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April 11, 2020

April 11, 1976: Apple I Computer Is Released

Developed by Steve Wozniak and marketed by Steve Jobs, the first Apple computer, the Apple I sold for $666.66 (equivalent to $3,000 in today). Years later, in 2014, a working Apple I will sell at auction for $905,000. Only 200 units of the Apple I were ever made, although just 63 are thought to still survive — and only 15 of these are documented as having worked since 2000.


To finance its creation, Jobs sold his only motorized means of transportation, a VW Microbus, for a few hundred dollars (Wozniak later said that Jobs planned instead to use his bicycle to get around), and Wozniak sold his HP-65 calculator for $500.

On March 5, 1975, Steve Wozniak attended the first meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club in Gordon French’s garage. He was so inspired that he immediately set to work on what would become the Apple I computer. After building it for himself and showing it at the Club, he and Steve Jobs gave out schematics (technical designs) for the computer to interested club members and even helped some of them build and test out copies. Then, Steve Jobs suggested that they design and sell a single etched and silkscreened circuit board—just the bare board, with no electronic parts—that people could use to build the computers.

Wozniak calculated that having the board design laid out would cost $1,000 and manufacturing would cost another $20 per board; he hoped to recoup his costs if 50 people bought the boards for $40 each. To fund this small venture—their first company—Jobs sold his van and Wozniak sold his HP-65 calculator. Very soon after, Steve Jobs arranged to sell “something like 50” completely built computers to the Byte Shop (a computer store in Mountain View, California) at $500 each. To fulfill the $25,000 order, they obtained $20,000 in parts at 30 days net and delivered the finished product in 10 days.

The Apple I’s built-in computer terminal circuitry was distinctive. All one needed was a keyboard and a television set. Competing machines such as the Altair 8800 generally were programmed with front-mounted toggle switches and used indicator lights (red LEDs, most commonly) for output, and had to be extended with separate hardware to allow connection to a computer terminal or a teletypewriter machine. This made the Apple I an innovative machine for its day.

In April 1977, the price was dropped to $475. 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. In October 1977, the Apple I was officially discontinued and removed from Apple’s price list. 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. These recovered boards were then destroyed by Apple, contributing to their rarity today.

Steve Wozniak (left) and Steve Jobs on display in front of the Apple I.

Steve Wozniak (left) and Steve Jobs on display in front of the Apple I.

Close-up of circuit board of the Apple I.

Close-up of circuit board of the Apple I.

Close-up keyboard of the Apple I.





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