Unitron originated in Brazil and enjoyed good sales from being one of the most common Apple II clones, but then Unitron itself was cloned and manufactured in Taiwan with greater success and far greater quality than the Brazilian outfit, which was eventually shut down by Apple shortly after they successfully cloned the Macintosh 512 in 1985.
A local Valley company with their corporate headquarters in the East were the first to copy the Apple II. It was this act that eventually encouraged Apple to start considering implementing firmware and hardware copyright protection. Apple's R&D even went as far as hiding a secret "Apple product identifier" inside their firmware, so as to recognise exact copies. This identifier was in the form of an icon. However, the concept was never enacted on for the AII's. Apple instead began winding back releasing such complete schematics with their product's documentation.
Vtech, a Hong Kong based Computer Cloning Company, enjoyed a lot of success cloning Apple's products, including a never released IIgs. Vtech rebadged their Laser Clone's for different countries (in Australia it was the DSE CAT). Vtech successfuly stayed out of reach of Apple's lawyers for most of the Apple II era by putting their Apple-copied IP inside their own protected ASIC's. It wasn't until the PC AT arrived in the mid 80's that they finally stopped copying Apple's products.
In 1976, Apple was formed by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs after developing their Apple I. Wozniak took the Apple I technology and created a new system, which would become their first real consumer product offering, the Apple II, launched in June of 1977. The Apple II was very well received, and remained a strong selling system until 1983 when the Apple IIe was released.
Apple II Plus and the Europlus
Released in 1979, the Apple II Plus was in essence an Apple II with streamlined changes and improvements to aid manufacture and to help comply with standards such as FCC requirements. The Europlus was an Apple II Plus localised for the European market. Both machines sold with the Autostart ROM and 48k as standard.
Apple II J-Plus
Released in 1980, the J-plus, like the Europlus, was an Apple II Plus localised for the Japanese market. The most obvious change was the support for the Katakana character set. The J-Plus shipped with a Japanese ROM set, which included a Katakana Character ROM. Katakana characters were also printed on the sides of each key of the keyboard.
With technology from the Apple III+, and a persistant strong demand for the II series, Apple set about creating a new system to offer the market. The Super II, or the IIe as it was offically known, was, and still is, Apple's most successful design with 11 years on the price list. Released in 1983, the very well designed IIe incorporated modern memories and ASICs to help reduce its overall cost. The Apple IIe was the most popular II series ever made.
Apple IIc and the IIc Plus
With the success of the IIe, Apple decided to design a portable version of the machine. The result was the 1984 Apple IIc. A compact all-in-one II series, complete with disk drive, and peripherals, and sporting the new modern Apple "snow white" look and feel by Hartmut Esslinger. The unique IIc enjoyed 7 years on the Apple price list, ending with the IIc Plus, which was discontinued in 1991.
Introduced in September of 1985, the IIgs represented the most powerful Apple II yet. With a 16bit CPU, powerful graphics and CD quality sound, coupled with technologies such as floppy disks, and the ADB borrowed from the Macintosh line, the IIgs sold very strongly. However, just like with the Apple III, Apple again decided to focus on the Macintosh line. This time the Macintosh was successful, and the IIgs was discontinued in 1992.
Apple III and the III Plus
Released in 1980, the Apple III was designed to discontinue and replace the Apple II and expected to provide strong sales as a follow on to the Apple II success. The III was marred by bad management and rushed work, and became Apple's first true failure. The III+ was introduced to salvage what market may be left for the floundering Apple, but sales of the III+ were so low, it was discontinued after only four months of being on the price list, with the Apple II product being reinstated.
In 1977, Apple released the schematics with their systems. This was well received by those technically minded, however, it wasn't long before other companies started to produce copies of the machines from the published documents. By 1994, more that 200 different types of Apple II clones had been produced from over 12 different countries.
Only in CA can you get the Caltrain down to Santa Ana to see a mate with a VLSI design tool suite to knock up a set of much needed Apple IIe custom chips for your Apple IIe clone. Although everything about this copy board seems to look like its from the Valley, the writing on the schematics has Chinese Characters. The CEC represents a great study tool for the //e FPGA developer.
The history of the Apple II stems back before the formation of Apple as a company to the Homebrew Computer Club, where common interests and the rewards from creating "the better wheel" were highly sought after. This is where Steve Wozniak demonstrated his designs. At Apple, Wozniak continued to share his efforts, and with the Apple II, released his schematics in the "Apple II Reference Manual", as he had always done previously. The upside; he taught a nation how to design well. The downside; those in the marketing departments of other companies were let loose on an unprotected cash cow, which eventually spanned the globe and included companies not even remotely associated with the computing industry. The CAT (which was the name of an Australian Apple II copy) was out of the bag.
The recipe to Apple's brilliant systems.
Comparing Apple with Apples of the most popular Clones.
For information about the other Apple Clones en masse, please see HERE.
For information about where and who made Apple's PCB's, click HERE.
For information about Cloned Apple Peripheral Cards, please see HERE.
Including Apple II Series Peripherals and Displays
Including other systems, both clones and OEM
For information about an Apple II inside the PC, please see HERE.
Cloners commonly made several different products on their lines. In the above picture, the assemblers of 'Pineapple' Apple clones also assembled legitimate 'Colecovision' game consoles for Gabriel Industries (CBS Electronics). The assembly lines are located in Aberdeen, Hong Kong.