Apple III

Made in USA by Apple in 1980-05-19
Units sold: 75000
The Apple /// wasn't all bad. It introduced the HFS file system with up to 15 character file names and allowed spaces. The operating system was the precursor of Apple ProDOS. It had a fast CPU and allowed up to 512k memory. It also allowed expansion cards in any slot with on-board ports accessible at the back of the computer.

The first 17,000 units shipped unusable due to the various flaws. They were replaced by the Apple /// revised model. There is no compatibility issues or need to track games for the nonfunctional model, so "Apple3" is all that is needed, if any games specifically need it. The Apple ///+ further fixed and mitigated numerous problems and introduces possible compatibility differences that warrant an apple3p. There are Apple /// only games.

The Apple /// was designed by a marketing committee and Steve Jobs. No engineers were consulted but were instead forced to design within the committee's restraints. Such as having no fans or vents (that made noise and spoiled looks). A giant aluminium heat sync was deemed sufficient by Jobs. The case was in fact all aluminium to reduce weight and have more durability than plastic so as to make the computer portable (luggable). It was 6.25 H x 17.5 W x 18 D (inches, not cm) and weighed 25 pounds. It had no handle but the top case shell could be removed and the expansion bay used as a handle and the shell carried in the other hand (ya, really).

Specs shown apply to the default native Apple /// mode. When the machine runs in Apple ][ emulation mode, it is equivalent to an unexpanded Apple ][+ with 48k. Remember that this computer preceded the famous ][e enhanced. Also, the marketing department at Apple purposefully 'crippled' the Apple ][ emulation mode to prevent access to the advanced hardware features of the Apple ///. For instance, it would not display color through the TV output (in either mode). The RGB output used a nonstandard plug which also differed from an Apple ]['s nonstandard plug. An Apple /// RGB monitor would only work in Apple /// mode. The plan was to force developers to make Apple /// software instead of enhanced Apple ][ software. Steve Wozniak, famous for his ability to reduce the number of chips in many hardware designs, pointed out that many chips were added to the /// to cripple emulation (Woz was not involved in the ///'s design). A 3rd party company eventually produced a set of 2 expansion cards that allowed full ][ emulation with color TV and RGB out, full memory access, 80 column text with color, and access to /// peripherals. Without these cards, the /// could not use 'slot 0' cards or cards that expanded memory. An Apple ][ card would also have to fit within the expansion bay area which provided much less space past the ends of the slots, especially at the back end of the computer. The bays worked like the ones in PC compatibles where cards could provide on-board ports at the back. (Apple ][ expansions required cabled ports)

Though rated at 2 MHz the CPU was limited to 1.8 MHz at most times to prevent heat sufficient to desolder chips from the motherboard. This speed limit was ineffective and the chips would desolder anyhow. Apple advised users to lift the 25 pound machine several inches off their desk and drop it to reseat the chips. This actually worked unless the desks broke. The internal clock consisted of multiple components separated by over an inch from each other and the CPU. Physics dictates this will never keep time accurately. But that ultimately mattered not since the components themselves were faulty. It somehow tracked seconds and minutes well enough but Apple /// days varied from 28 to 40 Earth hours.

Apple shipped Sophisticated Operating System (SOS) with units. It was pronounced "Apple Sauce", but dissatisfied users pronounced it "S-O-S" or on really bad days, "••• --- •••".

Many users felt the Apple /// should have used a 68000 CPU. This had been suggested by the committee but deemed to block Apple ][ backward compatibility. Again, hardware engineers were not consulted. Two fully 16-bit variants of the 6502 were produced in the ///'s lifetime (the 65C816 and the 65C02), but apparently never considered as upgrade options that would fully preserve ][ compatibility (For instance, 65C816 can be easily added to an Atari 8-bit system). The 65C816 would eventually be used in the last ][ model, the Apple ][gs (which was fully backward compatible).

An Apple /// can be seen in action in the 1982 movie, Tron. In the movie it is used as a remote terminal to hack into a mainframe. Unlike many movies that fantastically use computers, the choice of this computer for the plot and its use in the scene are entirely realistic.

tech info

resolution: 560x192 monochrome, 280x192x6 color
memory: 128-512k
CPU: Synertek 6502A @ 2 MHz(1.8 MHz)
sound: speaker, 6-bit audio

Related systems

Apple I1976
Apple II E1977
Apple III1980
Macintosh OS Classic1984
Apple IIGS1986
Apple Pippin1995
Mac OS X2001