12 Apple 1s turn computer festival into ‘Disneyland for nerds’

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Apple 1 collection at Vintage Computer Festival West
Twelve of the 70 Apple 1 computers still in existence were at the Vintage Computer Festival West this past weekend.
Photo: Erik Klein/Vintage Computer Federation

Only 70 Apple 1 computers are known to exist. But collectors gathered twelve of them over the weekend for the annual Vintage Computer Festival West at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

This is no small feat considering the fragility and rarity of the humble machine that launched a computing revolution — and one of the world’s most influential companies.

“They are the computers that started Apple,” Dag Spicer, senior curator for the museum, told Cult of Mac. “People are completely blown away.”

Steve Wozniak created the computer in the 1970s. His friend, Steve Jobs, thought they could make money building and selling it as a hobbyist kit. They started Apple Computer in the Jobs family’s garage. They ultimately built 175 of the machines between July 1976 and May 1977.

Apple 1 at Vintage Computer Festival West

Boards for an Apple 1 on display at Vintage Computer Festival West
Boards for an Apple 1 on display at Vintage Computer Festival West.
Photo: Erik Klein/Vintage Computer Federation

This weekend’s gathering of vintage Apple computers proved historic. The 12 Apple 1s on display — several of which still work — belong to a dozen different owners. They traveled from various parts of the United States, Europe and the Middle East to attend the festival, sponsored by the Vintage Computer Federation.

“The Apple 1 display at this year’s (festival) is like Disneyland for nerds,” said Spicer, a Vintage Computer Federation board member. “Not since the two Steves were building and selling them at the home (of Jobs) has this many Apple 1s been in one place.

A rare collection of vintage Apple computers

A demonstrator at the Apple 1 exhibit at Vintage Computer Festival West 2019
A demonstrator at the Apple 1 exhibit.
Photo: Erik Klein/Vintage Computer Federation

Wozniak and Jobs sold the Apple 1 for $666.66 (Woz liked repeating digits). Today, an Apple 1 at auction fetches hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even the paperwork can go for crazy-high prices. An original Apple 1 manual recently sold for nearly $13,000.

In May, the 10th one built sold at a Christie’s auction for $471,000.