“Computer” is a simple PCB, and was used to demonstrate the functionality of the Apple-1 computer. The demo was given to Paul Terrell, who owns The Bite Shop. It was one of the first computer stores in the world. What Jobs and Wage thought was a $40 hobbyist kit then turned into a full-blown personal computer. Terrell placed the company’s first order for 50 pcs, and each sold for $666.66. “It was the biggest single episode in the company’s history. Nothing has been so great and so unexpected in the years since,” says Waze of Bite Shop Order.
This particular board is rare enough to be labeled as #2 in the Apple-1 registry. It was originally in the “Apple Garage” for several years before the job was passed on to the current owner 30 years ago. It was considered “lost” until recently. However, it was tested and proven this year by Apple-1 expert Corey Cohen. The current state of the board sadly leaves a lot to be desired. A huge chunk of it is missing, and it is probably lost forever. Also, some ICs are removed with the microprocessor. The auction site said Jobs likely reused some missing parts from the first Apple-1 computer.
The auctioneers noted that a unique feature of the board is that it demonstrates Steve Wozniak’s unique “three-hand” soldering technique. In it he held a wire in one hand, an iron in the other and solder in his mouth. This causes the solder to “bubble” at the connection point.
Another interesting feature is a populated clock circuit in the top left area of the prototype. This would allow it to use a Motorola 6800 or MOS 6501 processor. However, the production version left this area blank, as it used a MOS 6502 CPU. This chip had an on-chip clock oscillator, making an external timing circuit unnecessary. When it was released in 1975, this 8-bit microprocessor ran at 1-3Mhz and was much less expensive than its competition. It (or a variation of its design) has been used for various historical devices such as the Atari 2600, the Nintendo Entertainment System, and eventually the Apple II.
We went to press the current bid $278,005, which is typical for vintage rarities like this prototype. Earlier Apple-1 computers sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they had more parts. This is the first time in recent memory that we can recall a broken PCB for auction, which can reduce its final price. Still, there’s no denying how rare this item is, making it a must-have for any well-heeled collector.