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Steve Jobs’ Original Apple Computer Prototype Up for Auction


Steve Jobs’ own original Apple computer prototype is going up for auction.

Boston-based RR Auction is handling the auction of the historic “Apple Computer A” printed circuit board, which was sold in the hand of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Bidding, on July 26, was at $278,005—but the lot is expected to sell for more than $500,000 when the auction ends on August 18.

In 1976, Jobs used this prototype—then considered lost—to show the Apple-1 to Paul Terrell, owner of The Byte Shop in Mountain View, California, one of the world’s first personal computer stores.

Chip
The first Apple computer’s printed circuit board sold by Steve Wozniak in 1976, in an undated photo. Jobs used this prototype to show the Apple-1 to Paul Terrell, owner of The Byte Shop in Mountain View, California, one of the world’s first personal computer stores.
SWNS/Zenger/Dean Murray

“Without this prototype, and without Paul Terrell, the Apple-1 would have been just another computer kit,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP of RR Auction.

The demo resulted in Apple’s first big order and changed the course of history for the company—what Jobs and Wozniak had envisioned as part of a $40 do-it-yourself kit for hobbyists became, at Terrell’s request, a fully assembled personal computer sold for $666.66.

Wozniak soon put Terrell’s purchase order for fifty Apple-1s in perspective: “That was the biggest single episode in all of the company’s history.

The board is paired with Polaroid photos taken by Paul Terrell in 1976, showing the prototype in use, first published by Time Magazine in 2012 and also covered by Achim Baqué in the Apple-1 Registry.

This Apple-1 prototype, listed second in the Apple-1 Registry and considered “lost” until now, was examined and authenticated in 2022 by Apple-1 expert Corey Cohen. It was accompanied by Cohen’s notarized 13-page report.

The piece resided in the “Apple Garage” property for many years before Steve Jobs gave it to its current owner about 30 years ago. At that time, Jobs was fired from Apple and was looking forward to the promise of NeXT and Pixar.

Apple Computer A prototype steve jobs
The first Apple computer’s printed circuit board sold by Steve Wozniak in 1976, in an undated photo. The prototype will be auctioned between July 21 and August 18, where it is expected to sell for $500,000.
SWNS/Zenger/Dean Murray

“The current state of the board lends some insight into Jobs’ judgment in this regard: he saw the prototype not as something that should be kept, but something that should be changed,” comments RR Auction.

Several of the ICs have been removed from their sockets, as well as the microprocessor and other components, likely used in early production Apple-1 Computers.

The board appears to have been damaged by pressure on the top right, resulting in a crack running from the adjacent power supply area on top of D12 to the bottom of the board on the right of A15.

The missing piece was thought to have been thrown away, but can be reimagined thanks to Paul Terrell’s photos of the complete board.

One of the distinguishing features of the “Apple Computer A” prototype was its use of three orange Sprague Atom capacitors, instead of the familiar ‘Big Blue’ capacitors used in the production Apple Computer 1.

Differences that remain between this prototype and production Apple-1s include the text on the left side of the board (the prototype reads, “Apple Computer A, © 76,” where the production model reads, “Apple Computer 1, Palo Alto , Ca ., Copyright 1976”), and the population of a clock circuit in the upper left, which would allow the computer to run on Motorola 6800 or MOS 6501 processors.

Although the production run of Apple-1 Computer PCBs remained in this area (in the rectangle marked “6800 Only”), it was not filled.

Apple Computer A prototype circuit board
The first Apple computer’s printed circuit board sold by Steve Wozniak in 1976, in an undated photo. The board appears to have been damaged by pressure in the upper right.
SWNS/Zenger/Dean Murray

The production version of the Apple-1 shipped with the 6502 processor, which had an on-chip clock oscillator that made an external timing circuit unnecessary. This Apple-1 prototype also lacks the green protective coating and white silkscreen parts labeling found on production Apple-1s.

Another important characteristic of this prototype is that it seems to have been hand-sold by Steve Wozniak.

His unique ‘three-handed’ technique – wire in one hand, soldering iron in the other, and solder held in his mouth – can be seen in the tight ‘bubbles’ formed by the soldered connections.

Several ‘point-to-point’ circuit corrections were made behind the prototype to make the system usable, and the appropriate changes were incorporated into the first production Apple-1 PCBs. The layout of the circuit traces on the prototype board, therefore, is different from that on the production PCB.

A spokesperson for RR Auction explained: “Few Apple artifacts can be considered as rare, early, or historic as this Apple-1 prototype, which spent years in the ‘Apple Garage’ property—a site that is now linked to the story of American business. , where two unlikely heroes build an empire.

“Furthermore, it is the perfect embodiment of the symbiosis between Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Silicon Valley: the brilliant entrepreneur, the electronics Einstein, and the infrastructure in which they thrive.

“Without Wozniak, Jobs would have no product—he almost joined a company marketing balance scales made out of cardboard. Without Jobs, Woz would have no market—he had already given the design of the Apple-1 to members of the Homebrew Computer Club, and have little interest in exploiting it for profit.”

The Apple, Jobs, and Computer Hardware auction at RR Auction started on July 21 and ends on August 18.

Produced in association with SWNS.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.



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