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Rare Apple-1, said to be Woz-built, up for auction


Get out your checkbooks, Silicon Valley geeks and Apple fan folk! You have the opportunity to see – and even buy – one of the very first Apple computers, sold by the hand of the legendary Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Well, maybe.

A leading expert and the auction house said the device – a broken circuit board that had apparently been crammed in a drawer for years – was a rare Wozniak-made computer used by Steve Jobs. , Apple’s other co-founder, to lure a pioneering retailer to a Mountain View computer shop in a seminal tech-industry era in 1976. But the acquisition touched off a lively debate among veteran of the period contacted by the Bay Area News Group, along with the retailer and even Woz himself said that they are not at all sure that it that computer.

“My guess,” Wozniak said in an email on Thursday after sending photos of the device, “is that it’s one of the first but not that we’re hand-selling.”

In any case, everyone involved agreed – it was an early version of Apple’s first retail home computer and was extremely valuable.

The Apple-1 will be on display this weekend at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Considered “lost,” the device contained a circuit board with solders identifying Wozniak’s work and represents the “holy grail of Steve Jobs and Apple memorabilia,” according to the auction house, which expects to sell it at at least $500,000. As of Friday morning, bidding totaled $407,029, with the auction live until August 18.

Very rare "Apple-1" computer, the first Apple product, launched by the company's co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976. Will be auctioned until August 18, 2022 and displayed at the Computer History Museum on July 6-7, 2022, the device said nor the auction company and a vintage computer association to be a prototype hand-made by the legendary Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and used by another co-founder Steve Jobs to court the first retail Apple's vendor, but its role in Apple's history is disputed.  (Courtesy of RR Auction)
A rare “Apple-1” computer, the first Apple product, launched by company co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976. Will be auctioned until August 18, 2022 and will be on display at the Computer History Museum in July 6-7, 2022, the device is said by the auction company and a vintage computer association to be a prototype hand-wired by the legendary Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and used by another co-founder Steve Jobs to court of Apple’s first retail vendor, but its role in Apple’s history is disputed. (Courtesy of RR Auction)

While revolutionary at the time, the device had 256 bytes of memory. Today, a modern Mac computer has four to eight million times that.

Mike Graff, a spokesman for Boston-based RR Auction, said Jobs gave the Apple-1 to its current owner, who wished to remain anonymous, in the 1990s. The device languished for years in a drawer. “with things above it and below it” in the famous “Apple Garage” where Jobs and Wozniak did their first work in Jobs’ childhood home in Los Altos, said Corey Cohen, a board member of the Vintage Computer Federation and a prominent Apple-1 expert.

Cohen and the auction house say Jobs used this prototype to show the Apple-1 to Paul Terrell, owner of the Byte Shop in Mountain View, one of the world’s first personal computer stores.

However, Terrell told the Bay Area News Group this week that he’s not convinced it’s the same device.

Now 78, Terrell recalls watching Jobs and Wozniak — “kids with long hair and sandals trying to start a company” — announce their new computer in 1976 at a monthly meeting of the now-legendary Homebrew Computer Club. As the owner of 13 Byte Shop computer stores, Terrell regularly attends the gatherings, he said.

Terrell recalled Wozniak telling club members in the auditorium of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Menlo Park that if they wanted to see the device in action, they should stop by the exit for a demonstration.

“When I walked out the door and saw what was going on there I said, ‘Oh my God – I would love to have that in my Byte Shop to sell,'” Terrell said.

He invited Jobs to come to his store in Mountain View the next day. “I told him I wanted a fully assembled and tested computer that I could sell to people like programmers and stuff,” Terrell said. “And I’ll give them $500 each.”

Here’s where things get murky: Terrell believes the Apple-1 up for auction is a production model from the “first delivery” of 50 computers he received for sale and not the prototype Wozniak and Jobs brought to the club meeting.

Achim Baqué, in Germany, administrator of the “Apple-1 Registry” that tracks computers, shared Terrell’s belief that the computer being auctioned off was not the unit from the Homebrew meeting. He also didn’t think it was sent to Terrell’s store for retail sale. However, Baqué said he thought it was the factory-made “one and only production prototype” that represented a final design before mass production, not handmade by Wozniak but with some which changes he made by hand.

Cohen begs to differ. Initially, the device up for auction was sold by hand, with traces of Wozniak’s work, Cohen said.

“The wires run in a tight fashion, and the shape of the solder is unique to how the soldering method works,” Cohen said. Wozniak “is famous for doing this. He puts the soldering iron in one hand, puts the wire in the other hand, and he puts the lead solder in his mouth. Very few people do this. They use tape to put the thing in place. Because he’s doing it with his mouth, there’s a little inaccuracy. It’s literally an up-and-down motion from his head.

The device is made of a composite board that is too fragile for mass production, and the retail devices have fiberglass circuit boards that look very different than the one up for auction, Cohen said.

Auction house spokesman Bobby Livingston called Cohen a “world-renowned expert on Apple 1s” and said the auction house is confident the piece “has been described correctly. We guarantee it.”

Cohen and Terrell agreed that the Polaroids of the device were taken by Terrell in 1976, but Cohen insisted that Terrell “definitely misremembered” by saying the photos showed one of the first 50 devices he received. to sell and not the prototype shown by Jobs and Wozniak. “People’s memories are wrong, but you can’t argue with the facts. We have the evidence,” Cohen said.

A Polaroid photo taken by pioneering Byte Shop computer store owner Paul Terrell, of a rare early Apple-1 computer.  Which generation of Apple-1 is shown in the photo is disputed. (Photo courtesy of RR Auction)
A Polaroid photo taken by pioneering Byte Shop computer store owner Paul Terrell, of a rare early Apple-1 computer. Which generation of Apple-1 is shown in the photo is disputed. (Photo courtesy of RR Auction)

What does Woz think? He could not say which iteration of the Apple-1 computer the device represented because the photos gave “no real clues” and showed the standard features he used.

Woz admits he’s confused: “I can’t tell you what exact generation this board is.”


WHERE CAN YOU FIND IT

See the Apple-1 along with other famous computing relics during the Vintage Computer Festival West 2022 at the Computer History Museum this weekend from 10 am to 6 pm Saturday and 9 am to 5 pm Sunday .



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