The Apple IIc was the 4th computer in the Apple II line, introduced in April 1984. It was a bit of a departure from the earlier Apple II machines.
The Apple II, II+, and IIe were strictly desktop computers. The system unit was a large box with an integrated keyboard and, importantly, expansion slots. The expansion slots went a long way toward ensuring the Apple II’s longevity. When you ran out of hardware capability, there were seven expansion slots to plug more hardware in to solve your problem.
Apple IIc vs IIe and II+
The IIc was a departure from that modular desktop design of earlier models. It was a compact all-in-one unit with an integrated keyboard and an integrated floppy drive and ports for connecting a printer, modem, and an 80 column display. Basically Apple took the IIe and the four most popular options for it, combined it into a smaller and lighter package, gave it a carrying handle, and marketed it as a semi portable computer.
While it lacked the integrated display that we take for granted in today’s laptops, it did resemble today’s portable computers more closely than it resembled the large buggable computers with integrated CRTs that existed at the time.
And it was in some ways a better home computer than earlier Apple computers had been. It took up less space, and the industrial design was pleasing to look at.
In 1984 when Apple released it, the appeal was that it was smaller, less expensive, and more convenient then the long running IIe. It sold for about $400 less than a similarly equipped IIe. In St Louis in the 1984-85 time frame, I saw ads from Famous Barr and Forsyth Computers advertising Apple IIc bundles including a monitor for right around $1,000.
It was still an expensive machine by 1984 standards. But while a IIe cost nearly twice as much as a comparable setup from Atari or Commodore, the IIc split the difference.
The Apple IIc’s influence
One could make a case that the IIc inspired the modern laptop design. But it also inspired the design of some of its contemporaries. The Laser 128 was a blatant copy. Not only did it look like an Apple IIc knockoff, it was compatible with it.
But the Tandy 1000 EX was also clearly inspired by the Apple IIc. Tandy didn’t try to make the EX portable, but the all-in-one design with the keyboard in front and a disk drive along the right side and the most popular integrated ports in the back didn’t hide the inspiration at all. Reviewers noted the resemblance at the time, and one person I know who grew up with a 1000EX even called it a Tandy Apple.
The Apple IIc today
The Apple IIc had some disadvantages over some of the other machines in the line as a hobbyist computer today. It just didn’t have as many options for expanding it. It was much easier and cheaper to add solid state storage to the IIe, for example.
But that’s changing, and it may increase the IIc’s standing in the retro community. For someone who likes retro computers in general, not specifically vintage Apple computers, I can see the IIc becoming the preferred option.
Adding capability to a IIc
The multifunction peripheral Fujinet is starting to change that. With Fujinet, you can plug a single device into the back of an Apple IIc to get mass storage, Wi-Fi modem capability, and emulate virtual printers. An Apple IIc with Fujinet provides most of the capability someone is likely to want out of a IIe in less space. Vintage computers take up a lot of space, so being able to add all that capability to an all in one unit definitely increases the Apple IIc’s appeal to a hobbyist today.
Saving even more space
If you can get a IIc with the nice clicky Alps keyboard, it’s nice to type on and more convenient than a IIe or II+. And it works well with a Alsop Metal Art monitor riser so you can easily swap it in and out with other machines with composite output, like Commodore and Atari 8-bits.
I have one Apple computer… that is the IIc. It was the first one I used in Elementary school and as such, it was the first one I wanted to purchase for my collection. This is the first I have heard of the Fujinet device and that just may be the way to go. I would love to be able to utilize solid state storage for enjoying the vast collection of software for the IIc… if that is entirely possible…