Business Technology

Sunday 25 March 2018

Rare Apple 1 computer to be auctioned for $180,000 by Sotheby’s

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak with an Apple I. Photo: Reuters
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak with an Apple I. Photo: Reuters

A RARE Apple 1, the first ready-made personal computer, is expected to sell for up to $180,000 (€142,729) in an auction at Sotheby's.

The computer, consisting only of a naked motherboard, with primitive microchips and circuitry exposed, is thought to be one of only around half a dozen working examples of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak's first hardware.

Some 200 Apple 1s were built in 1976 and sold at retail for $666.66 without a case, keyboard, monitor or power supply.

The computer had 4 kilobytes of memory as standard and a processor running at 1 MHz.

By comparison, the latest iPhone has 512 megabytes of memory, and a dual-core processor running at 800 MHz.

"When Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs presented the Apple 1 Computer to the Homebrew Computer Club in 1976, it was dismissed by everyone but Paul Terrell, the owner of a chain of stores called Byte Shop," said Sotheby's in its catalogue for the auction, which is scheduled to take place in New York today.

"Terrell ordered 50 computers for $500 apiece, insisting that the circuit boards come fully assembled rather than as DIY kits similar to the Altair, and Jobs and Woz managed to produce the requisite computers in 30 days."

The Apple 1 was different to most personal computers at the time. Steve Wozniak told peers in the Homebrew Computer Club that his circuitry and software enabled "a human-typable keyboard instead of a stupid, cryptic front panel with a bunch of lights and switches".

It's estimated that of the original 200, only around 50 remain, and only six of those are known to be in working order.

Two years ago Christies sold a working Apple 1 for $210,700, although it came with a signed letter from Steve Jobs.

The market for rare Apple products may also have cooled. Earlier this year a prototype of the first Apple Mac went on sale on eBay, with a starting price of $99,995. No bids were made.

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