A prototype of the Apple-1 computer – “Apple Computer A” – which belonged to none other than Steve Jobs is currently up for auction, expected to fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The board is an early prototype of the historic computer that started it all – Steve Jobs’s Apple-1 computer prototype, hand-welded by Steve Wozniak onto a unique “Apple Computer A” printed circuit board. In 1976, Jobs used this prototype to showcase the Apple-1 to Paul Terrell, owner of the Byte Store in Mountain View, California, one of the world’s premier personal computer stores.
The demo resulted in Apple Computer’s first big order and changed the course of the company—what Jobs and Woese envisioned as part of a $40 hobbyist kit became, at Terrell’s order, a fully assembled personal computer to sell for $666.66. Wozniak later put Terrell’s order for fifty Apple-1s in perspective: “This was the largest single episode in all of the company’s history. Nothing in subsequent years has been so remarkable and unexpected.”
The plate is matched with Polaroid photos taken by Paul Terrell in 1976 showing the prototype in use, which was first published by Time Magazine in 2012 and also covered by Achim Baqué of the Apple-1 Registry. This Apple-1 prototype, which is listed at number two in the Apple-1 registry and considered ‘lost’ until recently, was examined and validated in 2022 by Apple-1 expert Corey Cohen. It is accompanied by Cohen’s thirteen-page documented report.
This prototype resided in the “Apple Garage” property for many years before Steve Jobs gave it to its current owner about 30 years ago. At the time, Jobs was fired from Apple and was looking forward to the promise of NeXT and Pixar. The current state of the board gives insight into Jobs’ judgment on him: He saw the prototype not as something to be enshrined, but as something to be repurposed. Many integrated circuits were ripped from their sockets, as were the microprocessor and other components that were supposed to be used in the early Apple-1 computers.
The board appears to have been damaged by pressing the top right, causing a crack extending from the vicinity of the power supply above the D12 down through the bottom of the board to the right of the A15. The missing piece is presumably eliminated, but it can be reimagined thanks to Paul Terrell’s photographs of the full board. A distinctive feature of the “Apple Computer A” prototype was its use of three orange Sprague Atom capacitors, rather than the familiar “Big Blue” capacitors used in Apple Computer 1 production.
Remaining differences between this prototype and a production Apple-1 include the text on the left side of the panel (the prototype reads, “Apple Computer A, © 76,” where the production model reads, “Apple Computer 1, Palo Alto, Ca., copyright for 1976”), and the population of the clock circle in the top left, which would have allowed the computer to run on Motorola 6800 or MOS 6501 processors. Although Apple-1 production PCBs kept this area (in a rectangle marked “6800 only”). ‘), except that it was uninhabited. The production version of the Apple-1 shipped with the 6502 processor, which had a clock oscillator that made an external timing circuit unnecessary. This Apple-1 prototype also lacks the green protective coating and white silkscreen part markings found on production Apple-1s.
Another important feature of this prototype is that it appears to have been hand-welded by Steve Wozniak, whose unusual “three hands” technique is evident – wire in one hand, a soldering iron in the other, solder in his mouth – tight “bubbles” formed when Welded joints. Several “point-to-point” circuit corrections were made to the back of the prototype to make the system work, and appropriate revisions were incorporated into the first production run of the Apple-1 PCBs. So the layout of circuit traces on a prototype board is different from that found in PCB production.
Few Apple artifacts can be considered as rare, early, or historical as this Apple-1 prototype, which spent many years at the “Apple Garage” – a site now entwined in American business folklore, where unexpected heroes established an empire . Moreover, she is the perfect embodiment of the symbiosis of Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Silicon Valley: the illustrious entrepreneur, Einstein Electronics, and the infrastructure in which she thrived. Without Wozniak, Jobs would have had no product – he almost joined the company’s cardboard marketing scales. Without jobs, Woz had no market—he had already given the Apple-1 design to members of the Homebrew Computer Club, and had little interest in exploiting it for profit. Without that prototype, and without Paul Terrell, the Apple-1 might have been just another computer suite. It was the summer of 1976, and the revolution was about to begin.
Take MacDailyNews: Even if it is cracked in half, this one-of-a-kind painting should sell for at least half a million dollars!
Check out all the pictures here.
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