Apple-1 Computer Sells at Auction for $213,600

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-11-23 Print this article Print

Apple-1, Apple's first computer, sold for around $213,600 at a Christie's auction Nov. 23. Someone really wanted a piece of tech history.

Back in 1976, the Apple-1 sold for $666.66. It featured 8k RAM and a cassette board connector, pitiful in comparison to the hardware and power of descendants like the iMac. But thanks to the Apple-1's place in Apple history, one of the machines sold for the equivalent of $213,600 at a Nov. 23 auction at Christie's in London.

Marco Boglione, described the Associated Press as an "Italian businessman and private collector," reportedly made the winning bid by phone. This particular Apple-1 came with an undated typed letter signed by one Steven Jobs, deemed by Christie's as "commercially rare."  

Apple co-founder Steve "Woz" Wozniak also made an appearance at the auction. "Today my heart went out as I got to see things auctioned off like the Turing documents and the Enigma machine-and the Apple-1," he said after the auction, according to AP. "It really was an important step, [even though] I didn't feel that way when I designed it."

Apple produced roughly 200 Apple-1 units. Sellam Ismail, the Software Collections manager for the Computer History Museum, estimated in 2005 that fewer than 50 of them still exist. Christie's had originally estimated bidding for the Apple-1 at between $161,000 and $242,000.

The auctioned Apple-1 came in its original shipping box, with the shipping label and invoice listing Electric City Radio Supply, Great Falls, Mont. A letter from Apple Technical Support addresses Frank Anderson, who, Christie's suggested in its pre-auction materials, could have been Electric City Radio Supply's original owner. The machine included a heat sink, keyboard interface, three capacitors, and a 6502 microprocessor.   

"Because the motherboard was completely preassembled, it represented a major step forward in comparison with the competing self-assembly kits of the day," read Christie's note. "The first Apple-1s were dispatched from the garage of Steve Jobs' parents' house-the return address on the original packing present here."

The Apple-1's marketplace presence was short lived. In April 1977, nine months after the computer's release, Apple introduced the Apple II-which, befitting its position as a next-generation machine, came in an actual plastic case and featured a keyboard.

Factoring in 34 years' worth of inflation, the Apple-1's $666.66 sticker price translates to $2,593.96 today. That would buy you three top-of-the-line iPads. For what Boglione spent to acquire the device, you could purchase 257 of them. For some collectors, though, the chance to own a small part of tech history is (nearly) priceless.

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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