The Apple I, also known as the Apple-1, was an early personal computer. They were designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak. Wozniak’s friend Steve Jobs had the idea of selling the computer. The Apple I was Apple‘s first product, demonstrated in April 1976 at the Homebrew Computer Club in Palo Alto, California.
The Apple I went on sale in July 1976 at a price of $666.66, because Wozniak liked repeating digits and because they originally sold it to a local shop for $500 and added a one-third markup. About 200 units were produced. Unlike other hobbyist computers of its day, which were sold as kits, the Apple I was a fully assembled circuit board containing about 60+ chips. However, to make a working computer, users still had to add a case, power supply transformers, power switch, ASCII keyboard, and composite video display. An optional board providing a cassette interface for storage was later released at a cost of $75.
The Apple I’s built-in computer terminal circuitry was distinctive. All one needed was a keyboard and an inexpensive television set. Competing machines such as the Altair 8800 generally were programmed with front-mounted toggle switches and used indicator lights (red LEDs, most commonly) for output, and had to be extended with separate hardware to allow connection to a computer terminal or a teletypewriter machine. This made the Apple I an innovative machine for its day. In April 1977 the price was dropped to $475. It continued to be sold through August 1977, despite the introduction of the Apple II in April 1977, which began shipping in June of that year. Apple had dropped the Apple 1 from its price list by October 1977, officially discontinuing it.
As of 2008, an estimated 30 to 50 Apple I computers are still known to exist, making it a very rare collector’s item. An Apple I reportedly sold for $50,000 USD at auction in 1999, with another apparently selling in 2009 for $17,500; however, a more typical price for an Apple I is in the $14,000–$16,000 range. In November 2009 the Apple I with serial number 82 was listed on eBay with a starting bid of $50,000 but it is unreported as to whether the computer was actually sold on that occasion. However, in November 2010, this same Apple I (with serial number 82) sold for $178,000 ($213,600 including the ‘buyer’s premium’) at Christie’s auction house in London , making it by far the highest price paid for this model to date, at £133,250 ($210,000). The high value of this particular example is likely due to the rare documents and packaging offered in the sale rather than the computer itself; namely (and amongst others) the original packaging (with the return label showing Steve Jobs’ parents address, the original Apple Computer Inc ‘headquarters’ being their garage), a personally typed and signed letter from Jobs (answering technical questions about the computer) and the original invoice showing ‘Steven’ as the salesman.
Emulators, clones, and replicas
A software-compatible clone of the Apple I (Replica 1) produced using modern components, was released in 2003 at a price of around $200. Other replicas and do-it-yourself kits and instructions are available. The Multi Emulator Super System emulator also supports the Apple I.
Apple I computer sells for $174K at London auction (Tuesday, November 23, 2010)
A rare example of Apple’s first computer, the Apple I, in “superb” condition sold for $174,000 at an auction in London on Tuesday. Italian businessman and private collector Marco Boglione made the winning bid, which came to about $210,000 after tax, by phone Tuesday at Christie’s auction house in London, the Associated Press reports. Prior to the auction, Christie’s estimated the computer would sell for between $160,000-240,000. When it was released in 1976, the Apple I sold for $666.66.