The Apple-1 computer, the first Apple computer, cost approximately $666 when it was first released in 1976, but now one of the few surviving Apple-1s is expected to fetch up to GBP 300,000 – GBP 500,000 ($389,878 – $649,797) in auction.
The auction house Christie’s is offering a rare example of the first personal computer sold with a fully assembled motherboard in an online-only auction on May 16, as part of its On the Shoulders of Giants: Making the Modern World sale.
Built by hand in 1976, the board is thought to be among an original batch of Apple-1 units sold through Mountain View, Calif., computer store Byte Shop. It features a white ceramic MOS Technologies 6502 microprocessor, selected by Steve Wozniak to power Apple’s first computer, as well as 8K bytes RAM split between two 4K chips and two original Triad power supply modules.
The motherboard, labelled “Apple Computer 1 Palo Alto Ca. Copyright 1976,” will be housed in a briefcase and will come with the extremely rare first manual issued by the Apple Computer Company.
According to Christie’s, around 200 Apple-1s were made, and advertised at $666.66, a price which dropped to $475 in 1977. By the end of that year the Apple-II (first introduced on June 10, 1977) had taken over, and the Apple-1 was no longer offered for sale.
After Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak officially discontinued the Apple-1 in October 1977, they offered discounts and trade-ins to encourage all Apple-1 owners to return their machines. These were destroyed, and fewer than half of the 200 Apple-1s survived. Today, only 15 examples exist in public collections, including in the Smithsonian Museum of Art and 12 other museums of technology or science worldwide.
The Apple-1 was advertised by Jobs as “[a] truly complete microcomputer system on a single PC board… an extremely powerful computer system that can be used for anything from developing programs to playing games or running BASIC. […] Since the Apple comes fully assembled, tested & burned-in and has a complete power supply on-board, initial set-up is essentially ‘hassle-free’ and you can be running within minutes.”
The auction runs May 16-23.