – and more importantly, used the error to teach the user more about the computer.
A major positive distraction for us at HCLE is the substantial amount of material in the document devoted to education. The computer was designed for the classroom, rather than today’s standard which is to design the classroom around the computer.
Programs that teach are called educational software, or courseware.
Computers are good teachers because they give you a chance to learn at your own speed in an interactive, entertaining way. To give you an idea of how entertaining a computer program can be, there’s a program that teaches touch typing in the guise of a shoot ’em up game. Letters and words are fired at your spaceship from the four corners of the screen, and you have to type the correct letter or word before the letters crash into your vehicle.
Educational software isn’t just for kids. There are programs that help you prepare for college entrance exams and that tutor you in foreign languages for your next trip abroad.”
There are sections about PILOT, Programmed Inquiry, Learning, or Teaching that helped you design your own CAI, Computer Aided-Instruction; and Logo, a programming language designed to teach programming through computer graphics. There are also sections about how users can learn more either independently by going to a bookstore and thumbing through directors, or by finding local user groups.
Distractions aside, the gap remained. What was the official name of the pre-Apple IIe?
Did the original Apple even have a number? Just like World War I wasn’t called that until World War II, maybe that first computer had a different name. A quick search through a few of the publications that have been digitized brought up an ad for the original Apple. Sure enough, the first Apple was called Apple, at least in the ad. Why hint at the second machine when you’re not sure if the first is going to sell? There was also another image found in the search. It is a photo of HCLE’s original Apple. There, on the circuit board is the full name, Apple Computer 1, not Apple 1, or Apple-1, or Apple I, or Apple i, but Apple Computer 1. The problem just got bigger.
Very little of this matters to non-collectors, and most collectors are comfortable with imperfections because language is imperfect. The computer, however, must be taught tolerance.
Our best answer will come from a trip to the vault which, considering the value of the artifacts, is off-site and unfortunately inconvenient for now. In the meantime we have a bit of an expansion to make to our catalog.
Regardless of our museum’s issues, dive into the Apple IIe manual and learn things like:
- 64k is enough memory for most homes and businesses
- The only people who need surge protectors are those who are extremely cautious.
- Losing data is extremely rare.
- A short history of how Apple got its name. A deadline was involved.
- and that
- “Unless you’re a collector, the Apple I isn’t much of a bargain; the computer sells for between $10,000 and $15,000.”
So, even Apple didn’t know how to spell Apple 1. Yep.
Oh yes, and
“Should I worry if I find myself talking to my Apple IIe?
No. Lots of people talk to their computers, especially when they’re just learning to use them.
What’s nice about the current crop of computers is that they can’t understand what you’re
saying. In a decade or so, you may have to watch your language.”