The Apple IIc was one of the most popular home computers in the early 1980s. Introduced at the same time as the Mac, it calmed early Apple fans who were afraid that Apple was going to abandon the II line. Find out more about the Apple IIc and take a look inside.


Apple’s current computing line revolves around the Macintosh, which debuted back in 1984. However, back when the Macintosh was introduced, it was greeted with a bit of concern by Apple fans. In the late 70s and early 80s if you were running an Apple, you had a hefty investment in the Apple II, Apple II Plus, and Apple IIe in both hardware and software.

Apple owners thought the fancy new Mac meant that Apple was going to abandon the II line. To calm fears and at the same time update the design of the Apple IIs, Apple introduced the IIc.

C stands for compact

Luggable computers were all the rage in the early 80s. Apple took advantage of advances in electronics to make the Apple II circuitry smaller and fit into a smaller box. The new Apple IIc was much smaller and lighter than anything else Apple had produced. They put a handle on it at the same time and called it a transportable. The C stood for compact.

The Apple IIc was completely backward compatible with the thousands of Apple II programs that had been around for five years already. In ads of the time, Apple made a point of touting the amount of available software for the IIc as compared to another new home computer, the IBM PC jr.

The Apple came with 128K of RAM and a 1Mhz 65C02A CPU. Some of the improvements that Apple included with the IIc over the older Apple IIs was the ability to display text at a full 80 columns rather than the traditional 40 characters. The Apple BASIC was changed as well to use upper as well as lowercase letters. A lot of the things on the Apple II line that were optional extras were included in the IIc such as the 80-column card, serial ports, floppy controller, and mouse card.

The original Apple IIc cost $1,295 without monitor. In September 1984, Apple lowered the price of the IIc to $1,295 including monitor and stand. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $2,550 in today’s money. It would be enough money to purchase a 24″ iMac and have enough left over to get an iPhone as well!

Cracking open the Apple IIc

We recently got our hands on an Apple IIc to feature in our Cracking Open Photo series. As you can see,  it arrived to us already cracked.

The  plastic around the monitor was yellowed and brittle with age. It couldn’t survive shipping intact. Likewise, a couple of the keys snapped off at the post and would need to be glued on to work.

Even so, we still got a chance to look inside. Check out the Cracking Open the Apple IIc Photo Gallery. You can see what makes an Apple IIc tick as well as some of the old manuals and a mouse that came with it.

Our Apple IIc is an 1986 model, a later revision of the original. You can compare the insides of our machine to an older Apple IIc, which was taken apart on PCWorld.

A major difference you’ll notice right away is the shielded power supply. You’ll also notice the long row of socketed RAM chips as opposed to the soldered base RAM on ours with a socket for a RAM expansion card.

I also noticed this quote on the PCWorld gallery:

You’ll also spot a bunch of other chips on the board that look fancy, but they don’t actually do anything, I swear. Engineers sometimes like to add them for decoration.

Ummmm… No.  There’s a full description of the Do Nothing chips in our gallery. They’re not for decoration. Take a look.

There’s a system board picture of an even later revision of our unit called the Apple IIc Plus that you can see on Wikipedia.

Find out more about the Apple IIc

The Apple IIc survived for most of the 80s. It was followed by the Apple IIc Plus as well as the last of the Apple II line, the Apple IIGS. Because it was so popular, there are still a lot of resources around for it.

If you want to find out more about the technical details of the Apple IIc, check out the Apple IIc Technical Reference Manual. There are two different versions of it: Volume 1 and Volume 2.

There’s also lots of information about the entire Apple II line on the Apple II Online Reference Web site.

Finally, as I mentioned before in Classics Rock, you can also run Apple II software right in your Web browser. If you were a long time Apple II owner but don’t have your machine anymore, it’s a good way to relive the past.