Unwitting Woman Recycles Rare Apple 1 Computer Worth $200K, Could Still Recoup $100K

CleanBayArea, a Silicon Valley recycling center, is looking to put $100,000 in the hands of a woman who obliviously parted with an original Apple I computer. One of only 200 such systems constructed in 1976 by Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the recycling facility sold the early desktop computer to a private collector for $200,000 and is determined to make good on its policy of splitting sales proceeds with their donors.


Vice President of CleanBayArea Victor Gichun says that the Apple I computer was mixed in with a number of boxes full of electronics that the 60-something-year-old woman brought in following the death of her husband, flotsam from a clean up of the family garage. It wasn't until some weeks after the dump-and-run, though, that workers at the facility pawed through the boxes and found the rare Apple I computer.

"We really couldn't believe our eyes. We thought it was fake," Gichun told KNTV-TV.

The unknowing recycler didn't want a tax receipt and she didn't provide any contact information.

Considered groundbreaking for its time, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built the first 50 Apple I systems for Paul Terrell's Byte Shop chain in 1976 at a per unit cost of $500 (Terrell sold the computers for $666.66) in just 30 days, financing the effort by selling Jobs's VW Microbus and Wozniak's HP-65 calculator. Following that burst of activity they then assembled another 150 Apple I computers for friends and other shops.

Of the 200 Apple I systems Jobs and Wozniak produced, it is believed that only about 60 still exist today and that less than 20 of those are in working order. A functioning example was won at auction last year by the Henry Ford Museum for $905,000, trumping the $671,400 paid just a year earlier for another such system at an auction in Germany. It is not known whether the Apple I the California woman discarded was boot-up capable at the time of its abandonment.

Victor Gichun says he would be able to recognize the Apple I's previous owner, and he hopes she will return to the recycling company to pick up her $100,000 check. No mention was made, though, as to whether he also harbors hopes of another lucrative head-in-the-clouds dropoff.