The Apple II Age: How the Computer Became Personal (Hardcover)
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.
About the Author
Laine Nooney is assistant professor of media and information industries at New York University. Their research has been featured by outlets such as The Atlantic, Motherboard, and NPR. They live in New York City, where their hobbies include motorcycles, tugboats, and Texas hold ‘em.
“Nooney’s book tracks the pivotal years of the shift toward personal computing, epitomized by the Apple II and sped along by consumer software. . . . [It] tells the story of how computers became irrevocably personal, but what’s most striking, revisiting the history of the Apple II, is how much less personalizable our machines have become.”
— New Yorker
"Nooney makes the heartfelt case that the Apple II’s most compelling story 'isn’t found in the feat of its engineering,' or in the personalities of Wozniak and Jobs, 'or the way it set the stage for the company’s multibillion-dollar future.' Instead, it’s about all those brave and curious people, the users, who came 'Not to hack, but to play . . . 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.'"
— The New Stack
"The Apple II Age is an enjoyable and educational history book from a writer who has no intention to worship at the feet of the people who built the early computer industry and no desire to repeat apocryphal
stories of how computers entered our homes and lives. With original research that questions and clarifies popular, long-held assumptions and lore, Nooney has produced a realistic, factual examination that provides unique insight into the era of the Apple II."
“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'