Apple 1: Old Technology, New Record

03 November, 2014

In the 1970s, a young man named Steve Wozniak made something no one had ever built before. He created a computer "motherboard" that did not need to be put together by the person who bought it. Earlier computers required buyers to assemble the motherboard -- the main circuit board, or system board, found in computers. The computer Mr. Wozniak built became known as the Apple-1.

The age of the personal computer had begun.

"The Apple-1 changed the world and defined the world as we live today."

That is Christian Overland. He is vice-president of The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Last month, museum officials purchased an Apple-1 computer at a public auction in New York. They paid $905,000 for the device, which is one of the first 50 built. And it is still working.

Apple 1: Old Technology, New Record
An Apple 1 Computer from 1976 made by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak is presented at an auction house in Cologne, Germany, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

The auction house that sold the computer believed it would sell for one-third to one-half of what the museum paid for it. In May of last year, an Apple-1 sold for $671,000 in Germany.

Patricia Mooradian is the president of the Henry Ford Museum. In a statement, she compared the Apple-1 to the Model T car. The Model T was the first car that many Americans could buy. Ms. Mooradian said the computer "put technology directly into the hands of the people...completely altering the way we work and live."

In 1976, Steve Wozniak and his high school friend Steve Jobs offered to sell 50 Apple-1 computers to a California store for $500 each. The store sold each one for about $667. The two young men built the 50 computers in 30 days at Mr. Jobs' boyhood home. When people connected the motherboard to a monitor and a keyboard, they had the first personal computer.

Mr. Wozniak and Mr. Jobs later created Apple Computer. It is now one of the most-valuable companies in the world.

Christian Overland says he told Steve Wozniak about the museum's purchase. He says Mr. Wozniak answered: "That's pretty cool!"

"Someday in the future we're looking forward to having Mr. Wozniak coming back and visit the Apple 1. And, since it's an operating one, let's see how he turns it on and works with it, because that's one of the reasons why we acquired this one, too -- it's one of the 15 in the world left that actually operate."

The Henry Ford Museum says only 64 of the 200 Apple-1 computers built are known to exist.

Officials are now working to bring the computer to the museum so visitors can see history.

I'm Christopher Cruise.

VOA Washington correspondent Christopher Cruise reported and wrote this story. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

motherboard – n. the main circuit board of a computer

assemble – v. to connect or put together the parts of (something, such as a toy or machine)

auction – n. a public sale at which things are sold to the people who offer to pay the most

alter – v. to change (something)

monitor – n. a device that shows information or images on a screen

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