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If you were one of the 200 or so people who bought an Apple-1 computer back in 1976 or 1977 and still have it on a shelf in the back of your garage, guess what? You're in the chips. And we don't mean microprocessor chips, either.
The technology news website ZDNet reports that a surviving Apple-1, the computer giant's first product, fetched a breathtaking $671,400 at a German auction. Other Apple-1s have fetched six-figure prices in the past, but this particular one was especially sought after because it reportedly is one of just the half-dozen or so surviving Apple 1s still capable of booting up. It was snapped up by an unidentified collector from somewhere in the Middle East. According to an unofficial registry of Apple-1s maintained by an antique-computing aficionado, there are at least 48 of the computers still in existence.
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Here are some fascinating facts about the machine that helped launch Apple, which has grown since the 1970s into one of the world's biggest and most successful companies.
- Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak got the inspiration to build the Apple-1, also commonly known as Apple I, when he attended a meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club (in the garage of computer enthusiast Gordon French) in Menlo Park, Calif., in March 1975. At the meeting, Wozniak saw a spec sheet for a microprocessor - a chip with an entire central processing unit on it. Wozniak had gone to the meeting with the ambition of designing a terminal that would access a remote mainframe computer, but the spec sheet put in his head the idea of building a full-fledged, standalone home computer that could sit on a desktop.
- According to Walter Isaacson, biographer of Wozniak's partner Steve Jobs, it took Wozniak, who was working for HP at the time, about four months to design the Apple-1 in his spare time. He first got the prototype to display a line of type on a screen on June 29, 1975. Here's a 1984 speech in which Wozniak described the Apple-1's origins:
- According to Technology Review, Wozniak and his nascent partner, Steve Jobs, decided to price the Apple-1 at $666.66, not just to be affordable, but because Wozniak liked repeating numbers.
- Unlike Apple's later products, which became popular with computer newbies because of their works-out-of-the-box ease of use, the Apple-1 was basically just a circuit board. Purchasers had to find their own case, and hook up a monitor - usually a television - and a keyboard.
- It actually was Jobs who picked the name Apple for the new computer company. He chose it because he had dabbled in an all-fruit diet, and because he thought that apples sounded friendly and non-threatening.
- The initial Apple-1 was first used in a math class at Windsor Junior High School in Windsor, Calif., in 1976.
- The Apple-1 was replaced in 1977 by the Apple II, which had a case with a built-in keyboard and was capable of displaying color.
Photo: Auction Team Breker
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