January 1, 1983: Apple launches the Apple IIe, the third model in the Apple II series — and the last before the Macintosh will arrive a year later.
It proves a big seller, and proof positive of the Apple II brand’s sustained value.
Apple IIe: The unplanned update
The Apple IIe took over from the Apple II Plus. Originally, Apple planned to abandon the Apple II with that model and replace the product line with the Apple III. However, the continued popularity of the Apple II, and the market failure of the Apple III — largely thanks to its high price and some glaring engineering faults — pushed Apple to upgrade its proven hit product for another go-around. (In the end, Apple continued producing some version of the Apple II until the early 1990s.)
The Apple IIe added as standard some of the functionality that Apple II enthusiasts already enjoyed, thanks to the new model’s impressive number of expansion slots. Features included 80-column text-mode support, 64KB of RAM (expandable up to 128KB) and, for the first time, lowercase letters!
It also dropped the chip count on the motherboard from more than 100 to just 31. That let Apple squeeze out more profit from each machine sold. In fact, the Apple IIe sold for approximately three times more than the computer cost to manufacture.
A critical and commercial success
The Apple IIe received a great reception upon its release. Byte magazine described it as “like having an Apple II with all the extras built in … with a variety of exciting new features and capabilities” for little extra cost.
The computer produced strong sales numbers, moving 60,000 to 70,000 units per month by May 1983. (This was about twice the average of its predecessor, the Apple II Plus.) And the new computer had legs: The Apple IIe continued as the best-selling Apple II model even after Cupertino released its successor, the Apple IIc, in 1984.
At a time when Apple’s other computers, the Lisa (released the same month) and the Apple III, failed to catch on, and the Macintosh wasn’t yet a big seller, the Apple IIe stacked up as an undisputed winner.
Do you remember the Apple IIe? Did you own one? Let us know in the comments below.