An original Apple 1 computer sold for $374,500 at an auction this morning, over double what it was expected to sell for. The package included a video terminal, keyboard, and operations manuals.
On the face of it, the slim, green board of circuity and components doesn’t look impressive by modern-day standards. But the fully functional motherboard was built by Apple’s legendary co-founders, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and it’s the brains of what became the first ready-made personal computer, the Apple 1, in 1976.
Fewer than 50 Apple 1 computers are believed to exist today, with only six in known working condition including this one. Sotheby’s didn’t say who sold the computer at Friday’s auction, but did say the owner will help assemble the computer to get it up and running.
Two bidders went back and forth in a vigorous bidding war, the winner was a phone bidder, who overcame an automatic bidding process used by the other bidder. The buyer has requested to stay anonymous.
Officials had expected the relic of yesteryear to sell for $120,000 to $180,000. A previously sold model went at auction in 2010 in London for $212,267. The original price for an Apple 1 in 1976: $666.66.
The description for the Apple 1 in the Sotheby’s catalog read: “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. Terrell ordered 50 computers for $500 a piece, 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. They continued production, immediately creating 50 additional Apple 1′s[sic] to sell to friends and an additional 100 to sell through vendors, at a retail price of $666.66, a number that garnered complaints among conservative Christians, but provided a lucrative 33% markup.
“As the first ready-made personal computer, the Apple 1 signaled a new age in which computing became accessible to the masses. The interface of circuitry and software that Woz created enabled users to type letters with “a human-typable keyboard instead of a stupid, cryptic front panel with a bunch of lights and switches,” as he explained to the Homebrew Computer Club. Even so, it was sold without a keyboard, monitor, case, or power supply. An exceptionally rare, working example with original Apple cassette interface, operation manuals and a rare BASIC Users’ Manual. It is thought that fewer than 50 Apple 1 Computers survive, with only 6 known to be in working condition.”