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This 'lost' Apple-1 is up for auction

'It was the summer of '76, and a revolution was about to begin...'
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Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on
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Image: Getty

An Apple-1 circuit board that was hand-soldered by Apple co-founder Steve "Woz" Wozniak and reportedly used to secure Apple's first big order is up for auction now. 

The unit is an "Apple Computer A" prototype — a circuit board rather than a fully assembled Apple-1 PC — but with suitable provenance and legend that should see it sold for at least $500,000 at Boston-based RR Auction

This prototype is the one that Steve Jobs in 1976 demoed to Paul Terrell, the owner of the Byte Shop in Mountain View, who convinced Jobs to sell his product as an assembled computer rather than as a circuitboard. 

SEE: iPhone 13 review: Good enough to be the best

Jobs initially wanted to sell a circuitboard for $40, much like today's $35 Raspberry Pi, as a DIY project. Instead, Jobs heeded Terrell's advice, pre-assembled the Apple-I, and sold it for $666.66. The circuitboard Jobs and Wozniak presented to the Homebrew Computer Club in 1976 used the BASIC programming language for interaction. Users needed to bring their own storage, power supply and keyboard. 

Terrell later placed an order for 50 Apple-1 with Wozniak, changing the course of Apple's trajectory — from a small operation in the 'Apple Garage' to the $2.5 trillion tech behemoth it is today, which designs in California but assembles everything in China. 

Bids opened on July 20 and the latest bid, placed today, was $407,029. Bidding closes on August 18.

"The board has been matched to Polaroid photographs taken by Paul Terrell in 1976 showing the prototype in use, first published by Time Magazine in 2012 and also covered by Achim Baqué of the Apple-1 Registry," RR Auction states

This Apple-1 prototype is listed at second spot on the Apple-1 Registry and was considered 'lost' until recently. 

Apple-1 expert Corey Cohen examined and authenticated the prototype in 2022. He's vetted other Apple-1s for past auctions

SEE: The 5 best Raspberry Pi alternatives: Top single board computers

According to RR Auction, Jobs gave this prototype to its current owner approximately 30 years ago, during the two-year period Jobs was absent from Apple. Jobs was pushed out of Apple in 1995 after clashing with the Apple board and then-chief John Sculley.    

The right-hand side of the Apple board is cracked. A key difference between the prototype and Apple-1 is the board's three orange Sprague Atom capacitors versus the Apple-1's IBM capacitors.

RR Auction says it appears the board was hand-soldered by Wozniak because of the shape of soldered connections. Wozniak used an "unusual 'three handed' technique — wire in one hand, soldering iron in the other, and solder held in his mouth". The tight bubbles formed at the soldered connections suggest it was soldered with Wozniak's technique. 

Several rare Apple-1 computers have been auctioned in recent years. One of the first Apple-1 computers sold for just under $1 million in 2014. Another Apple-1 sold in 2013 for over $600,000. RR Auction also sold a working Apple-1 in 2020 for $375,000, $75,000 over its expected sale price. 

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