Sotheby's auctioning off working Apple I computer

NEW YORK -- Not many people would pony up thousands of dollars for a 30-year-old computer that's 1,000 times slower than an iPhone.

But on Friday, somebody might. And with it they'll get a piece of history to boot.

In 1976, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak hand-built a computer with a circuit board, keyboard, microprocessor, video terminal, memory chips and a cassette interface. It was called the Apple I, and it's a far cry from the iPhones and MacBooks the company now creates.

But a fully functioning one will go on auction at Sotheby's in New York. The antique is expected to sell for as much as $120,000 to $180,000. That's a far cry from July 1976 when it sold for $666.66 without a keyboard, monitor or power supply.

"As the first ready-made personal computer, the Apple I signaled a new age in which computing became accessible to the masses,"Sotheby's says in its catalog notes.

Sotheby's is also selling the original manuals to the computer. Separately up for auction is a report that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, then 19 years old, wrote to video game developer Atari while he was still working there.

In the early days, Jobs handled the finances while "The Woz" was hard at work on the mother lode of motherboards.

"It really was an important step, (even though) I didn't feel that way when I designed it," Wozniak said at an auction of an Apple I in 2010 (that one sold for $210,000).

To finance the project, Jobs sold his Volkswagen van for $500. Wozniak sold his Hewlett-Packard scientific calculator for the same amount.

Apple went public four years later after producing the Apple II and Apple III. Apple is now one of the largest companies in the world.

Of those 200 original computers, fewer than 50 remain and about six of them still work.


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