Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Apple III Gets a Fan

I was flipping through some back issues of Byte magazine from the 1980s and noticed an interesting ad. This is from May 1981:

That's an Apple III on the left, next to its older brother the Apple II. Or, as the aficionados used to type it, an Apple /// and an Apple ][. The Apple III had been out for about a year when this ad was run.

The Apple III was not a successful computer. It was expensive for an 8-bit machine, and there was not much software available that took advantage of its improvements over the Apple II. But its real problem was reliability. There were some design flaws that caused loose chips and shorted solder traces. Also, it ran hot to the touch, and people thought the excessive heat was causing the failures. Supposedly, Steve Jobs did not permit the designers to include a fan (because of the noise) or even air vents (because they looked bad).

Look closely at the ad...there's an old-time fan lying on top of the Apple III.

My first thought was that some disgruntled Apple engineer snuck the fan into this ad as a dig at Jobs. But Jobs was well-known to control every detail of Apple's advertising. No, I think the fan was put there by Jobs himself. I can see him hanging the ad in Apple's lobby and yelling to passing employees, "You wanted a fan for the Apple III? Here's your *@#!@ fan!"

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