It is impossible to merely start with the desired specifications: it is too easy. We want a small, lightweight computer with an excellent, typewriter style keyboard. It is accompanied by a 96 character by 66 line display that has almost no depth, and a letter-quality printer that also doesn't weigh much, and takes ordinary paper and produces text at one page per second (not so fast so that you can't catch them as they come out). The printer can also produce any graphics the screen can show (with at least 1000 by 1200 points of resolution). In color.
The printer should weigh only a fraction of a pound, and never need a ribbon or mechanical adjustment. It should print in any font. There is about 200K bytes of main storage besides screen memory and a miniature, pocketable, storage element that holds a megabyte, and costs $.50, in unit quantity.
When you buy the computer, you get a free unlimited access to the ARPA net, the various timesharing services, and other informational, computer accessible data bases. Besides an unexcelled collection of application programs, the software includes BASIC, Pascal, LISP, FORTRAN, APL, PL\1, COBOL, and an emulator for every processor since the IBM 650.
Let's include speech synthesis and recognition, with a vocabulary of 34,000 words. It can also synthesize music, even simulate Caruso singing with the Mormon tabernacle choir, with variable reverberation.
Conclusion: starting with the abilities desired is nonsense. We must start both with a price goal, and a set of abilities, and keep an eye on today's and the immediate future's technology. These factors must be all juggled simultaneously.
The difference between a computer and a programmable calulator was the former's ability to handle text. The HP-41C, at $295, is a (weak) computer. Ohio Scientific has announced their C4P computer, which at $698 looks like a "good buy". In fact, it has 8K of RAM, and the cost to get one disk and an additional 16K is $1000. Nonetheless, I would like to see Apple have a computer in the $500 class, and of better value than the competition's, as soon as possible.
When a person is making a decision to buy their first computer, they do not know enough to go much beyond the advertisements and bottom line. Since I believe the computers we sell, and are going to sell, are better and better supported than the competition, I would like to see a person be able to buy an apple quality product for a low entrance price-- with accessories available to bring it up to the level of computational power that we know is necessary before the personal computer is truly a satisfactory tool.
We may not be able to achieve a mass market unless we can educate people by selling them a system that we know they will want to expand, and letting them learn why they need mass storage, printers and all the rest. This is one of the main ways that Macintosh should be different from Sara [Apple III] and Lisa.
In the light of the above mentioned machines, the $795 Pet, and $698 TRS-80, the Atari 400, and some other machines now coming along, it is clear that we need a product that looks (and is) competitive. We can (and do) among ourselves point out the flaws from a user's point of view in the competitor's product--it is hard to see how anybody could put up with a TRS-80 if they have had much experience with an Apple II (At 16K the difference is only $200 between a Level II TRS-80 and an Apple II Plus). The fact is that a random customer will not have the opportunity to make the comparison beyond seeing the $200 difference. (That and Radio Shack's 6,000 or so outlets).
Therefore let's use our superior engineering, software, documentation, production, service and marketing abilities to produce and excellent low-cost computer. I am not suggesting we copy and follow our competition; I suggest that we leap-frog them.
My personal interest in small computers is evangelical, that's why I tackled manual writing first. That's why I fought for Pascal, that's why I work for Apple. My message is that computers are easy to use, and useful in everyday life, and I want to see them out there, in people's hands, and being used. My purpose will not be accomplished unless Apple continues to be one of the leaders in terms of pure numbers of customers. I don't like being second or third, I would rather Apple be number 1.
I think that one way to keep our position, and possibly get
ahead, is by putting out a very low cost machine. That's why I
felt honored when given the charter to start the design effort