Alleged Apple-1 Prototype That Belonged To Steve Jobs Goes Up For Auction

Founded more than 46 years ago on April 1, 1976, by the trio of Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, Apple had very humble origins. The Apple of today, however, has grown to become a giant multinational corporation with a market cap that reached a staggering $3 trillion at its peak. While the Apple of today is mainly known as the company behind consumer electronics products like iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers, the company began its journey by selling a product called the Apple-1.

For those unaware, the Apple-1 was a rudimentary (by today's standards) 8-bit desktop computer that is the predecessor to all modern Apple computers. The inspiration for the Apple-1 came to Steve Wozniak after he attended the first meeting of a computer hobbyist group called the Homebrew Computer Club. The Apple-1 had a production run spanning well over a year in which Jobs and Wozniak could produce more than 200 units of the machine. Apple also sold almost all of the Apple 1's save for 25 units. The Apple-1 was replaced by an improved variant called the Apple II in 1977. Being an important part of modern computing history, the original Apple-1 is now part of the Sydney Powerhouse Museum collection.

But there is another vital piece of hardware that could possibly be even more valuable than the first ever completely built Apple-1. The component in question here is the printed circuit board of an early prototype of the Apple-1 that was hand-soldered by Steve Wozniak in 1976. Boston-based Auction House RR recently put this rare piece of Apple history up for auction.

The history behind the Apple-1 prototype

RR's description page detailing this Apple-1 prototype says that the PCB being auctioned was the same unit that Steve Jobs used to demonstrate the functioning of the Apple-1 to Paul Terrel, who owned a computer shop called The Byte Shop. This demo was a key point in Apple's history and helped the company bag its first ever order. At Terrel's insistence, Jobs and Wozniak transformed the Apple-1 from something that would have remained part of a $40 hobbyist project to a fully functional personal computer that found takers despite its price tag of $666.66. Wozniak reportedly said this event "was the biggest single episode" in all of Apple's history. Terrel ended up ordering 50 units of the Apple-1, essentially becoming the first company to partner with Apple.

The PCB being auctioned has been verified to be authentic based on photographs taken by Terrel in 1976. RR's description also discusses the differences between this prototype board and the production variants. The board, for example, seemed to have been hand soldered by Steve Wozniak, who had an atypical "three handed" technique that made use of his mouth in addition to both hands. Wozniak also made several point-to-point connections on the back of the PCB — a quick fix job to make it fully functional just in time for the demo.

From the image, it is evident that the board, unfortunately, has suffered some form of damage, with the upper-right section completely missing. With over 15 bids already placed, the value of this Apple-1 PCB currently stands — at the time of writing — at $278,005. The next bid for the same is pegged at $305,806. The auction for this piece of computing history ends on August 18, 2022.