Today in Apple history: Apple becomes a corporation

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Apple was incorporated 40 years ago today.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac/401Calculator

January 3: Today in Apple history: Apple becomes a corporation January 3, 1977: Apple Computer Co. is officially incorporated, with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak listed as co-founders.

Third Apple founder Ron Wayne — who initially invested in the company — is not part of the deal, after selling back his share in Apple for $800. The funding and expertise needed to turn Apple into a corporation is provided by a man named Mike Markkula, who becomes an important figure in Apple history.

Apple was established on April 1, 1976, to hawk the Apple-1 computer, which went on sale for $666.66 in July 1976.

However, despite its current status as the most expensive personal computer of all time due its scarceness and historical value, the Apple-1 didn’t become a big hit. A small production run meant extremely limited numbers of the computer. And, unlike later Apple computers, it was not noticeably ahead of the competition.

Add that to the fact that personal computers only proved of interest to a tiny group of hobbyists, and you wind up with a machine that would be forgotten today if not for Apple’s later success.

Apple II leads to Apple incorporation

What was different was the Apple II. Apple’s first true mass-market computer, the Apple II shipped with a keyboard, BASIC compatibility and, most notably, color graphics. Apple later augmented these features with great peripherals like the Disk II 5 1/4-inch floppy drive and superb software, ranging from games to productivity tools like VisiCalc.

Getting the Apple II manufactured, though, required a lot more money than Jobs or Wozniak possessed. This is where angel investor Markkula came into the picture. (After making millions on stock options acquired as a marketing manager for Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, Markkula had retired at age 32.)

Markkula was introduced to Jobs by marketing whiz Regis McKenna and venture capitalist Don Valentine. In November 1976, Markkula agreed to help Jobs and Woz create a business plan for Apple. They targeted sales of $500 million within a decade.

Markkula invested $92,000 of his own cash. And he helped get Apple a quarter of a million dollars’ credit from Bank of America.

Incorporating the business was next, and took place on January 3, 1977. Apple Computer Co. then bought out the earlier Apple partnership for $5,308.96. The following month, Apple brought in Michael Scott to manage the company as its first CEO. (His salary? $26,000 per year.)

These maneuvers set for Apple to launch the Apple II later in 1977.