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Apple Computer 1
A large, rectangular circuit board with mostly uniform chips arranged neatly in a grid. The rows are labeled A through D and the columns are numbered 1 to 18. Printed between rows of chips is the text, "Apple Computer 1", "Palo Alto, [California] Copyright 1976". There are three large cylindrical capacitors laying sideways in the corner. The board is sprinkled with small components including ceramic resistors and jumper wires.
Also known asApple I, Apple-1
DeveloperSteve Wozniak
ManufacturerApple Computer Company
TypeMotherboard-only personal computer kit
Release dateApril 11, 1976; 47 years ago (1976-04-11)
Introductory price$$666.66 (equivalent to $3,400 in 2022)[1]
DiscontinuedSeptember 30, 1977 (1977-09-30)
Units soldc. 175 to 200
Operating systemCustom system monitor[2]
CPUMOS 6502 @ 1 MHz
Memory4 or 8 KB[3]
Storage256 B ROM[2]
Removable storageCassette tape
Graphics40×24 characters, hardware-implemented scrolling (Signetics 2513 "64×8×5 Character Generator"[4])
Marketing targetEarly hobbyist
SuccessorApple II

The Apple Computer 1 (Apple-1[a]), later known predominantly as the Apple I (written with a Roman numeral),[b] is an 8-bit motherboard-only personal computer designed by Steve Wozniak[5][6] and released by the Apple Computer Company (now Apple Inc.) in 1976. The company was initially formed to sell the Apple I – its first product – and would later become the world's largest technology company.[7] The idea of starting a company and selling the computer came from Wozniak's friend and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.[8][9] One of the main innovations of the Apple I was that it included video display terminal circuitry and a keyboard interface on a single board, allowing it to connect to a low-cost composite video monitor instead of an expensive computer terminal, compared to most existing personal computers at the time such as the Altair 8800 and other S-100 bus based machines.

To finance the Apple I's development, Wozniak and Jobs sold some of their possessions for a few hundred dollars.[10] Wozniak demonstrated the first prototype in July 1976 at the Homebrew Computer Club in Palo Alto, California, impressing an early computer retailer.[11] After securing an order for 50 computers, Jobs was able to order the parts on credit and deliver the first Apple products after ten days.[12]

The Apple I was one of the first computers available that used the inexpensive MOS Technology 6502 microprocessor. An expansion included a BASIC interpreter, allowing users to utilize BASIC at home instead of at institutions with mainframe computers, greatly lowering the entry cost for computing with BASIC.

Production was discontinued on September 30, 1977, after the June 10, 1977 introduction of its successor, the Apple II, which Byte magazine referred to as part of the "1977 Trinity" of personal computing (along with the PET 2001 from Commodore Business Machines and the TRS-80 Model I from Tandy Corporation).[13] As relatively few computers were made before they were discontinued, coupled with their status as Apple's first product, surviving Apple I units are now displayed in computer museums.[14]

History

Development

Steve Wozniak alone designed the hardware, circuit board designs, and operating system for the Apple I.

In 1975, Steve Wozniak started attending meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club, which was a major source of inspiration for him.[15][16] New microcomputers such as the Altair 8800 and the IMSAI 8080 inspired Wozniak to build a microprocessor into his video terminal circuit to make a complete computer. At the time the only appropriate CPUs available were the $179[citation needed] Intel 8080, and the $175 Motorola 6800.[c] Of these options, Wozniak preferred the 6800 and began designing a computer around the chip, though he was financially unable to obtain one.

When the $25 MOS Technology 6502 was released in late 1975,[d] Wozniak wrote a version of BASIC for it, then began to design a computer for it to run on. The 6502 was developed by many of the same engineers that designed the 6800, as many in Silicon Valley left employers to form their own companies. Wozniak's earlier 6800 computer design needed only minor changes to run on the new processor.

By March 1, 1976, Wozniak completed the basic design of his computer.[17][18] Wozniak originally offered the design to HP while working there, but it was rejected by the company on five occasions.[19] When he demonstrated his computer at the Homebrew Computer Club, his friend and fellow club regular Steve Jobs was immediately interested in its commercial potential.[20] Wozniak intended to share schematics of the machine for free, but Jobs advised him to start a business together and sell bare printed circuit boards for the computer.[21][22]: 35–38 [23]: 62  Wozniak, at first skeptical, was later convinced by Jobs that even if they were not successful they could at least say to their grandchildren that they had had their own company. To raise the money they needed to build the first batch of the circuit boards, Wozniak sold his HP-65 scientific calculator while Jobs sold his Volkswagen van.[21][22]: 35–38 

External images
image icon Byte Shop storefront
image icon The prototype shown to Terrell
image icon Wozniak and Jobs with an Apple I

After the company was formed, Jobs and Wozniak gave a presentation of the fully assembled "Apple Computer A" at the Homebrew Computer Club.[22]: 39–40 [24] Paul Terrell, who was starting a new computer shop in Mountain View, California, called the Byte Shop,[25] saw the presentation and was impressed by the machine.[23]: 66–67 [26] Terrell told Jobs that he would order 50 units of the Apple I and pay $500 each[e] on delivery, but only if they came fully assembled – he was not interested in buying bare printed circuit boards with no components.[27][23]: 66–67 [28][27][26]

Jobs took the purchase order from the Byte Shop to national electronic parts distributor Cramer Electronics, and ordered the components needed. When asked by the credit manager how he would pay for the parts, Jobs replied, "I have this purchase order from the Byte Shop chain of computer stores for 50 of my computers and the payment terms are COD. If you give me the parts on net 30-day terms I can build and deliver the computers in that time frame, collect my money from Terrell at the Byte Shop and pay you."[12][29]

To verify the purchase order, the credit manager called Paul Terrell, who assured him if the computers showed up, Jobs would have more than enough money for the parts order. The two Steves and their small crew spent day and night building and testing the computers, and delivered to Terrell on time. Terrell was surprised to receive a batch of assembled circuit boards, as he had expected complete computers with a case, monitor and keyboard.[30][31] Nonetheless, he kept his word and paid the two Steves the money promised.[32][30][31][33]

Announcement and sales

Introductory advertisement for the Apple I computer

The Apple I went on sale in July 1976 at a price of US$666.66.[f] Wozniak later said he had no idea about the relation between the number and the number of the beast, and that he came up with the price because he liked "repeating digits"[32][34] and because it was a one-third markup on the $500 wholesale price.[35] Jobs had managed to get the inventory into the nation's first four storefront microcomputer retailers: Byte Shop (Palo Alto, California), itty bitty machine company (Evanston, Illinois), Data Domain (Bloomington, Indiana), and Computer Mart (New York City).[36]

The first unit produced was used in a high school math class, and donated to Liza Loop's public-access computer center.[37] About 200 units were produced, and all but 25 were sold within nine or ten months.[29]

In April 1977, the price was dropped to $475.[g][3] It continued to be sold through August 1977, despite the introduction of the Apple II in April 1977, which began shipping in June of that year.[38] In October 1977, the Apple I was officially discontinued and removed from Apple's price list.[39] As Wozniak was the only person who could answer most customer support questions about the computer, the company offered Apple I owners discounts and trade-ins for Apple IIs to persuade them to return their computers.[40] These recovered boards were then destroyed by Apple, contributing to their later rarity.[41]

Both Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak have stated that Apple did not assign serial numbers to the Apple l. Several boards have been found with numbered stickers affixed to them, which appear to be inspection stickers from the PCB manufacturer/assembler. A batch of boards is known to have numbers hand-written in black permanent marker on the back; these usually appear as "01-00##". As of January 2022, 29 Apple-1s with a serial number are known. The highest known number is 01–0079. Two original Apple-1s have been analyzed by PSA, Los Angeles, concluding the serial numbers had been hand-written by Steve Jobs.[42]

Hardware

Because the Apple I did not include a case, customers needed to supply their own.

The Apple I used a MOS Technologies 6502 microprocessor running at 1.022727 MHz, and its design was based largely on Wozniak's previous work centered around a Motorola 6800.[43] The unconventional clock speed was chosen to be a fraction (27) of the NTSC color carrier, which simplified video circuitry. 4 KB of memory was included on the base machine, which was expandable to 8 KB on-board and up to 64 KB by using an add-on card. On-board memory utilized newly-available 4Kbit DRAM chips, and was designed to be upgradeable to the next generation of 16Kbit chips for a maximum of 32 KB on-board memory.[44] An optional $75 plug-in cassette interface card allowed users to store programs on ordinary audio cassette tapes. A BASIC interpreter, originally written by Wozniak, was provided with the cassette interface that let users easily write programs and play simple games. An onboard AC power supply was included.

The Apple I did not come with a case. It could be used bare, though some users chose to build custom (typically wooden) enclosures.[45]

Video and Input

The Apple I included built-in computer terminal circuitry with composite video output. To use the computer, a user-supplied composite monitor and ASCII-encoded keyboard needed to be connected. If a monitor was not available, a standard television set could be used along with an RF modulator. In comparison, competing machines generally required an expensive dedicated video display terminal or teletypewriter. This, combined with its single-board construction, made the Apple I an elegant and inexpensive machine for its day, though competitors such as the Sol-20 and Sphere 1 offered similar feature sets.

A close-up of the top-left portion of the Apple I motherboard. The chips are arranged in a grid. One chip is larger than the rest and is placed horizontally rather than vertically.
The large, horizontal chip on the top-left of the main board is the Signetics 2513 character generator.
A table with four rows of 16 pixelated characters. There is no room for lowercase letters. The square bracket characters are noticeably thicker than the other symbols.
The Apple I character set

The computer generated its video output using a shift register memory and a Signetics 2513 64×8×5 Character Generator.[46] It was capable of displaying uppercase characters, numbers and basic punctuation and math symbols with a 5x8 pixel font:[47]

Signetics 2513
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
0x
0
@ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O
1x
16
P Q R S T U V W X Y Z [ \ ] ^ _
2x
32
 SP  ! " # $ % & ' ( ) * + , - . /
3x
48
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 : ; < = > ?
  Symbols and punctuation

Apple Cassette Interface expansion

A green circuit board with six chips in a row. There are two phone jacks in the top-left corner. A gold edge connector runs along the bottom of the board.
The Apple Cassette Interface expansion card. There are two phone connector ports for reading and writing programs to a connected cassette deck.

A cassette interface was available in the form of an optional add-on for the Apple I's expansion slot. A cassette deck plugged in to the expansion's phone connector ports could be written to and read from as a form of removable storage. The only alternative to the interface for loading programs was typing machine code by hand, making the add-on "ubiquitous".[48]: 3 

The expansion came with a free cassette tape with an Apple BASIC interpreter, and other software tapes were supplied "at minimal cost"[44] including ported video games such as Hamurabi, Lunar Lander and Star Trek.[3]

Conservation

A running Apple I, with a keyboard and monitor connected, on display at LCM+L where guests were allowed to use it

Only about 200 Apple I boards were produced,[29] and as of August 2022 the whereabouts of 62 to 82 are known.[49] After the success of the Apple II, and of Apple broadly, the Apple I was recognized as an important historical computer;[citation needed] according to the 1986 Apple IIe Owner's Guide, an Apple I was then worth "between $10,000 and $15,000"[h][51] and a board was reportedly sold for $50,000 in 1999.[i][52][circular reporting?]

In November 2010, an Apple I with a cache of original documents and packaging sold for £133,250 ($170,000)[j] at Christie's auction house in London. The documents included the return label showing Steve Jobs's parents' address, a personally typed and signed letter from Jobs (answering technical questions about the computer), and the invoice (listing "Steven" as the salesman). The computer was brought to Polytechnic University of Turin for restoration.[54][55][56]

In October 2014 the Henry Ford Museum purchased an Apple I at a Bonhams auction for $905,000.[k] The sale included the keyboard, monitor, cassette decks and a manual.[14] In 2017, an Apple I removed from Steve Jobs's office in 1985 by Apple quality control engineer Don Hutmacher was placed on display at Living Computers: Museum + Labs.[57]

On May 30, 2015, an elderly woman reportedly dropped off boxes of electronics for disposal at an electronics recycling center in the Silicon Valley of Northern California. Included in the electronics (removed from her garage after the death of her husband) was an original Apple I computer, which the recycling firm sold for $200,000. When a discarded item is sold, it is the company's practice to give 50% of the proceeds to the original owner,[58][59] but the woman has not been identified.[60]

Apple I computers with original documents and memorabilia have frequently been auctioned for over $300,000 throughout the 2010s[61][62][63][64] and 2020s.[65][66] The production prototype for the Apple I survives in a badly damaged state and was itself auctioned in 2022 for $677,196.[67][24][68][69]

Replicas

See also: Replica 1

Several Apple I clones and replicas have been released in recent years. These are created by hobbyists and marketed to the hobbyist/collector community. Availability is usually limited to small runs in response to demand.[70][71][72][73][74][75]

Emulation

Emulation software for the Apple I has been written for modern home computers[76][77][78] and for web browsers.[79] It has also been emulated on 1980s era computers including the SAM Coupé[80] and Commodore 64.[81]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The name is abbreviated as Apple-1 in original manuals and documentation.[2]
  2. ^ Apple retroactively refers to the computer as Apple I, beginning with catalogs from 1977.[3]
  3. ^ a price equivalent to $1000 in 2022[1]
  4. ^ a price equivalent to $140 in 2022[1]
  5. ^ equivalent to $2,600 in 2022[1]
  6. ^ equivalent to $3,400 in 2022[1]
  7. ^ equivalent to $2,300 in 2022[1]
  8. ^ equivalent to between $23,000 and $34,000 in 2022[50]
  9. ^ equivalent to $83,000 in 2022[50]
  10. ^ equivalent to £156,000 ($199,000) in 2019[53]
  11. ^ equivalent to $1.11 million in 2022[50]

References

Citations

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