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Landmark Apple I computer up at auction

German-based auction house has had several record-breaking high tech products in the past

It was a classic rags-to-riches story. Two college dropouts from California who founded the world’s highest-valued company. Steve Jobs was introduced to Steve Wozniak in 1969 and ‘Woz’ and Jobs became friends while working for Hewlett-Packard in 1970.

By 1976, Wozniak was refining his own computer design. The Altair 8800 had just made the cover of Popular Electronics and Jobs quickly realised the potential of his friend’s invention. Apple Inc. was established in April 1976 and the first order of 50 computers was assembled in the Jobs’ family garage and delivered to the Byte Shop for $500 per unit.

Apple I was the first ready-made personal computer. Admittedly, the buyer still had to provide the keyboard and monitor, but as Wozniak explained to enthusiasts at the Homebrew Computer Club in July 1976, his design allowed the user to work on a “human-typable keyboard instead of a stupid, cryptic front panel with a bunch of lights and switches”.

Of the 200 Apple I computers ever produced, just 43 have survived, and of these only six are in working order (“Apple 1 Registry”, by Mike Willegal). One was sold for a record $374,500 in June 2012 in New York, a second one of the six is being offered now by Auction Team Breker in Germany on 24 November 2012.

The Cologne-based auctioneer has been holding record-breaking sales of “Science and Technology” for 25 years. According to founder Uwe Breker, this is the first fully working Apple I offered publically in Europe, and the only example with the original period peripherals – transformer, Sony monitor and Datanetics ASCII keyboard – to have appeared so far. He comments “There is a long-established market for antique ‚Scientific Instruments’, whereas technology from the dawn of the computer age is attracting a great new generation of collectors.”