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Wendell Sander Apple III

Wendell Sander and his Apple III.

Dr. Wendell Beck Sander (born May 29, 1935) was the first staff scientist at Apple Computer.[1] He is known for being the "father of the Apple III" computer and consolidating co-founder Steve Wozniak's Disk II controller onto a single chip.[2]

Early life and education[]

Wendell Sander was born in Donnellson, Iowa in 1935.[3] He received a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Iowa State University in 1956, 1962, and 1963, respectively.[4]


Sander joined Gilfillan in 1956 to work on missile telemetry systems. In 1958, he began work on hybrid computer and display system design at Tasker Industries in Van Nuys, California.[3] In 1964, Sander joined Fairchild Semiconductor, where he spent 13 years and became the head of the Complex Array Engineering section of the Digital Integrated Electronics Deptartment.[4][5]

Apple Computer[]


Wendell Sander and his Apple 1

In 1976, Sander acquired and modified an Apple I computer, with which he wrote a Star Trek game that impressed Apple Computer Company co-founder Steve Jobs. He was hired in August 1977 as the newly-incorporated Apple Computer's 16th employee and first staff scientist. Sander also recommended fellow Iowa State graduate Thomas Whitney for the engineering department. The two worked on the Apple II series. Whitney became Executive Vice President of Engineering and focused on recruiting while Sander began designing the Apple III.[1][6] Sander collaborated with Bob Bailey of Synertek to consolidate Steve Wozniak's Disk II floppy disk controller into a single chip, commonly called the "Integrated Woz Machine", but also known as the "Integrated Wendell Machine". Macintosh team member Andy Hertzfeld considered Sander one of Apple's best engineers.[7][8]

The Apple III project was code-named "Sara" after Sander's daughter. The specifications were defined by a committee and Sanders was given 10 months to implement the project. Jobs oversaw details of the design, such as the omission of a cooling fan because it would have been "too noisy and inelegant". Many Apple III units began malfunctioning after its initial release in 1980. Apple technician Dan Kottke discovered that the units were overheating, causing chips to pop out of their sockets. Sander stated that the Apple III had been rushed to market 6 to 9 months too early. Whitney was fired from Apple in 1980 and Sander also left the company in August 1982.[9]

In 1985, Sander and other former Apple engineers then formed a technical design firm called The Engineering Department in Campbell, California. In 1990, Sander joined General Magic as a fellow providing technology guidance in the development of PDAs.[5][10]

Apple Inc.[]


ISU Alums Make Waves in Silicon Valley

In July 2005, Sander returned to Apple to work for his son Brian, also a graduate of Iowa State and a young executive at Apple Inc.; the two collaborated in engineering the circuitry of iPods and iPhones. The elder Sander was responsible for developing the volume controls on Apple's EarPods and was recognized as a Distinguished Engineer, Scientist or Technologist (DEST). He received over 100 patents.[2][4]

After retiring from Apple in August 2010, Sander assisted the History San José organization in restoring an Apple I computer in their Perham Collection to working order.[11][12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Who were the original Members of the Apple Board of Directors? by Garrick Saito, Elevation Partners, Quora. 2016-03-24.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Father-son ISU alumni spend careers pioneering technology by Kristin Clague, Iowa State University College of Engineering News. 2017-10-26.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Foreword (PDF) by Wendell B. Sander, IEEE Transactions on Computers vol.C-18, no.8, p.689. 1969-08.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Wendell Sander (PDF), Iowa State University. 2019.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Artifact details: Sander patent notebook (#383), Computer History Museum. Accessed 2021-07-31.
  6. Father and son engineers reflect on past, working together at Apple by Willa Colville, Iowa State Daily. 2017-11-12. Archived 2022-08-09.
  7. Five Different Macintoshes by Andy Hertzfeld, Folklore. Accessed 2006-04-24.
  8. Milestones:Apple Macintosh Computer, Engineering and Technology History Wiki. Accessed 2021-07-31.
  9. Apple III Chaos: Apple’s First Failure, Low End Mac. 2015-04-28.
  10. An Interview with Wendell Sander, Ph.D. by David Ottalini, The /// Magazine p.8-11, DigiBarn Computer Museum. 1986-11.
  11. How We Restored Our Apple 1 to Working Condition… by Ralph Simpson, History San José. 2013-06-27.
  12. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak test-drives ancient Apple 1 computers by Mike Cassidy, The San Jose Mercury News / The Denver Post. 2013-06-19.

See also[]

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