A working Apple-1 computer will go under the hammer at a Christie’s auction later this month, with an estimated value of between $300,000 and $500,000.
Not only is the Apple-1 motherboard one of relatively few working units still in existence in 2017, but it also includes some unusual modifications by its original owner — with the original 4K of RAM boosted up to a whopping total of 12K.
The other big modification is an added 1702 EPROM (erasable programmable read-only memory) chip, letting the computer immediately run programs upon booting.
The Apple-1 has had a couple of previous owners — although it was last sold to current owner Andrew Zacharias for $300 in May 1978.
This auction, taking place on June 15, will be particularly interesting in terms of how much the lot goes for. Apple-1 prices have gone crazy in the past several years — peaking in 2014 when a working model sold at auction for an incredible $905,000.
Recently, however, an Apple-1 in Berlin sold for a disappointing $112,000 — considerably less than the predicted $200,000-$334,000 auctioneers expected it to fetch.
“From our point of view we are back at normal levels. Five years after the death of Steve Jobs the ‘hype’ has settled back”, Uwe Breker, who oversaw the auction in Cologne, told News24.
Will Christie’s auction show a similar trend, or did the recent Berlin buyer snap up a six-figure bargain? We’ll have to wait 10 more days to find out.
Apple’s first computer
The Apple-1 was released in April 11, 1976. Designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak, with Steve Jobs handling the (limited) marketing, it was funded through the sale of Woz’s HP-65 calculator and Jobs’ VW van.
In terms of spec, the Apple-1 was incredibly primitive. It came with an 8-bit MOS 6502 microprocessor running at 1 MHz, and 4 KB of memory as standard. Users also had to add their own keyboard and monitor, although the latter could be a regular TV set, which made the Apple-1 innovative for its day. (And also, arguably, makes the Apple-1 Apple’s first set-top box.)
Only around 200 Apple-1 computers were ever sold, primarily through the Byte Shop, one of the first personal computer stores, which was on the lookout for product. Today, just 63 Apple-1 computers are thought to still survive, and only 15 of these are documented as having worked since 2000.