In context: In 1976, Steve Jobs used this prototype to demonstrate the Apple-1 computer to Paul Terrell, owner of one of the first computer stores in the world. Terrell later placed a purchase order for fifty Apple-1s. If the prototype was in better condition, it could have set a new record amount paid for an Apple-1 computer, which currently sits at $905,000.
An anonymous collector in the San Francisco Bay Area just bought the only known Apple-1 prototype in existence for $677,196 at an auction. While we’ve seen Apple-1 computers sell for similar amounts at auctions before, this one is particularly unique as it’s the prototype Apple co-founder Steve Jobs used as a demo.
The Apple-1 released in 1976 and was Apple’s first-ever product. It came with a MOS 6502 CPU running at 1 MHz, a whopping 4KB of RAM, and an optional cassette interface card that allowed users to store programs on audio cassette tapes. It originally was priced at $666.66 (equivalent to about $3,460 today) as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak reportedly liked repeating digits. Only about 200 units of the Apple-1 were ever produced, out of which 62 are still confirmed to exist.
The prototype has an ‘Apple Computer A’ engraving in place of the usual “Apple Computer 1” label and is said to have been hand-soldered by Wozniak. RR Auction said the Woz’s “unusual ‘three handed’ technique—wire in one hand, soldering iron in the other, and solder held in his mouth—is evident in the tight ‘bubbles’ formed at the soldered connections.”
According to RR Auction, the prototype sat in the garage of Job’s childhood home (where he and Wozniak founded Apple) for a few years before he gave it to an unknown person approximately 30 years ago. Unfortunately, the right side containing the Sprague Atom capacitors broke off at some point and was lost.
At the same auction, a first-generation iPhone sealed in the original box sold for $35,414, while a 1971 high school yearbook signed by Jobs went for $28,410.
Back in June, an original Apple-1 that had been refurbished to full working order sold for $340,100. The item is said to be unique as it’s believed to be the only model in existence with Wozniak’s signature on the Motorola 6502 processor.