Computer festival boasts world’s largest gathering of rare Apple 1s

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Apple-1
Would you believe 10 of these will be in one place?
Photo: Auction Team Breker

You would have to ride in a time machine back to 1976 and that garage on Crist Drive in Los Altos, Calif., to find 10 Apple 1 computers in the same space.

But this weekend, 10 or more will be displayed at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., for the annual Vintage Computer Festival West.

About half the machines will be working.

“Ten in one room is pretty much unheard of,” Dag Spicer, senior curator for the museum, told Cult of Mac. He is also a board member of the sponsoring organization, the Vintage Computer Federation. “You’re seeing 10 of something that you would be grateful to see one of. These are like Fabergé eggs.

“For a lot of people, this will be their first exposure to an Apple 1. What a way to see it.”

Apple 1 history

Historians see the Apple 1 as one of three machines that ignited the personal computing revolution. Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne, created the computer from scratch. In Jobs’ Silicon Valley garage, they tested chips and packaged the computers for shipping.

According to the Apple 1 Registry, the upstart computer makers only built 200 of them. Wozniak said they assembled only 175 before the company moved on to its first mass-produced computer, the Apple II.

Seventy are known to exist in the hands of collectors. When one goes up for auction, it can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Evan Koblentz, the Vintage Computer Federation’s executive director, said the number of Apple 1s at the fest could reach as high as 15. Each will come from a different owner. The machines hail from all over the world, including California, Europe and the Middle East.

“It’s safe to say this will be the place with the most up and running since the garage, which is absolutely mind-blowing, ” Koblentz told Cult of Mac. “If 70 are known to exist… In doing rough math, we’ll have 17 percent together.”

The Apple 1 expert

The reunion of sorts was arranged by computer historian Corey Cohen. He is considered by owners and auction houses as the go-to expert for restoring and verifying the authenticity of Apple 1s.

Cohen assessed the condition of the famous Ricketts Apple 1 for Christie’s before it fetched $365,000 in a 2014 auction. Owned by Charles Ricketts, it’s the only Apple 1 with documentation showing the sale personally handled by Jobs.

Cohen will lead a panel discussion Saturday with the computer owners about why they wanted an Apple 1, how they live with it and their future plans for their investment. He also will do restoration work on some of the machines.

The fest will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing by featuring an Apollo Guidance Computer. Attendees also can view an authentic Enigma machine, the encryption device German officers and soldiers used to send messages during World War II. Only about 350 are known to exist.

Bil Herd, the chief designer of the Commodore 128, also will speak about how to fix computer components affected by age and heat. He regularly appears at the Vintage Computer Festivals.

For ticket information, the list of exhibitors and the schedule of events, visit the Vintage Computer Festival page on the Vintage Computer Federation website.

The federation is based in Wall, New Jersey, and runs a museum in the InfoAge Science & History Center.