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The Apple II came out 5 years earlier, an eternity in tech-time.

Ah, looks like you're right. I knew I should have looked it up before I made that comment. My bad!

You aren't wrong, though the Apple ][ came out earlier, it had an extremely long lifespan, and coexisted with the C64 for many years. I remember playground debates about which was better.

Really I guess that the Apple ][ was a platform rather than just a single machine.

So you've got the original Apple ][ which a C64 would have been a much better machine than with the benefit of 5 years and super aggressive cost cutting. However you've also got the Apple iigs in that family.

I think I'd see that as a much better machine than the C64 (but obviously much more expensive too).

Eh, your memory isn't as wrong as you may think. The C=64 was released during the Apple II+/Apple IIe era, and frankly, both of those machines were barely improvements. To give you an idea, the biggest improvement offered by the IIe was... support for lower-case characters.

The Commodores genuinely were something special for the era.

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