Computer collection

History of the Copson Apple-1 - Copson Who?

Because Apple-1 doesn't have a serial number, the name of the first owner is usually used for identification. For 36 years, the Copson Apple-1 was in the hands of its first owner, Joey Copson, a talented former employee of Apple who worked as a senior software engineer that had previously worked at Atari and Cray Supercomputers.

He was the programmer of Star Raiders for Atari 5200. Some call it the second most important game of all time.

He bought the Apple-1 in San Jose directly from the Byte Shop, a young computer shop which was the first one to offer an Apple computer. The first 50 Apple-1 were sold there.

The Copson Apple-1 is definitely one of the very first examples.

When Apple offered the owners of Apple-1 an exchange for their computer in 1977, Joey Copson reportedly said "No, I'm not going to. I don't care, I'm keeping the Apple-1". A stroke of luck, since many Apple-1 that ended up with Apple were scrapped, except for the units that employees were allowed to take with them as souvenirs.

Joey Copson had been storing the Apple-1 in his mother's closet for all these years.

He served in the Vietnam War before he joined Apple and died on March 5th, 2003.

Bob Luther, the author of the book "The First Apple", bought the computer after Joe Copson died. In 2015, the rare unit changed hands for the last time at an auction. The Copson Apple-1 is on loan at the Deutsches Museum in Munich since November 2017.

The computer

The general condition is excellent and the original parts are also in good condition.

As usual, the processor is an MCS 6502 in the much sought-after white ceramic version. Corey Cohen, who has inspected many Apple-1.

The Apple-1 is fully functional, which doesn't happen so often. Corey Cohen switched on the computer in 2015 for the last time, which is recorded on video.

The owner has not made any modifications and, apart from the expected ageing, the Apple-1 still looks like new. The dust was deliberately not removed.

The number 01-0022 is handwritten on the back of the Apple-1. There are many theories about this apparent serial number. The Apple-1 which went to the Henry Ford Museum for over US$ 900,000 US$ has the number 01-0070 and many other Apple-1 have no number at all. No one can say who wrote these numbers on the boards and for what.

There is also a round punch with the number 7 on the back of the board.

The Byte Shop theory seems plausible. Only the question remained, why do numbers greater than 50 exist? Mike Willegal found an explanation: Data Domain Computer had purchased Apple-1 computers directly from the Byte Shop. Mike asked Thom Hogan from Data Domain Computer about this. At that time, Data Domain Computers had found a practical application. One was at the Kentucky Derby.

The sale of Apple-1 computers to Data Domain Computers by the Byte Shop explains the higher numbers quite well.

In any case, there are computers whose handwritten number is greater than 50, but were still sold by The Byte Shop. That is not a contradiction because when the Apple-1 were sold to Data Domain Computers, probably just a few were taken out of stock. Why would anyone pay attention to the ascending order of the numbers?

The optional cassette interface is also available in the original.

A look at Mike Willegal's Apple-1 Registry shows that this computer is something special. In this list, the Copson is #31, an arbitrary numbering.

The case

Apple-1 were normally delivered without the case, what was not unusual. The buyers decided if they wanted to look for a case. Later, there was a manufacturer of wooden cases, which were sold to only a few costumers.

Even later, The Byte Shop also started offering wooden cases. Most of the first 50 Apple-1, group that Copson's computer belongs to, haven't got a case. Copson Apple-1's case is absolutely unique. It looks like a clam shell and stems from 1976 with original Datanetics ASCII keyboard from June 2nd of that year. It is truly the product of a hobby work and is full of retro charm. The mainboard and power supply fit into the case together with the Datanetics keyboard.

In 2015, Corey Cohen completely cleaned and tested the keyboard.

A monitor and a cassette recorder were part of the eBay auction.

Acquisition by current owner

In 2015, an Apple-1 appeared on eBay and I saw this auction by chance. A real Apple-1? I couldn't believe it at first. For many collectors, finding such a historical unit in a very good condition is like finding the holy grail!

Part of the auction proceeds are transferred to an organization that helps victims of ALS, disease of an employee of Bob Luther

The decision to bid:

  • The cause served benevolent purposes.
  • The Apple-1 has a special status and is historical.
  • It is the dream of the great collectors: to hold the board in their hands and review the history of computers.
  • The computer could be lent to a museum so that many technology enthusiasts and Apple fans could see it. In November 2017, this idea became reality.

After the purchase, I saw no reason to go public. Inquiries about interviews were rejected and Bob Luther did not reveal the name of the buyer. The computer was later to be handed over to a museum, but my name was accidentally sent to the press in 2017, what made contact with other collectors possible.

YouTube channel

Transfer to Germany

The Apple-1 was picked up by me directly from Bob Luther in Alexandria/Virginia. Bob took me to the airport to clarify some details. I had already asked the airline and airport security if there were any objections for the computer and the monitor being to be carried along.

Security at Dulles Airport was no surprise. Everything went very nicely and professionally.

Months before the handover, I had already asked the customs authorities and talked to a very nice lady from Berlin, who is often entrusted with rare collector's items.

According to her, the customs authorities had issued a document on behalf of the European Union on July 3rd, 2015.

Quote: The commodity [sic] is to be classified as a "collector's item of historical/technological value".
(Reason for sic: The Copson Apple-1 is called like this by them and subsequently referred to this name on the document)

After landing in Frankfurt, no one was at the gates from customs, that could only be contacted by telephone. I was picked up and asked casually whether the way was worthwhile and if the object to be imported was worth more than 1,000€.

I had to pay the import sales tax in cash. The customs officers were helpful and understanding. It was clear that I didn't want to leave the device at the customs office to come back to Frankfurt later. It took a while and some paperwork had to be done. After a few hours on site, I was able to take the Apple-1 with me.

I was allowed to transfer the money, but the computer had to be sealed in a transport case. It would have been strange if someone had volunteered to declare something for customs clearance and then refused to pay. This seal was only allowed to be removed after written confirmation of the receipt of the money by customs.

The computer was correctly introduced and the import sales tax was paid.

In the Cologne area, I got hold of the last available locker in the appropriate size.

On November 8th, 2017, the Copson Apple-1 was freed from its dark prison in a Cologne bank and, on November 13th, it made its last trip to the German Museum in Munich.

There are no plans for how long the computer will stay in the museum, but it should be a few years.

Exhibition at Deutsches Museum Munich

Some press articles you can find in the link section.

Shortly after the purchase, the idea to hand the Apple-1 over to a museum for exhibition came about. For the time being, the Apple-1 disappeared like so many other devices in a bank safe.

I felt that many computer enthusiasts, not only fans of the Apple brand, would like to see an original Apple-1. In Germany, this was previously only possible in one museum. There are many good replicas nowadays, but, as with all historical objects, it is different to stand in front of a replica. Authenticity simply inspires.

Not only for collectors, but also for many technically interested people, Apple-1 is considered the Holy Grail when it comes to microcomputers.

In 2015, I wrote to the Deutsches Museum in Munich and offered the Apple-1 as a free of charge loan to the exhibition.

The Deutsches Museum was my first choice, although there were many other museums, mainly from the USA. The German Museum Munich is the world's largest natural science museum. As a teenager, I often stayed with my grandmother in the beautiful city of Munich for a few weeks and visited the Deutsches Museum again and again. The museum is a paradise for all technology enthusiasts. This youthful enthusiasm for the museum and the high number of visitors was ultimately decisive.

I am pleased that a large number of visitors can now see a very beautiful computer with one of the most unusual cases from 1976.

The handover took place on 14th November 2017 with the Zuse 4 in the background. This is exactly where Steve Jobs personally handed over a Macintosh to the museum in 1985.

From December 2017 on, the Apple-1 will be permanently on display in the Microelectronics Department.

Why the German Museum in Munich? There were some museums interested in the Apple-1. The Deutsches Museum Munch is not only the largest technical museum, but it has impressed me since my childhood. My grandmother owned a house in the English Garden and I used to go from there to the museum. A little nostalgia and childhood memories played a role.

Only very few Apple-1 have been on display in European museums so far.

Many questions regarding the loan of the Apple-1 to the museum revolve around money. Nothing has been and will be paid for the loan. The delivery was also paid by the lender. Museums are not the meeting place for speculators. If you want to earn money with a computer, you should contact the auction houses. Museums accept donations for objects, but they are also not a recycling center. The object must be interesting for the museum, the space must be available... Rarely will an object be accepted as a loan, since the expenses for museums are enormous. There are many people who would like to see an original Apple-1. I definitely wanted it to be exhibited for this audience. If I wanted to sell everything, the computer would have been auctioned off. Enormous amounts have already been offered.

History of the Dryden Apple-1

Since the Apple-1 does not have a serial number, the name of the first owner is usually used for identification. In 2017, an Apple-1 was offered by the first owner via auction after 41 years in his hands.

With the computer, there were a keyboard in a beautiful wooden case from 1976, various cassettes from 1976, original manuals and a 19-inch case in which the owner had installed the Apple-1. As it is often the case, a one-of-a-kind Apple-1 immediately stands out from the crowd with its wooden case and a keyboard.

There is also a correspondence with Apple, which is unique. In 1977, the company offered all owners of an Apple-1 the opportunity to trade their computers for an Apple II for an additional fee. A trade-in, so to speak. The first owner wanted to take advantage of this offer in 1979, but no one at Apple remembered this offer, which is why this beautiful Apple-1 has been preserved.

On the back, there is a round stamp with the number 7 and 01-0073 is handwritten on the back. For more information on theories of this number, see the Copson Apple-1.

All components are as original as delivered in 1976, what is rarely the case. It is often the situation of components that had to be replaced or even motherboards that were assembled decades later. In this case, only 2 IC sockets have been replaced by the first owner. Originals from 1976 are available as replacements. For me, this Apple-1 is in its original state with the modifications. After all, the Apple-1 was a home computer that appealed primarily to hobbyists. Every Apple-1 has a prototype area, in which components could be soldered in, which many owners used. The components added to the Dryden Apple-1 and the additional wiring show the owner's deep understanding of this computer.

Many current Apple-1 owners have reversed the changes and enhancements made by first-time owners to make the computer look more "original". Many collectors, experts and museums see it differently, since these changes are part of the history of the device and contribute to its authenticity. If I should pass this Apple-1 on, it is up to the new owner to decide for himself.

After 30 minutes of work, the Apple-1 could look like it had just been taken out of the box. In my opinion, these additional components are a historical part of the object and contribute to its authenticity and uniqueness. On some pictures, you can see an additional electrolytic capacitor piggyback on an original electrolytic capacitor. Those are old pictures. The first owner removed this additional component, which doesn't affect the functionality.

The condition of this Apple-1 is very good. There were some people that spoke about this Apple-1 without having had it in their own hands. If everything was dismantled, this Apple-1 would be an outstanding example in the eyes of people. Museums and many collectors see such demolitions as controversial.

Everything is in very good condition and the computer is still working. The Apple-1 was tested by Mr. Rudolf Brandstötter in the run-up to the auction. Alongside Corey Cohen, Mr. Brandstötter, who has auctioned off two Apple-1, is one of the experts who have already sold many units of this computer. It was turned on and tested for the auction.

In November 2017, other successful tests with this Apple-1 took place.

The acquisition

The auction was unusual in all respects and its price, when compared to other Apple-1, was incredibly low. The auction took place near me and I was actually only present to buy a beautiful rocket engine as an object for my office. The expected purchase price of the Dryden Apple-1 was very high. I had checked the Apple-1 personally in the auction house and I liked very much what I had seen. The auction started and immediately the first bid was there. Then nothing happened for a long time and the auction faltered unusually. When the auctioneer called "going once, going twice, going twice," I raised my bidding card reflexively. Photographers were there immediately. Again, an unusually long time passed. In the meantime, I was considering a maximum bid. Incredibly, there was no further bidding.

After the auction, I had accidentally contacted two interested parties, who for various reasons did not bid during the auction, but called me offering enormous sums of money. Many owners sell their Apple-1 after a short time and consider the historically valuable device as a fixed asset. Anyway, I'd like to keep my Apple-1 for now.

Quickly there were prophecies of doom and hasty statements, without knowing the reasons for the low revenue. All high prices would only be due to a hype about Steve Jobs and that would be over now.

The opposite happened.

In the same year of 2017, some Apple-1 were auctioned off for three to four times the price. In addition, some of them were offered on the private market and nothing could be done for less than US$350.000.

Soon after the auction, I received my first offer, which was in the now common price range. But as I said before, I am happy to own this computer and I don't want to turn it into gold. I have already given my first Apple-1 to the Deutsches Museum München.

More and more Apple-1 are coming to museums. In addition, there are collectors who probably won't give up on their Apple-1 for life.

The acquisition will be more difficult and expensive with time. There will always be exceptions and luck for the buyer.

For the time being, this Apple-1 is stored in a bank safe. The Dryden Apple-1 should either go to its own museum or a traveling exhibition.

Exhibition at ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany

From July 14, 2018 till February 10, 2019 at ZKM, Center for art and media, Lorenzstraße 19, 76135 Karlsruhe. – use online translator. Exhibition is called „Kunst in Bewegung. 100 Meisterwerke mit und durch Medien.“ (Art in motion. 100 masterpieces with and through media).

A custom box was built to protect the mainboard, cassette interface and the keyboard. By special transport it was going to Karlsruhe in June 2018.
The Apple-1 is still in the state first owner of 1976. The first owner added some parts and replaces a socket. I believe after 40+ years this is part of the history and belongs to the board. I preserve this state. Even no cleaning was done. And that’s the way every museum like/want it! Restauration would only done if the artefact is in danger or badly damaged. But this Apple-1 is in working condition and all parts are original. Nothing is changed, no components are added/replaced later (except the keyboard socket and the added parts by first owner in the 70’s).

The in 1976 added electronic are inverters for using a keyboard. The keyboard is homemade like every keyboard used for an Apple-1 in the 70’s. Apple did not offer a keyboard.

The added components (inverter ICs) were necessary to use some keyboards in 1976. Many Apple-1 were modified for auctions in the past. Those added parts were removed and a 1977 or even later Apple II keyboard was attached. The Dryden Apple-1 is still in the 1976 state including the keyboard. Not everyone agree that it is worth to destroy the history of the Apple-1 mainboard and remove 1976 parts necessary to use some 1976 keyboard just to make the mainboard looking “clean” and add much later produced keyboards.

About my collection

Nearly all computers, especially valuable items, are under lockdown and in storage. Unfortunately, because a public exhibition would be better. But it's not that simple.

For more than 30 years, I have been collecting computers (components). In the beginning, these were mainly mainboards, selected plug-in cards and especially hard disks, large ones that were great in terms of their physical size, but not in terms of capacity. Many hard disks look more like spaceship models, have impressive dimensions and a charming weight. A RAMAC or one of the other hard disks in the 24+ inch range is the most wanted historical object on my wishlist. Of course, Cray, Apollo Guidance Computer AGC, Gemini Computer and AP 101 from IBM are also there.

It was not until much later that computers came into the picture. The real reason was a nostalgic retrospective and the wish to sit in front of an Apple II and a Basis 108 with UCSD Pascal. I looked for it, bought it and my next desire was the first IBM, the one I had worked with in the 80's.

This resulted in the desire to acquire further computers. Many computers of the 70's and 80's were absolutely unaffordable at the beginning of my computer time. Thirty years later, the situation was already different, although some of them had increased in value and were more expensive than those offered by the manufacturer. The Apple-1 is a prime example of this.

More and more devices came into the collection and computers became more and more exotic. With a few exceptions, I concentrated on computers that were produced before 1984 and fall into the field of microcomputers.

In 2015, an Apple-1 appeared on eBay and I saw this auction by chance. A real Apple-1? I couldn't believe it at first. For many collectors, finding such a historical unit in a very good condition is like finding the holy grail! Only later I took part in auctions of the well-known auction houses.

After that, I was able to buy several hundred other computers.

Meanwhile, I have not only visited the salesman of Copson Apple-1, Bob Luther, in Alexandria / Virginia, whom I thank for an interesting impression during the celebration of Halloween in his neighborhood, but also David Larsen. He had a gigantic collection of old computers and four Apple-1. On his farm, I was a guest and we talked a lot about computers. To this day, I deeply regret not having accepted his offer to take over the entire collection.

My name came into the public eye 2017 accidentally in connection with Apple-1. This resulted in contacts with other collectors.

In 2017, I talked to a city administration about founding a computer museum. Cities suffer from financial difficulties and without sponsors, such a project is hardly feasible. A museum only bears its own costs in rare cases. This project's future hasn't yet been decided.

The collection of historically significant computers is not only a collector's passion. Many people are not yet aware that these devices are a piece of history.

At the beginning of the automobile age, there were also few people who came up with the idea of collecting the vehicles and saving them from scrapping. Awareness of the historical value is only slowly emerging. Computers dominate most people's everyday lives and have changed society around the world like no other event before.

How it began

In the 80's, I came into contact with computers through my high school. Only a few schools offered computer science as a subject. Everything was delayed in comparison to the USA.
The eleventh grade of the program offered computer science. This sounded very tempting for a student who was enthusiastic about science. It turned out that programming became a passion and other scientific interests faded into the background. The computer enabled endless creativity and was unbeatable in terms of fiddling.

The first computers were one with Hexdisplay, a modest Apple II+, then Apple IIe and the already much better Basis 108 (an Apple clone, but equipped with RAM disk, real keyboard and floppy disk drives with more capacity).
From the very beginning, the main interest was programming with high-level languages. There was no interest in computer games.
This was followed by the IBM 5150, which offered a completely new world. Luckily, I was allowed to use the only IBM in my school already in the 11th - instead of the 13th grade as usual - but I had to figure out how to do it. What a thing to say: it was like suddenly someone had opened the gates to a previously closed garden. IBM reference manuals and one for Turbo Pascal were the only available literature, but they were quite sufficient.

A short time later, I bought my first computer, an IBM 5160 with a gigantic 20 MB hard drive.
The hobby grew unexpectedly and it became my occupation. At the age of 18, I founded my first own company with a friend who went to the same high school as me.
Due to lack of time, it was not possible to pursue any further plans for computer science and mathematics studies. DIY and autodidactic procedures were much more exciting.

Whishlist / Wanted

Have you got Computer of any brand made before 1984 to offer? Please contact me.

The list is not exhaustive. Especially during the pioneering era of computers, there was an unmanageable number of computers and computer companies that only briefly saw the light of day and disappeared as quickly as they came.

Mode details:

Anything about the Apple-1 and early Apple artifacts

I am interested in buying anything related to the Apple-1, including newspaper articles, advertising, manuals, price lists, cassettes, components etc... Everything related to the early years of Apple are also interesting. Offers, please, with pictures.

Micro Computer (just some examples)

Anything made before 1984 is welcome. Sometimes even 1985-1990.
Altair: Any, like Altair 8800 and Altair 680
Apple: Apple-1, Apple II (exceptionally Revision 0 from 1976/77), Apple II+, Apple Lisa 1, Apple Lisa 2, Macintosh 128K / 512K
Commodore: Commodore C65, 232, 364, MAX, PET 200S, PET 510, C710,
IBM: IBM 5100, 5110, 5120
Intel: Intel Intellec (ALL models), SIM 4, MCS-4, SDK's, NCS, PA4-04, SIM, µSCOPE, iPDS, iMDX, iPDS, Model 225/286/503/556/675/677

JOLT, SuperJOLT, Micral, Wang 2200 and others, Mark-8, Scelbi, Kenbak-1, Sac State 8008, Xerox Alto, MOS TIM, KIM-2, KIM-3, KIM-4, VIM-1, Datapoint 2200, IMSAI, SwTPC 6800, Northstar, SwTPC, Univac 8008, HP 2116A, Nascom 1, Holborn, Imlac PDS, GridPad, Polymorphic, Ebka familiarizor, Baby!1, CGRS , Micral, Cromemco, STM Systems, Victor 3900.

Prototype Computer 70’s, early 80’s. ASCII Keyboards 1975-1977.
Minicomputer (for example PDP-8), Mainframes and Supercomputer
Unusual stuff like computer for example used in planes or space crafts.

Mini Computer / Mainframes

PDP, Control Data, IBM, Cray etc.

Hard drives

Primary hard disks with 14+ inch (over 35 cm) diameter and disk pack/disk platter/disk cartridge/disk drive. But also 8 inches and 5,25 inches. A RAMDAC, as mother of all hard disks, would be the dream, but IBM 3380 or the exotic 24 and 26" disks are also very welcome.
NCR CRAM, Drum memory.
Most-wanted (even just a platter): IBM 350 RAMAC, Bryant 39 inch hard disk, Control Data 6603.

Software / Manuals / Magazines / Ads

VisiCalc for Apple II, early Microsoft products
Manuals and software for computers before 1984, including any Apple-1 related material including advertisements and promotional material. Of course also magazines with advertisements or articles on early computers (before 1980)! Also available for Lisa, Altair etc.
Computer Magazines of the 70's.
Apple-1, Apple II and other 70's Ads.
Kilobaud Magazine, SCCS Interface Magazine and Interface Age Magazine of 1976 and 1977.

Other items

Printer SWTPC PR-40
Graphic board GT-4144
Calculator ANITA 8 or ANITA MK VII, calculator Mathatron,
Magnavox Odyssey, Fidelity Chess Challenger CCI, Videopac 7420 Microsoft Basic


For example, I can offer Altair 8800, Lisa 2 and much more.


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