The trio of Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne established Apple on April 1, 1976, more than 46 years ago. However, the Apple of today has developed into a massive international firm with a market worth that peaked at an astounding $3 trillion. The Apple-1 was the company’s first product, however today’s Apple is primarily recognized as the maker of consumer gadgets like iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers.
For those who don’t know, the Apple-1 was the forerunner of all modern Apple computers. It was a crude (by today’s standards) 8-bit desktop computer. Steve Wozniak was inspired to create the Apple-1 after going to the first meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club, a group of computer enthusiasts. Jobs and Wozniak were able to create more than 200 units of the Apple-1 over the course of a production run that lasted for well over a year. Aside from 25 units, Apple sold practically all of the Apple 1s. In 1977, the Apple II, an enhanced version of the Apple-1, took its place. The original Apple-1 is currently a part of the collection at the Sydney Powerhouse Museum and plays a significant role in the development of contemporary computing.
However, there is another crucial piece of equipment that might be even more priceless than the original Apple-1 that was assembled from scratch. The part in question is a printed circuit board from an early Apple-1 prototype that Steve Wozniak hand-soldered in 1976. This unique piece of Apple history was recently placed up for sale by the Boston-based Auction House RR.
The history behind the Apple-1 prototype
The PCB being auctioned was the identical one that Steve Jobs used to show the Apple-1 to Paul Terrel, the owner of the computer store known as The Byte Shop, according to RR’s description page describing this Apple-1 prototype. A pivotal moment in Apple’s history, this demo enabled the business to get its very first order. Jobs and Wozniak changed the Apple-1 at Terrel’s request from something that would have remained a $40 hobbyist project into a fully functional personal computer that found buyers despite its $666.66 price tag. According to reports, Wozniak called this incident “the biggest single episode” in Apple’s history. Terrel ultimately purchased 50 Apple-1 systems, effectively becoming the first business to collaborate.
Based on images obtained by Terrel in 1976, the authenticity of the PCB that is being auctioned has been established. The distinctions between this prototype board and the production variations are also covered in RR’s explanation. For instance, the board appeared to have been manually soldered by Steve Wozniak, who employed an unusual “three-handed” method that involved his lips in addition to his hands. Additionally, Wozniak added a number of point-to-point connections to the PCB’s back as a last-minute patch to ensure that it was ready for the demonstration.
Unfortunately, the board has been damaged in some way, as can be seen from the photograph, with the upper-right portion entirely missing. At the time of writing, this Apple-1 PCB is valued at $278,005 with over 15 bids previously submitted. The following offer for the same is set at $305,806. On August 18, 2022, the auction for this piece of computer history comes to a conclusion.