Steve Job’s First Apple-1 Computer To Be Auctioned by Christie’s

A rare byte of history is going under the hammer – one of the original Apple computers that Steve Jobs shipped from his parents’ garage, which could fetch nearly $240,000.

The lot, above, which is on sale for an estimated $161,600 to $242,400 by Christie's, comprises components from the Apple-1 machine, original manual and a letter from Steve Jobs. They were the first fully pre-assembled computer to be produced, but didn't come with a monitor or keyboard. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd.

A rare byte of history is going under the hammer — one of the original Apple computers that Steve Jobs shipped from his parents’ garage, which could fetch nearly $240,000.

The Apple-1, which made its debut in 1976 for $666.66 – and was one of an estimated 200 produced and only a few survive today – will be auctioned by Christie’s in London, England, on November 23, with a simultaneous auction held online.

The Apple-1 Computers by Apple’s co-founders, Steve Job and Steve Wozniak, were the forerunners of the today’s Macs. And they came with a tiny 8K memory – 500,000 times less than is standard with today’s Apple computers.

Julian Wilson, from Christie’s, said: “Before the Apple-1 you would have to put together your own motherboard and would need soldering skills. This is the forerunner of the iPod, iPad and iPhone. It worked straight out of the box, which was the original concept.”

The Apple-1 that’s up for sale comes in an original box with the return address pointing back to the California garage where Apple Inc. began.

The Apple-1 went on sale in July 1976 at a price of $666.66. About 200 units were produced in total. The one above has been customised with an after-market wooden enclosure with carved name, and keyboard. Photo: Ed Uthman/Flickr

It features the original Apple logo, which showed Isaac Newton getting hit on the head with an Apple. It also includes a signed note from Steve Jobs, which is typed on notebook paper.

This example will be the first ever to be sold by a major UK auction house when it goes under the hammer at Christie’s of London. It proves the growing interest in early computer technology and highlights how quickly home computing has advanced in the last 30 years.

The Apple-1 is regarded by some as the first personal computer and the gadget that kicked off the home computing revolution. “Prior to this, all home personal computers were sold as kits that involved soldering skills and a knowledge of electronics,” the auction site says.

The Apple-1s were the first fully pre-assembled computer to be produced, but even so did not come with a monitor or keyboard. ComputerWorld says the early computer didn’t have a disk drive: “Like many personal computers of its day, the Apple-1 lacked a floppy drive, but instead loaded programs into memory from cassette tapes.”

“One tape, complete with a typewritten label of ‘BASIC,’ is included with the Christie’s computer, and was used to load that programming language into the Apple-1.”

The circuit board on an assembled Apple I. Like many personal computers of its day, the Apple-1 lacked a floppy drive, but instead loaded programs into memory from cassette tapes. Photo: Wiki

Early geeks would have had to part with $666.66 to buy one of the first Apple’s computers. Its designer, Steve Wozniak, liked repeating digits – and it was sold to a local shop for $500 plus a one-third mark-up.

The computer appears to be a rare find. Christie’s says “perhaps a quarter” of the original Apple-1 computers survive, but “very few are in such good, near-original condition with associated ephemera and full provenance.”

However,  UK’s magazine Wired.co.uk criticized Christie’s estimated price range as too high: “Despite its incredible rarity, the Apple-1 has previously been known to fetch at best $50,000 at auction, and typically garners more like $14,000 to $16,000. That’s a lot lower than the auction’s $160,000 to $240,000 estimate.”

Tech blog The Tech Herald even joked about the Christie’s high price. “Even 34 years ago Apple’s hardware was shockingly expensive,” said blogger Steven Mostyn.

The Unofficial Apple Weblog held a bit more reverence for this piece of tech history: “Honestly, it’d be nice to see this either bought up by Apple themselves (though Jobs must still have even more interesting treasures from back in those days), or by a museum somewhere.”

Mike Schramm continued: “But even if it goes to a private collector, whoever picks it up will likely understand how important it is anyway, and they can make sure to preserve this piece of Apple history.”[Christie’s via The Telegraph (UK) and CNN]

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