A rare piece of cyber history that helped usher in the modern computer age is going up for sale as RR Auction’s Steve Jobs + Apple Auction offers up a functioning Apple-1 computer from the 1970s, complete with its original box signed by Apple-1 designer Steve Wozniak.
When the Apple-1, which was originally known simply as the Apple Computer, was formally released in July 1976 it wasn’t very impressive to see. Out of the box, it was just a completed circuit board without even a case, and the buyer had to supply the keyboard and television set to get it to actually do anything.
This relatively simple machine was a starting point for one of the world’s most successful technology companies and was part of a handful of devices that helped to move computers out of the hands of scientists, engineers, and hobbyists, and into homes and offices.
When Wozniak and Steve Jobs conceived of the Apple-1, computers came in three basic configurations. At one end were the gigantic mainframes, in the middle were the ever-shrinking mini-computers, and at the far end were the small kit computers built and operated by hobbyists who were willing to spend hundreds of dollars for a bare circuit board, a bag of parts, a schematic and hours of wielding a soldering iron.
Even the Apple-1 started as a bare-board kit that Jobs and Wozniak planned to sell 50 of at US$40 each to the members of Palo Alto’s Home-brew Computer Club after demonstrating a completed prototype. What made the Apple-1 unusual was that it functioned remarkably like the desktop computers of later years. Where hobby computers used switches and lights for programming and readouts, the Apple-1 took input from a keyboard and its readout was an ordinary television set.
However, things really took off when Jobs took the Apple-1 to the owner of the Byte shop in Mountain View, Paul Terrell, who agreed to buy 50 of the machines at wholesale for US$500 each, but only if they were completely assembled. Jobs and Wozniak went away and for 10 days assembled and tested the computers by hand. Ten months after release, 200 were manufactured and 175 were sold.
In 1977, the Apple-1 was discontinued and the profits from it went into replacing it with the incredibly successful Apple II. As a result, surviving Apple-1’s are extremely rare, with only 63 known to exist and only six of these in working condition. The one up for auction is a restored machine that was refurbished by Apple-1 expert Corey Cohen in September 2020. He also produced a technical condition report stating that it is 8 out of 10 in terms of its condition and has run for about eight hours without a fault.
Along with the Apple-1, the lot includes the original box that was signed by Wozniak, a Panasonic cassette player, a 1976 Sanyo monitor, an original Apple-1 Operation Manual, and an original Apple Cassette Interface manual. In addition, there is a program from a 2005 UCLA event where Wozniak signed the box, an image of the owner of the computer with Wozniak, and a 1994 email printout from Wozniak regarding the Apple-1.
“The Apple-1 is not only a marvel of early computing ingenuity, but the product that launched what is today one of the most valuable and successful companies in the world,” says Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction. “What makes this particular Apple-1 even more valuable is that the collector had the foresight to present one of the extremely rare original boxes to Steve Wozniak and have the Apple-1 creator hold it in his hands one last time.”
The Steve Jobs + Apple Auction will be conducted online from December 10 to 17. The starting bid for the Apple-1 lot is US$50,000.
Source RR Auction