An original Apple I Computer, still in working order, sold for $374,500 on Friday, June 15, doubling the presale estimate.
NEW YORK – An Apple I Computer—the 1976 device that heralded the start of the personal computing revolution—sold for $374,500 on Friday, June 15, more than doubling the high estimate of $180,000. The exceptionally rare computer is one of only a handful that remains in fully working condition and was a highlight of Sotheby’s sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts auction.
Before the Apple I, computers were enormous, unwieldy machines that could only be operated by an expert. But this compact model enabled casual users to type on a keyboard and operate basic programs. Two bidders battled for the device, which eventually sold to an anonymous telephone bidder. Just before the Apple I came across the block, a 1974 report written by Steve Jobs while he was working at Atari sold for $27,500, also above the $10,000-$15,000 pre-sale estimate.
“The Apple Computer” was created by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976 and presented to the Homebrew Computer Club in Palo Alto the same year. It was dismissed by everyone except Paul Terrell, the owner of a chain of stores called Byte Shop, who ordered 50 for $500 each which he then offered to the public for $666.66. Terrell insisted that the circuit boards come fully assembled rather than as kits, so Jobs and Wozniak built the 50 in just 30 days. When these were complete they continued working and produced a further 150, which they sold to friends and other vendors for the retail price.
Despite being the most complete device of its type available at the time, the Apple I did not come with the monitor, keyboard, power supply or case that constitutes the modern computer. Of these original Apple I computers, it is thought that fewer than 50 survive, with only six known to be in working condition.
For more information about this auction, visit the Sotheby’s website.
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