The best purchase of my life occurred in January 1978 when I spent $1295 plus tax, most of my life savings at the time, on an Apple II microcomputer (serial number 1703) with 16K bytes of RAM. I was instantly delighted with it, and the deeper I dug into it, the more excited I became. It had incredible features, such as seven expansion slots and high-resolution color graphics. But it also had an ineffable quality that went beyond mere features. Not only could I finally afford to have my own computer, but the one I got turned out to be magic; it was better than I ever thought it could be.

I started spending most of my free time with my Apple, and then most of my not-so-free time, exploring various technical aspects of the system. As I taught myself 6502 assembly language from the monitor listing that came with the machine, it became clear to me this was no ordinary product: the coding style was crazy, whimsical, and outrageous, just like every other part of the design—especially the hi-res color graphic screen. It was clearly the work of a passionate artist. Eventually, I became so obsessed with the Apple II that I had to go to work at the place that created it. I abandoned graduate school and started work as a systems programmer at Apple in August 1979.

Even though the Apple II was overflowing with both technical and marketing genius, the best thing about it was the spirit of its creation. It was not conceived or designed as a commercial product in the usual sense. ...

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