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“Lost” Apple computer prototype goes on the auction block

A “lost” artifact from the dawn of the personal computer age is up for sale. Steve Job’s original, hand-sold “Apple Computer A” prototype built in 1976 to support Apple’s first big contract is up for auction at RR Auction.

The 1970s was a Wild West era for the computer industry as the invention of the microchip and the rapid miniaturization of electronics seemed to change cyber technology every day. It was an era where room-filling mainframes gave way to minicomputers as giant corporations like IBM tried to adapt to a changing and rapidly expanding market. Meanwhile, a more serious challenger for industry dominance began to emerge from unlikely hobbyists who built microcomputers from kits for fun.

Today, we think of Apple as one of the most successful technology companies in the world, but in 1976, it was still a small wannabe run by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak out of a California garage. At the time, they saw their Apple microcomputer as another kit to sell to hobbyists to assemble themselves, but when Jobs approached Paul Terrell at The Byte Shop in Mountain View, California to sell him the kits that sell for US$40 a unit, an unexpected turn occurred.

Polaroid of the Apple prototype in action

Polaroid of the Apple prototype in action

RR auction

For the sale, Jobs and Wozniak put together a prototype computer to show what the Apple-1 could do. This seemingly simple motherboard assembly, sold by Wozniak, impressed Terrell so much that he asked for 50 fully assembled computers to sell for US$666.66.

The rest, to make a phrase, is history.

What is surprising about this sale is that, as is often the case, no one recognized the historical importance of the Apple-1 prototype and it ended up being neglected by the ownership of Jobs, who saw it which is more of a source of parts for early production Apple-1 computers, before giving the rest to the current owner.

Inscription on the Apple prototype

Inscription on the Apple prototype

RR auction

That’s where things stayed until this year when Apple-1 expert Corey Cohen examined the board, comparing it to Polaroid photos taken by Paul Terrell in 1976 and published in time in 2012, and confirmed its authenticity.

The prototype is very different from the later Apple-1s, except for the deterioration, because it has three orange Sprague Atom capacitors, rather than the Big Blue capacitors used in the production of the Apple Computer 1. In addition, it is written in words “Apple Computer A, © 76” instead of the production model “Apple Computer 1, Palo Alto, Ca., Copyright 1976,” as well as some technical differences and indications of a different three- Wozniak’s hands-on soldering technique, where he holds the solder in his mouth while working.

The auction for the Apple Computer A prototype runs until August 18, 2022 with bidding currently at an astonishingly low US$278,005.

Source: RR Auction

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