|(click on picture)|
|Introduced||May 19, 1980|
|Discontinued||April 24, 1984|
| Late in 1978 the Apple
Computer Company was selling Apple IIs as fast as they could
make them. The Apple II was rapidly becoming the best selling
home computer in the world eventually surpassing the Radio Shack
TRS-80 in 1980. But Apple's senior management began to worry
that the Apple II may run out of steam before the next generation
of Apples projected for the mid 80's would be ready.
The decision was made to develop a new computer for the interim to replace the Apple II. The project, code named 'Sara', would be headed by an engineer named Wendell Sander. The computer would be strictly a business machine leaving the Apple II to handle the home market.
The new computer would be built to meet the requirements dictated by the business market such as an 80 column machine with upper and lower case characters. The computer would have improved graphics, sound and would sport and internal clock. It would have a new faster microprocessor and memory would be increased up to 256k. All of these improvements were certainly attainable with the technology of the day.
But the Apple senior management added 2 requirements that would eventually doom the Sara project. The first was to make the new computer able to run Apple II software. The problem was, in order for the Apple III to run Apple II software on its new architecture an 'emulator' program would have to be used. With an emulation program each and every line of code of the Apple II program would have to be intercepted, interpreted, and converted to run on the new system. This as you can imagine is time consuming, but is extremely inefficient when the microprocessors are different.
Eventually Sander complained to the senior management that the emulation situation would not work with the different processors. Apple management solved the problem for him by ordering him to use the 6502 microprocessor. The same processor used in the older Apple II. Sander knew this was a mistake, the 6502 was an underpowered processor when it was chosen for the original Apple I computer by Steve Wozniak (he chose it solely based on its cheap price, rather than its technical superiority). Hardly an adequate choice to run a new powerful business computer, besides the new computer was expected to have at least 256k of RAM and the architecture of the 6502 was limited to directly accessing only 64k of RAM.
The second requirement was that Wendell was to have the Apple III ready in one year. The requirement was made so the Apple III could be announced in time to prove that Apple was not a one-hit wonder and prop up it's stock before the IPO deadline in late 1980.
The Apple III was introduced in May of 1980 at the National Computer Conference in Anaheim, California. The first shipments were in late 1980 and almost from the start they failed. There were a myriad of problems such as overheating due to the close proximity of the option board compartment caused in part by Steve Jobs insisting on cosmetic changes to the exterior case design.
Other problems included chips popping out of their sockets and circuit traces on boards shorting on screws that were exceeding minimum tolerances by cramming them into cramp spaces. The failure rate of the first shipments was almost 100%. At first Apple ignored the initial feedback that there were problems with the Apple III, They were caught up in the IPO whirlwind. But as the IPO fervor of the died down, reality set in and the Apple III problem had to be addressed.
Finally early in 1981 Apple decided to pull the Apple III from the market and redesign it. At the end of 1981 the reborn Apple III was introduced with the problems fixed and more RAM added (up to 512k). The business community loved it and started buying them again for their offices.
Unfortunately Apple's senior management, Regis McKenna in particular, was not happy with the Apple III. He saw the Apple III as a blemish on Apple's reputation, a reminder to the world that Apple could screw up. He wanted the Apple III dumped to make room for the soon to be released new line of Apples. So he refused to promote it.
Without any promotion and development the Apple III quickly died and Apple pulled the plug on it in the fall of 1985 orphaning thousands of loyal Apple III owners.
Today the Apple III computers are a very sought after collectable due to the limited run of only about 120,000 units.
This Apple III was added to my museum on October 18, 2000. I purchased it on Ebay and would like to thank Bret for selling it to me. He let it go at a very low price and his sacrifice is very much appreciated.
|Microprocessor||SYNERTEK 6502A||Standard on system board||128k (256k later versions)|
|Clock speed||2 MHz||Maximum on system board||512k|
|Bus type||Apple Proprietary||Maximum total memory||512k|
|Data bus width||8-bit||Memory speed and type|
|Address bus width||16-bit||System board memory socket type|
|Interrupt levels||N/A||Number of memory module sockets|
|DMA channels||N/A||Memory used on system board|
|ROM size||4k||Internal disk and tape drive bays||1 - 5 1/4 Floppy Drive|
|Optional math coprocessor||no||Standard floppy drives||5 1/4 inch Floppy Drive|
|Parallel port type||none||Optional floppy drives:||up to 4 external|
|RS232C serial ports||yes||* 5 1/4 inch 143k||yes|
|Mouse ports||internal I/O socket||* 5 1/4 inch 1.2MB||no|
|UART chip used||N/A||* 3 1/2 inch 720k||no|
|Maximum speed||N/A||* 3 1/2 inch 1.44MB||no|
|CMOS real time clock||no (yes on later models)||* 3 1/2 inch 2.88MB||no|
|CMOS RAM||no||Hard disk controller included||no|
Video & Graphics
|Graphics Processor||uses CPU||Sound Interface device||uses CPU|
|Screen size - Col x Rows||80 x 24||Sound generation||tone output to speaker|
|Resolution - Colors/High||2 / 560 x 192||ADSR capable||no|
|Resolution - Colors/Low||16 / 280 x 192|
|Max colors||16||Programming language|
|Sprites or Missiles||none||Built in language||Applesoft BASIC|
|Built in M L monitor||yes|
|Total adapter slots||4||Number of keys||73|
|Number of 8/16/32 bit slots||8 / 0 / 0||Upper/lower case||yes / yes|
|Keyboard cable length||N/A|
|* Height||6 1/4 inches||Operating voltage @ 60 Hz||120 VAC|
|* Width||17 1/2 inches||Maximum power supplied|
|* Depth||18 inches||Power supply output - volts||+5V/-5V/+12V/-12V|
|* Weight||25 pounds||Power supply output - amps|