As ubiquitous as they might be now, in the 1970s, few things were more mysterious and unknown than the “personal computer.” For years, these shadowy, ever-shrinking machines had been touted as the next revolution in the American home, although few people had a sense of how they might actually work. In April 1977, that changed with the launch of the Apple II, one of the first affordable, mass-produced PCs in history. Here was a machine small enough to fit in the home and intuitive enough to use without a programming degree. Still, the advertising challenge—how to convince people to shell out for a product no home had ever needed before—was daunting. The best answer was the simplest one: Make it seem like they've always been there.
Apple ads offered straightforward, striking imagery, emphasizing clarity rather than elaborate claims on behalf of its wares—an approach it maintains to this day. In this full-page spread, a husband and wife enjoy their normal daily routine in the kitchen, with the husband tapping away on his Apple II. Forget the numerous wires and cables that would be tangling up the floor, or the limited household applications of such a device. This was the first time a computer could look seamless in the home, and that was what Apple, and each of its competitors, wanted.
Today, Apple makes a habit of stripping its advertising of everything but the most essential details to let the product speak for itself. In 1977, there was still much that needed explaining. The Apple II “home” ad came with a facing page describing, in detail, all of its technical specs and practical programs. Here was a machine that could teach your children spelling and arithmetic, “paint” dazzling displays using color graphics, and balance your checkbook. And unlike any machine before it, the Apple II wasn't a “kit”—a computer the customer had to assemble herself from purchased parts. Here was a machine you could set up in moments, even if the ad’s opening lines might sound like a daunting amount of work to the iPhone generation: “Clear the kitchen table. Bring in the color TV. Plug in your new Apple II, and connect any standard cassette recorder. Now you're ready for an evening of discovery.”