Take a good look at that slim iPhone 7 in your hand, or the powerful MacBook Pro balanced on your knees. Then imagine the very first circuit board that flipped the switch to power a revolution that put those devices in your possession.
A video recently posted to YouTube by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London shows a working Apple I computer, one of only six known in the world today.
Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs launched an iconic global brand and sparked the personal computing revolution when they hand-built 200 Apple I computers in a garage and sold them for $666.66 in 1976.
Collectors estimate fewer than 70 still exist, mostly because Apple reused some of the components a year later to launch the Apple II, the company’s first mass-produced consumer computer.
It’s hard to attach a value to old computers. But the Apple I is so rare, historic and coveted by collectors that the price at auction now flirts with the million-dollar mark. Last August, a non-working prototype fetched $815,000, which falls about 100 grand short of the record for an Apple I sale.
One with original working chips belongs to a high school freshman in Maine, Alex Jason, whose machine was appraised at about $700,000.
A ‘perfect’ working Apple I
The Apple I featured in the YouTube video was on loan to the Victoria & Albert Museum by collector Glenn Dellimore. He is seen arriving at the museum with the keyboard and circuit board in a hard case that is padlocked and handcuffed to his hand.
The Apple I was part of a recently closed exhibit called You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970. The exhibition looked at transformative thinkers and technology from the 1960s and ’70s.
Dellimore presents the computer to the museum’s Apple historian, Corey Cohen, whose excitement to see the machine is palpable.
“This thing looks beautiful, I mean perfect,” Cohen says as he eyes the circuit board. “Because these were intended for hobbyists, a lot of people modified them. This is one of the few that has none of that. This thing hasn’t been touched so this really looks like it just came out of the box.”