The Apple-1 computer

Mission statement

The History of the Apple-1 computer

The Apple-1 (alternative spelling Apple I) is the very first computer offered by Apple in 1976, the year Apple was founded. The spelling has been different since 1976, by the way: Apple quoted Apple-1 in the price list and The Byte Shop wrote Apple I. Every conceivable mix has existed since then. The Apple-1 was neither the first computer nor the first microcomputer, but it was unique in many respects and the indication of a new era. Steve Jobs would probably have said that this device made a dent in the universe.

Who would have thought at that time that a young engineer with his homeworked computer would lay the foundation for a company empire?

Steve Wozniak, the inventor of the Apple-1 computer, was one of the many young developers of the 1970s. Before the Apple-1, he had already constructed a computer with discrete circuitry, which, however, went up in smoke at the first presentation due to a journalist that stumbled over the power line to the computer.

In the 70s, everything to build a personal computer was available and the world was just waiting for a resourceful spirit to put it all together to a cheap computer.

Many happy coincidences and special circumstances made Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs so successful. The Apple company had an unprecedented success with the Apple II with end customers. Later turbulence and the impending outbreak were averted by products such as the iPhone, and today Apple is the most valuable IT company.

The book "Accidentally Empire" contains some exciting stories.

Wozniak came into contact with microprocessors as a guest at the Homebrew Computer Club. The Intel 8080 was too expensive for him and so he concentrated on the Motorola 6800 at the beginning and later on the club showed a fabulously cheap processor 6502. The low price was the deciding factor for the continuation history of Apple computers.

The history of computers would have taken a completely different course if the choice had been made on the Intel processor 8080, which was preferred by many developers.

The low-cost processor was a decisive step towards success and high yield.

Wozniak was able to take many of the components with him from his employer HP, and he received the new DRAM memory as a free sample from Intel. Steve Jobs had only gotten those samples through a phone call. Wozniak had previously relied on the usual SRAM.

It is also astonishing that Steve Wozniak offered the Apple-1 to his then employer HP, but it was rejected. The young developer in the Homebrew Computer Club also showed the Apple-1 to all members including the exact structure and the source code of his PROMs, which made it possible to control the computer easily. He even gave the members the schematics of the Apple-1.

The then members of the Homebrew Computer Club became the who's who of the young computer industry, the nucleus of Silicon Valley. The initial 30 members quickly grew to over 500.

Steve Jobs worked for Atari at the time. The two Steves became friends. Wozniak developed the game Breakout and recognized the future of computer games early on. Up to those days, games have been hard wired circuits. However, microprocessors could load any software.

Even before the Apple-1, there were many homemade and commercial computers to which a keyboard and a monitor could be connected directly or which already had these components installed. There were not only computers like the Altair 8800, but most of them were expensive.

When ProcessorTechnology's SOL-20 came onto the market in 1976, the story seemed to be sealed. This computer, based on Intel's 8080, was the hit with its performance, expandability, keyboard, monitor connection and a very stylish case.

But things turned out differently. Shortly after the release and sale of the Apple-1, Wozniak was already working on the Apple II, which later became the best-selling computer. But that's another story...

The Apple-1 was first presented in the Computer Club on March 1st,1976. Wozniak was 25 and Jobs was 21 years old.

The Apple-1 had many peculiarities that made it interesting. The real achievement, however, is that this first commercial work laid the foundation for the Apple II, which Steve Wozniak developed shortly afterwards.

The beginning of Apple sounds like a fairytale. It's hard to believe that the two Steves had to sell a pocket calculator and a VW bus just to cover the initial costs.

Many urban myths surround the Apple-1 and the beginnings of Apple. An infinite amount of false information exists and is spread throughout the Internet - and many of them are considered true.

Just to give you another example of urban myths: the Macintosh. Many people believe that this computer is Steve Jobs' work. Steve Jobs managed the Macintosh team during a certain time and showed the Macintosh to the public for the first time, but this computer was developed by a team that worked at Apple. The basic idea of the Macintosh comes from Jef Raskin and he deserves the fame, which unfortunately was withheld from him all his life. However, he is only one of the fathers, as the Macintosh changed fundamentally over time. And the name Macintosh? The name also goes back to the developer Jef Raskin, whose favorite apple variety was the Macintosh.

Anyone who is interested in Apple, Steve Jobs or computer history will find sufficient literature available.

One could say, that without Steve Wozniak, Apple would not have existed and without Steve Jobs, Apple might have sunk into insignificance or perhaps gone bankrupt.

Nowadays, there are many early computers that are much rarer than an Apple-1, but only a few are comparable in value.

Apple-1 owners are often museums or private collectors. Some collect them out of enthusiasm and to preserve the devices, others see in it an investment or exhibition object.

The collectors and preservers of the last Apple-1 decide how much they want to pay for them. The question of whether a price is justified or not should be as nonsensical as it is in other collection areas. For rare cars and works of art, some prices are paid, which are incomprehensible to many outsiders. The market, however, determines the value. Most people would pay sums for any item that are incomprehensible to third parties.

Unfortunately, many historically valuable computers have been lost over time. Often the computers serve as a source of raw materials and were "melted down" to extract gold and other valuable materials. Imagine thousands of old cars from the early days of automobiles being melted down just to get a few tons of metal.

The Apple-1 Computer

The Apple-1 released in 1976 had only a very short period of time on the market for computers and was outdated as soon as the Apple II came out. According to Steve Wozniak, 200 boards were produced and 25 were not assembled. Many owners of the Apple-1 used an offer from Apple to exchange the computer for an Apple II. Some of these Apple-1 were given away as souvenirs to employees or scrapped.

A lot of Apple-1 were probably thrown away, what was not unusual at the time. Many early PCs were thrown away because they were obsolete. No particular historical or monetary value has been seen. Other computers from this era are available for prices below 500€. Only a few became valuable in terms of physical value.

Few have any idea how modest the beginnings of the personal computer were and they can hardly believe that the loose circuit board was actually the first Apple computer. Even though today's computers often appear to be just as modest when freed from the case. Of course, today's technology is light years ahead.

The Apple-1 was produced in two batches, the second by another mainboard manufacturer. The oldest computers, group to which the Copson Apple-1 belongs, were built around April 1976. The second batch has a rhombic logo with letters NTI inside.

The mainboard design was done by a professional. Again, through the contacts he had.

There are different statements as to whether the first 50 mainboards were already equipped. Steve Wozniak writes in his autobiography iWoz, however, that the mainboards were delivered already soldered with all components except the chips. The soldering work on the Apple-1 also clearly shows an industrial production.

The mainboards were equipped with the chips by Daniel Kottke (a friend of Steve Jobs) and Steve Job's sister Patty. For each motherboard, they had US$1,00.

A famous picture shows the boxes of Apple-1 in Patty's room.

The boards were tested in the garage and Steve Wozniak took care of all the non-working computers. When a few copies were ready, Steve Jobs drove them immediately to The Byte Shop and got cash in his hand. Later, both Steves drove through California and sold individual copies to a few computer shops.

Apple-1 has some remarkable features: DRAM was used instead of the usual static RAMs. DRAM was newer and more complicated to use, but much cheaper.

In the so-called PROMs, Wozniak managed to integrate a small program with only 256 bytes, which enables the keyboard operation. The memory was 8 KB, which offered enough space for BASIC and programs. An expansion slot was used for the cassette interface. The 6502 CPU ran at 1 MHz.

The individual components such as the chips are not necessarily the same on all of the Apple-1 and, over time, many of them have been replaced with individual components. The Apple-1 was definitely a device for inventors and home users. Steve Wozniak had his own area on the motherboard that could be used for extensions and modifications. Many owners took advantage of this and brazed it to their Apple-1, making it no less original and the owners followed only the obvious purpose of a rather experimental computer. Some Apple-1 were rebuilt by later owners to make them more original. Ultimately, it depends on the owner to determine what is original. For me, a modification by the first owner does not mean a falsification, but only makes the device even more unique. The degree to which the replacement of components is no longer "original" should be an academic point of contention.

The Apple-1 was delivered as a pure computer board without housing and peripherals. A device for inventors and purely for the home.

Optionally, there was an interface for tape recorders for 75 US$, which was plugged into the free slot. There were basic and games on cassettes. Those who wanted to use other applications had to program it themselves. It wasn't a computer for the mass market.

This cassette interface was also developed by Wozniak.

Loading programs from a tape recorder could be quite tedious. The data transfer was not particularly reliable. It was only later that it was discovered that the replacement of a 10nF capacitor with a 100nF capacitor resulted in considerably better connection properties.

A standard television set was sufficient as a monitor.

50 Apple-1 were sold by the Byte Shop. A computer shop which was opened in December 1975 in the Bay Area by Paul Terrell. Paul Terrell met the two Steves at the Homebrew Computer Club and Steve Jobs offered him the Apple-1. Paul Terrell was visionary and wanted to offer a fully assembled computer for little money. Only later did Paul Terrell realize that a complete computer in Steve Jobs' eyes meant the assembled board. Keyboard, cassette interface and tape recorder had to be bought.

This kind of complete computer came a little later with the Apple II, which caused a sensation after the SOL-20 from ProcessorTechnology..

Desire and value

Because of many inquiries about the value of the Apple-1 computer, here is a short evaluation.

Apple-1 Registry

Apple-1 Registry

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