Allied Computer Store and the first Apple II computer.

By Michael Holley (written Nov. 2005, updated July 2012)

When I was going to the College of San Mateo (1975-1977) I worked at a local computer store, the Byte Shop of San Mateo. My job was to assemble computers kits. This included IMSAI, Processor Tech, SWTPC and any other kit that a customer wanted assembled. I would take my pay in computer parts. The first pay check was a SWTPC CT-1024 terminal followed by a SWTPC 6800 computer. By November of 1976 I had a complete system running BASIC.

A 2005 photo of the Laurelwood shopping center in San Mateo, CA. This was the location of Byte Shop of San Mateo in 1976. The shopping center is large and this is a back corner location. By 1977 the store occupied both lower floor locations.



Chet Harris, the store owner, was trying to set up a chain like the Byte Shops and ComputerLand. His company was called Allied Computer Stores, Inc. (San Mateo Times, November 17, 1977) I got to meet some interesting people then, like a field trip to Bill Godbout's where we met Bill and George Morrow. Chet and I went to the Computer Shack store in San Leandro to talk with the management in early 1977. Radio Shack claimed trademark infringement on name Computer Shack so it was changed to ComputerLand.



One of our customers at Allied Computer was Bill Kelly. He was working for Regis McKenna Advertising on the Apple II introduction. He has a web page that talks about the early days at Apple Computer. He had worked on the Intel account and had a Intel SDK-80 evaluation board that he gave me in exchange for a power supply for his prototype Apple II board. (I still have that SDK-80 board with tiny BASIC.) Bill appears in the revised Apple II advertisement that first appeared in the December 1977 BYTE magazine. (Lower left hand corner.) Bill also recommended I see a new movie, Star Wars. My wife and I saw it at the 1200 seat Coronet Theatre on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco. The ticket holders line stretched for blocks.

We sold Apple II main boards before the plastic case was ready. The boards were available in April or May 1977. Apple had difficulty with the plastic case. The early prototype (and production} units did not have the vent slots on the case. At the time I heard they were flying the tooling back and forth from Los Angles to San Jose. The factory was in one place and the tool designer was in the other.

Mike Markkala would advise young companies for free on Mondays. Chet had talked to Markkala about his distribution plans for personal computers. An half page advertisement in the May 19,1977, San Mateo Times announced a preview of the new Apple II on Saturday May 21 at the Byte Shop of San Mateo. We were taking orders for June delivery, a 4K version was $1298 and a 16K version was $1678. Chet arranged for Mike Markkala to come to the store that Saturday. I sat at a table with him demonstrating the Apple II to customers.
 
Photo by Bruce Damer

One Saturday Chet Harris had gone to the Apple factory in Cupertino to pick up the first two production Apple II computers built, serial numbers one and two. (This must have been June 11, 1977, the Computer History Museum gives June 10 as the first day of production.)  He sold number one to a friend of his and I took number two home with me for evaluation. It came with a nice leather carrying case. I hooked it up to our color TV and loaded various games. I showed the system to friends for a week or so until the power supply died. It went back to Apple and I never saw that unit again.

In October 2005 I told this story to Bruce Damer and he knew where serial number two ended up. Bruce visited Jef Raskin (formerly with Apple Computer) in January 2005 and got to see Jef's Apple 1 and Apple II serial number 2.

In October 2011 I was contacted by Ned Hawley and found out who had purchased serial number one. It was his uncle, Alfred Aya, an old army buddy of Chet Harris.  His uncle also had to send serial number one back to Apple for a power supply upgrade. Apple asked to keep serial number one in exchange for a new unit. To this day he regrets agreeing to the deal.

Because Allied Computer was a distributor I went to other local computer stores to deliver products. The computer store personal we impressed with the graphics and sound that the Apple II provided. This was the first computer they had seen with those features. They also liked the memory expansion capabilities the Apple had. The stores would order the 4K units and add in more memory.

During the time of Apple II development I attended the Homebrew Computer Club meetings at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Auditorium. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs also were there. I remember Steve Wozniak showing an Apple prototype in the lobby. I also remember Steve Jobs bringing the prototype Apple II case to a meeting.

Here is a copy of the Apple stock initial public offering. See page 12 for the Apple II sales. They sold around 570 units by September 30, 1977 and  131,000 by October 30, 1980.

Here is a PDF version of this story.


Michael Holley's SWTPC Collection Home Page
This page was last edited March 27, 2014