The Original Apple-1 Prototype Woz Hand Soldered For Steve Jobs Is Up For Auction

Apple-1 prototype with a missing chunk on the upper-right
An historic piece of computing history is up for auction and could end up fetching $500,000 or more when it ends in a little over three weeks from now. What's up for grabs is an original Apple-1 computer prototype, the exact one Steve Jobs demonstrated to Paul Terrell, owner of The Byte Shop in Mountain View, California, way back in 1976.

That was a crucial moment in time because it effectively kick started a company that today is a massive entity with a $2.48 trillion market cap. Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne founded Apple on April 1, 1976. Less than two weeks later, Wayne sold his 10 percent stake back to Jobs and Woz for $800 (hindsight, eh?), and it was not long after when the pair showcased the Apple-1 prototype at the Homebrew Computer Club, where Terrell was in attendance.

Jobs visited Terrell's shop the next day and attempted to sell the Apple-1 as a barebones circuit board. Terrell ended up ordering 50 units at $500 each, with the agreement that they would be in assembled form. Jobs took that to mean an assembled circuit board (no chassis, keyboard, or monitor) and that's what he delivered, marking Apple's first real sale. The rest is history.

It all started with the Apple-1 prototype that's now up for auction. According to RR Auction where the rare computer is offered, it's been verified as authentic by matching it to Polaroid photos that Terrell snapped in 1976.

The listing breaks down some notable differences between the prototype and production Apple-1, and one thing that stands out is how it was built to function.

"Another important characteristic of this prototype is that it appears to have been hand-soldered by Steve Wozniak, whose unusual 'three handed' technique—wire in one hand, soldering iron in the other, and solder held in his mouth—is evident in the tight 'bubbles' formed at the soldered connections," the auction site states. "Several 'point to point' circuit corrections were made on the back of the prototype to make the system functional, and appropriate revisions were incorporated into the first production run of Apple-1 PCBs."

Apple-1 prototype with missing piece in the upper-right corner (top view)
Source: RR Auction

Unfortunately, there is some damage to the board. There's an entire chunk missing from the upper-right section that is presumed to be missing. On the bright side, photos of the board when it was whole make it possible to reimagine the missing section, if someone wanted to undertake the task.

Even with the missing piece, however, this is a desirable collector's piece. It's also an expensive one—after 15 bids, it's sitting at $278.005. The next bid has to be at least $305,806. As a point of reference, a fully operational Apple-1 with Woz's autograph on the CPU recently fetched $340,100 on eBay. And the most paid for an Apple-1 was $905,000 in 2014.

The auction for the Apple-1 prototype ends on August 18, 2022.

Top Image Source: RR Auction