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What is the Apple-1? The history of Apple's first-ever product

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8 min read
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  • Steve Wozniak designed and hand-built the first Apple computer in 1976, with the idea to sell it coming from his friend Steve Jobs.
  • To finance its production, Jobs sold his VW van and Wozniak sold his calculator.
  • The Apple-1 was demonstrated in July 1976 and sold as a fully assembled circuit board, requiring users to add components to make it functional.
  • Apple-1 was sold until August 1977, despite the introduction of Apple II, and less than 50 units are believed to exist today.
  • A working Apple-1 was sold for a record $374,500 at Sotheby's auction in 2012, and in 2012, another unit failed to sell at a Christie's auction with a starting price of £80,000.



The Apple-1, the first product of Apple Computer Company (now Apple Inc.), was designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak in 1976. The idea of selling the computer came from Wozniak’s friend, Steve Jobs. To finance the production of the Apple-1, Jobs sold his only means of transportation, a VW van, and Wozniak sold his HP-65 calculator for $500. The Apple-1 was demonstrated in July 1976 at the Homebrew Computer Club in Palo Alto, California, and went on sale that same month for US$666.66. Image credit: WIRED Around 200 units were produced, and the Apple-1 was sold as a fully assembled circuit board containing about 60+ chips. However, to make a working computer, users had to add a case, power supply transformers, power switch, ASCII keyboard, and composite video display. The computer terminal circuitry was built-in, and all one needed was a keyboard and an inexpensive television set. This was different from competing machines such as the Altair 8800, which were programmed with front-mounted toggle switches and used indicator lights for output.

In April 1977, the price of the Apple-1 was reduced to $475, and it continued to be sold through August 1977, despite the introduction of the Apple II in April 1977. Apple discontinued the Apple-1 in October 1977. As Wozniak was the only person who could answer most customer support questions about the computer, the company offered Apple-1 owners discounts and trade-ins for Apple IIs to persuade them to return their computers, contributing to their scarcity. Image credit: NPR As of 2012, less than 50 Apple-1 computers, with only six in working order, are believed to exist, making it a rare collector’s item. An Apple-1 reportedly sold for $50,000 at auction in 1999, and in September 2009, a unit was sold on eBay for $17,000. In March 2010, a unit was sold on eBay for $42,766. In November 2010, an Apple-1 with serial number 82 sold for £133,250 ($210,000) at Christie’s auction house in London. The high price was likely due to the rare documents and packaging offered in the sale in addition to the computer. On June 15, 2012, a working Apple-1 was sold at auction by Sotheby’s for a record $374,500, more than double the expected price. In October 2012, another Apple-1 in a Christie's auction found no bidders who were willing to pay the starting price of 80.000 GBP. On November 24, 2012, a working Apple-1 was sold at auction by Auction Team Breker for € 400,000. Image credit: Apple Wiki Engineer Steve Wozniak built the Apple-1 from scratch in 1976 while working at HP. Together with Steve Jobs and Ronald G. Wayne, both working for Atari, they founded Apple Computer. Before creating the Apple-1, Wozniak built a transistor-based calculator and, at the age of 19, a computer called the Cream Soda Computer with Bill Fernandez. Later, he and Jobs sold illegal phone phreaking boxes called Blue Box, invented by John Draper. Wozniak tried to use the Blue Box to prank the pope. According to Wozniak's autobiography "iWoz," he sold his HP 65 calculator for US$500 to buy the Apple-1 mainboards.




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