The Apple II was the first truly important personal computer ever.
Millions of them were made and millions are still in use, mostly in
schools (but plenty in homes and businesses) around the world.
There are some who dispargingly call the Apple II the "Model T" of
computers, yet, in a way, they are right. Apple IIs are sturdy
workhorses that do word processing, number crunching, netsurfing and
even colorful graphics and great sound right "out of the box." They
are tough, long lasting machines that work cheaply. There is a
massive collection of fantastic freeware and super shareware
available for the Apple II owner (a good portion of it is available
from Washington Apple Pi's Disketeria) as well as plenty of
professionally designed commercial software still being marketed
through catalogs to the educational market.
The Apple II does just about anything one could want a computer to
do. You may never need to write a program for one, but if you want
to, you'll find it easy enough for a child to do. In fact, many, many
children first learn about computer programming on an Apple II!
Apple spent years supporting the Macintosh with Apple II sales.
Even after halting development of the Apple II, raising prices and
stopping advertising of it, the only way the company could stop
people from buying them was to completely cease production. After
that, for quite awhile, the best selling Macintosh computer on
Apple's price list was the LC, equipped with an Apple II card!
While it is useless to speculate on the fate of the Apple II if
development of a 32-bit compatible machine had proceeded, there is
apparently lots of life in the old machine yet. Independent
programmers have created Apple IIe emulators for PCs, Amigas, and the
Macintosh. There are now two Apple IIgs emulators for the
PowerMac. One is called GUS, and was developed by folks at Apple
Computer in their spare time. It is a remarkable bit of engineering,
but is not currently available to the general public. I do believe
Educational institutions can get copies of the program by completing
a non-disclosure agreement with Apple. More readily available is
Bernie ][ the Rescue, a shareware IIgs emulator that
has become wildy popular and works as well or better than the actual
gs. You can get it by