The Apple-1 is now . Steve Wozniak is . Steve Jobs would be .
In 1976, engineer Steve Wozniak, while working at HP, built the Apple-1 computer from scratch. He finished his work in March 1976. Together with Steve Jobs and Ronald G. Wayne, both working for Atari, they founded the company Apple Computer that would make history and change the world. Because of many inquiries about the value of an Apple-1, here is a short evaluation.
Before Steve Wozniak created the Apple-1, he built just 13 years old a transistor-based calculator and at the age of 19 together with Bill Fernandez a computer called the Cream Soda Computer. Bill Werner got the chips for it. Bill Fernandez introduced Steve Jobs to Steve Wozniak.
Later Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs sold together illegal phone phreaking boxes, called Blue Box. Those were invented by John Draper (aka Captain Crunch). Steve Wozniak (aka Crazy Pollack) met him and started to build his own Blue Boxes. Wozniak tried to use the Blue Box to prank the pope. He called the pope claiming Henry Kissinger would speak.
According to Steve Wozniak's autobiography "iWoz", he sold his HP 65 calculator for US$ 500 to buy the Apple-1 mainboards. And Steve Jobs sold his VW bus for US$ 750. They needed US$ 1,000 to get a computer company to print the boards. Reference iWoz, Chapter 12, page 173:
"To come up with the $1,000 we thought we’d need … I sold my HP 65 calculator for $500. The guy who bought it only paid me half though, and never paid me the rest. I didn’t feel too bad because I knew HP’s next-generation calculator, the HP 67, was coming out in a month and would cost me only $370 with the employee discount.
And Steve sold his VW van for another few hundred dollars. He figured he could ride around on his bicycle if he had to. That was it. We were in business".
More about this HP 65 and Steve Jobs VW bus here.
Steve Wozniak designed the Apple-1. Only 200 Apple-1 were produced in total. According to Steve Wozniak, 175 were originally assembled.
Steve Wozniak wrote in an email, that a few were made in a pre-production run. This is given by the pictures of the Apple #2 listed in the registry. Clearly a pre-series model of the Apple-1. None of the pre-production Apple-1 have been seen for many years.
Despite so many articles about the Apple-1 designed in a garage, it happened in Steve Wozniak's apartments.
Sometimes a unit number showed up in articles but it seems, mostly the unit number are wrong. Articles claiming it was 16K, 36K etc. He moved from his apartment 16D to an upstairs apartment. His first apartment was 16D. The number is written from his "blue box time" as the sender in a letter from Woz. His nickname was The Crazy Pollack (dial-a-joke).
The Apple-1 was partly built in 16D and finish in his second apartment in another block. Woz stated, that he can’t remember the unit number but he was guessing 22L or 24L.
In an Homebrew Computer Club newsletter (issue number one from March 15, 1975) Woz' apartment is 36K. But at least in 2019 no apartment with this number exist. Strangely is from early 1975.
Apple-1 Registry curator Achim Baqué checked it by himself and drove to 20800 Homestead Rd in Cupertino in August 2019. It is now renamed. In block 16 and 36 is no apartment “K”. Block 24 got no “K” or “L” as well. But, block 22 has a unit “L” and it is upstairs (which matches Woz’ information). So maybe, it was 22L.
Why is that interesting at all? Well, it is significant because of the IT history. It was the foundation stone of Apple.
The unusual display section is a result of the so-called 'Computer Converser' which Steve Wozniak and Alex Kamradt designed as a terminal. The idea came from an article in the magazine Popular Electronics 1975.
The motherboard was designed by Howard Cantin (an Atari employee at the time). Steve Jobs bought the components from Cramer Electronics (today Arrow Electronics) on a net 30 day term. All Apple-1’s components including IC sockets were soldered in a factory.
The IC chips were placed in Steve Jobs' parents' house. Steve Job's sister and Daniel Kottke equipped the mainboards. His sister made just a few before Daniel took over the work. She bent too many pins of the chips while watching TV. First 50 boards in the house, next 50 in the garage. Steve Wozniak showed up about once a week and corrected any mistakes in the garage. As soon as a few mainboards were equipped, those were delivered to the Byte Shop. First price of the Apple Computer was US$ 666.66 just because Wozniak likes repeating numbers.
The first 50 Apple-1 were sold to the Byte Shop, owned by Paul Terrell, who met Steve at the Homebrew Computer Club. Without this contact, the Apple Company might not exist. The Byte Shop was one of the first personal computer retailers. 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.
East Coast: Later Stan Veit bought an Apple-1. He was the owner of the east coast's first computer store. He showed this computer at the Association of Computer Machinery and in the beginning nobody believed him that the Apple-1 would be a computer.
According to Daniel Kottke, a car dealer contacted Apple and wanted to use the Apple-1 computers for his business. This was by far the most lucrative idea. But it never happened.
All Apple-1 came out without a case, keyboard and power supply.
For the first time the Apple-1 computer was presented August 28-29, 197 at the PC76 - Personal Computing Consumer Trade Fair in Atlantic City, NJ, USA (black and white picture).
It was by the way the first national personal computer show. Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs and Daniel Kottke presented the Apple-1 at Stan Veit's booth.
Woz created the first Apple II in 1976 as well. According to Daniel Kottke he had the Apple II prototype in a shoe box. Already capable of colors. He took it to the First West Coast Computer Faire. Apple had booth 326 and 427. Perfectly located in front of the entrance.
There is no serial number on every Apple-1 computer!
Some (not all!) Apple-1 of the 1st batch have a handwritten number on the back which is obviously a serial number. None of the 2nd batch got a serial number.
List of all known serial numbers on the back of some 1st batch Apple-1.
There were many theories surrounding this number. Only Apple-1 computers sold by the Byte Shop seems to have this number. But nobody remembers where the number really comes from. Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Daniel Kottke, Paul Terrell, the board manufacturer etc. all say that they didn't put the number on the mainboard. For a factory it would be very unusual to write a serial number permanent marker on a pcb. Usually it was printed on the board or a label was used.
In January 2022, Achim Baqué found proof that Steve Jobs wrote the serial numbers! Read more here.
Here is a list of all known serial numbers on the back of some 1st batch Apple-1.
In addition to the serial number some Apple-1 computer have a small round stamp with a number in the middle. Others have small labels on the back. The origin of these marks is also unknown. Those labels are usually used in the factories.
The Byte Shop theory seems plausible. Only one 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 (Data Domain Computer) about this. At that time, Data Domain Computers had found a practical application. One was at the Kentucky Derby.
Ray Borrill, the owner of Data Domain, bought 15 Apple-1. Probably more later. They sold 13 Apple-1, 1 was donated to the US Olympic tennis team and destroyed in a plane crash. The last one was auctioned in 2001.
The sale of Apple-1 to Data Domain Computers by the Byte Shop explains the higher numbers quite well.
There are computers whose serial number is greater than 50. That is not a contradiction. The Byte Shop got more than just the 50 and sold some Apple-1 to Data Domain Computers.
Some Apple-1 have a label and / or stamp on the back or front.
Nobody know the origin but usually it is used for quality control at manufacturing.
Stamps are mostly found on the back under the power section or on the front next to the heat sink.
Labels are found somewhere on the back or sometimes on the breadboard area. So far the number hast two or four digits. Some boards even has two labels. The 4 digit number has so far always been 4062.
The handwritten serial number is always unique except for one number which exist twice (so far).
Labels with the same number '4062' are found on some boards of the 2nd batch. So far only Apple-1 of the 2nd batch have labels sometimes.
The Apple-1 was produced in two batches: The second batch was made by another manufacturer. Apple-1 of the first batch were built around April 1976.
Those Apple-1 of the first batch are the first produced Apple-1 ever and the oldest ones. Only the prototypes pre-dates it. And only Apple-1 of the first batch got many times the handwritten serial number on the back.
Because they are several months older, many collector trying to get these boards.
For example Mike Willegal created a replica mainboard of the Apple-1 mainboard and used the early version of the first batch as a reference.
The mainboards are almost identical. The mainboard color is different.
The differences between both versions are easy to spot. The second batch has a rhombic logo with letters NTI inside under the 'Apple Computer 1' logo and was produced second half of 1976.
Decoupling capacitors are square shaped multilayer capacitors (usually green). Mainboard of 1st batch have round ceramic capacitors.
Some NTI boards have different electrolyte capacitors. Usually they are blue but some NTI boards have one or more yellow electrolytic capacitors.
PIA and CPU on boards of 1st batch have sometimes ceramic chips. Mostly the CPU. Many boards of 1st batch have the plastic AMI PIA.
On the second batch only plastic chips were used but some owner changed it later to ceramic versions to look better.
So far, Apple-1 of 1st and 2nd batch have seen very high results at auctions in the past.
Production prototype - 'Apple Computer A'
The number of pre-production and hand wired Apple-1 is unknown. Maybe and unfortunately no such Apple-1 survived.
The pictures showing a preproduction Apple-1. By far the biggest difference is the name. The motherboard reads "Apple Computer A © 76". More about it here.
The Apple Cassette Interface
The Apple Cassette Interface exist like the Apple-1 itself in two versions. 1st batch and 2nd batch (which are marked “NTI”). Sometimes NTI Apple Cassette Interfaces are used for 1st batch Apple-1. Simply because the owner bought it later. And in the beginning, no Apple Cassette Interface was available.
Some Apple-1 were traded in for credit on Apple II. The credit offered was not a great deal. As an example, see the letter from Fred Hatfield. He turned it down.
The only person that I've come across, that actually have done a trade-in was Bob Bishop, famous Apple II programmer. I exchanged some emails with Bob recently, and he
doesn't remember what he received. He does think it was along the lines of what Fred was offered. There are a
couple of units in existence that were probably traded in. These are the two that the Huston brothers took from
the pile in Steve Jobs office. Although there are stories of many Apple-1 being traded in for Apple II, I
found evidence of very few actual trade-ins.
Early on in Apple history, there was a stack of Apple-1 that were initially in a cabinet in the lab and later on, moved to Steve Job's office.
Depending on which early Apple employee you talk to, the stack was either large or small in size. The best
take on this is that there was a modest number of individual units in the stack, but that took up a large
amount of vertical space, due to the height of the heat sink. There were two categories of units in this stack. In
addition to a few units that were traded in for credit on Apple II, there was a number of unsold Apple-1 that
were never populated with chips and tested. A number of early Apple employees were allowed to take one of these
boards home. All of the unsold units were NTI boards and had no chips in the sockets. Some have been populated
and brought to life since that time. Since not many people know the story of the unpopulated/unsold boards, when
encountering these boards, people usually speculate that the chips were pulled from the boards after being sold.
Most likely many Apple-1 were trashed. There are rumors about a fire in Steve Wozniak’s garage and maybe his prototype(s) were destroyed.
Known destroyed Apple-1:
1. One Apple-1 donated to the US Olympic tennis team was destroyed in a plane crash. Remarks from Achim Baqué: This information is from Ray Borrill. No information about this plane crash could be found. ESPN got a list of all athletes killed in plane crashes but neither it was possible to find Olympic members nor a group of tennis players.
2. One former Apple-1 owner told the story, that his father broke his Apple-1 mainboard into two pieces and trashed it.
3. Someone in Germany got original chips from an Apple-1. This Apple-1 was probably bought in the US for a few bucks and later destroyed and trashed.
4. Another story from a guy named Kevin: In the late 1990s I worked with a gentleman named Robert Fischer that previously worked for Sierra Online. Apparently, they acquired an Apple-1 to investigate writing software for it but soon discovered its limitations and the very limited number that existed, even then. As it was related to me, he remembers the day they told him to get rid of it so he put it, along with all of the accessories and documentation in the dumpster and it was gone. Even back then he regretted that action but what could he do?
Rumor / maybe marketing trick:
The story about an almost destroyed Apple-1 found in an electronics recycling center is a little bit strange. There is no proof at all, if this story is true. No picture of the Apple-1 exists or was published later, but this company was in the news for a long time and probably after getting so much attention, many people delivered old computer to them. Many people asked unsuccessfully the company for a picture of the Apple-1 or any information. None of the Apple-1 experts or collectors were ever contacted by the recycling company.
Even the Apple Company used different names in advertisements and price lists. On the mainboard, it is Apple Computer 1. In price lists, it is Apple I. There is no right or wrong name.
On early ads and on the manual, however, it is Apple-1 and Steve Wozniak preferred it like this. These reasons are enough for me to use Apple-1.
Some people argue it should be Apple II. Well, correct would be Apple ][ and even the third Apple was Apple III. The name always had an artistic touch.
Apple-1 mainboards are wave soldered. Wave soldering is very effective and low cost but it has its downside. Adhesion between tracks and board on wave soldered boards can get loose. So far, this is not a problem for any Apple-1.
But you can see on many Apple-1 board on the back something looking like wrinkled protective coating on the tracks. In other words a ripple effect. There is no excess solder underneath. The manufacturing process with high temperature at wave soldering is responsible. It is normal.
Many times some parts of the coating become detached. A typical peeling caused by wave soldering and the age of those boards. Some boards lost more coating over the time, which is only a cosmetic issue.
The Apple-1 has a so-called breadboard. A breadboard is used to add electronic parts. Steve Wozniak added the breadboard to the Apple-1 design to allow users to modify or enhance the Apple-1 computer. Electronic parts were connected by wire to other IC’s and traces on the mainboard.
It was used by many first Apple-1 owners. For some auctions in the 2000’s those added electronics were removed.
The Apple-1 use the 6502 CPU, mostly MOS 6502.
Some CPU are in ceramic housing. Mostly white ceramic. Others are in an plastic housing.
At first Steve Wozniak had the idea to use the 6800 processor from Motorola. The 8080 was too expensive for him. But even the 6800 was pricey. Steve Wozniak liked the Motorola 6800 because it was used in some of his favorite minicomputers. His friend Allen Baum discovered the 6502 in MOS Technology ship for Steve Wozniak. As soon as he got hands on the 6502 at Homebrew Computer Club he changed his plans and used the much cheaper 6502. With just 25 US$ extremely cheap in 1976. Sometimes this chip is white or purple ceramic, sometimes plastic. Manufacturer is MOS.
Used as an interface for keyboard and display. Sometimes this chip is white or purple ceramic, sometimes plastic.
The PIA got the number 6520 and Motorola used 6820. Later 6521 was used as a substitute. Many times PIA from AMI, Synertek or Motorola are used for the Apple-1. AMI was widely used in the first batch of Apple-1.
The memory for the computer.
Memory can be found in ceramic and plastic housing. Most common is the plastic housing.
DRAM was a large step forward. Many computer used SRAM. SRAM was more expansive as DRAM. Every chip got 4096x1 bit = 512 byte. In an Apple-1 8 are used for one row = 4 KBytes.
4 or 8 KBytes are used for Apple-1. With some modification it is possible to use more memory. But you have to do add wires and some election parts by yourself, only for experienced people. According to Apple ads even 64 KBytes are possible.
The firmware of the Apple-1 is stored in two PROMs 256x4 bits.
Woz (Steve Wozniak) Monitor program is stored in just 256 bytes and enabled to use the keyboard to enter commands and machine code for 6502. PROM is non-volatile Programmable Read-Only Memory a type of ROM.
There was no reset circuit. You need a reset circuit to get the computer started. Therefore you need an extra switch. Original and not modified Apple-1 can only use upper case characters. Everything was squeezed into this tiny memory. 254 of 256 Bytes are used. Good job!
Fairchild - Fairchild Semiconductor
Most ICs used for the 1st batch Apple-1 are produced by Fairchild Semiconductor. A company based in San Jose, California USA.
Most ICs used for the 2nd batch Apple-1 and some for the 1st batch Apple-1 are produced by Signetics. A company based in Sunnyvale, California USA.
MOS - MOS Technology, Inc.
This company produced the CPU 6502 and the PIA 6520. Most Apple-1 use MOS 6502.
AMI - AMI Semiconductor
Produced the CPU 6502 and the PIA 6820. The AMI PIA was used for the 1st batch Apple-1.
Produced the CPU 6502 and the PIA 6520 as well.
Produced the PIA 6820.
DRAM MK4096N-11 used in Apple-1 was manufactured by Mostek. Sometimes DRAM MK4096P-11 was used (visible for example in the article 'Comparing Apples and Oranges' and in the Apple ad in the magazine Interface July 1976 or in the ad of Sunshine Computer in the magazine Interface Age).
The difference between these DRAMs is just the package. N = Epoxy DIP (Plastic), P = Gold side-brazed ceramic DIP, J = CER-DIP and "K" Tin side-brazed DIP. -11 is the speed (350ns access time and 500ns cycle time). Apple used only -11. Everything else (like -6 and -16) is a substitute with different timing and added later to the Apple-1.
The large capacitors used for Apple-1 are eye-catching. Producer was Sprague Electric.
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