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They may have found (most of) the Apple 1 Prototype Board

robert_sissco

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This may have been a prototype, but the true original prototype would probably have been a wire-wrapped affair, no?
I think this was the prototype of the retail version of the Apple I, of what would be sold in stores, not the ones where Woz was still building and designing them to get them to work. I think this was designed to show how the retail ones would work, to show that they would work.
 

robert_sissco

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retail? What retail do you imagine sold apple 1's?. Wasnt the only store the byte shop for only 50 units?
Still qualifies as retail, does it not? And from what I have heard, they demonstrated it at several places, Byte Shop just placed the largest order that got them off the ground initially.
 

falter

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Personally I would love to know the provenance on this board. Specifically why the owner never mentioned having it for over 30 years.

I did kinda wonder how you could be sure this is exactly what it purports to be. It's certainly not impossible to fake something like this.. the materials are there. There's also no vintage soldermask to contend with. I imagine if anything prototypes would be easier to forge, when you only have poor pics of one side of the original to look at, and no other verified original units in existence to compare with. Even the absence of critical components or incorrect looking traces could be explained away. For $1M, I'm surprised someone hasn't tried already.
 

robert_sissco

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My bet as to why he never mentioned it, to build the mystery behind it and sell it for more when he sent it to market. I mean, half a mil USD for a broken circuit board, that is a hella lota money for something that you know will not work.
 

Gary C

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Worth looking at the thread on this on applefritter. People who know Woz have commented on its history (like his dislike for wirewrap?)

Anyway the jobs and woz thing. Wouldn't have had apple without either but it is a shame Woz doesn't have the recognition too. Maybe he doesn't actually want it.
 

Gary C

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yes, we had managers who would get young engineers to do all the work and then publish the documents under their own name and take all the credit! I never subscribed to that at all...

Dave
Funny you mention it but mark p sent me a copy of an old computer alert notice I wrote that was turned into an engineering report about gas circ speed signals. I did all the work but it ended up with a certain current boss of Hinckley point C's name on it. You could only tell because the ECS plots had my name on them.

Fyi, Daver2 and I work for the same company.
 

Eudimorphodon

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Still qualifies as retail, does it not? And from what I have heard, they demonstrated it at several places, Byte Shop just placed the largest order that got them off the ground initially.

FWIW, "retail version" is kind of a non sequitur; Apple was sort of talked-into selling complete populated boards from an initial plan of selling kits/bare PCBs, but however they would have sold it it would have been the same board. (Which equally would have needed a functional prototype or two before running off big batches of them.)
 

Eudimorphodon

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Worth looking at the thread on this on applefritter.

Holy cow, reading through Uncle Bernie's posts on those threads really made my brain hurt. I want those minutes of my life back.

Edit: To make this post have at least a little signal to go with the noise, I'm going to chuck this out there: a very motivated poster in that thread is making huge hay over the fact that someone submitted to the IEEE Milestone Committee in 2013 a proposal to dedicate a plaque to the Apple one, with the following justification:

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

The features essential for a personal computer were first encompassed by the Apple I: a fully-assembled circuit board with dynamic RAM, video interface, keyboard, mass storage and a high-level programming language. This affordable computer platform triggered a software industry that grew as the sophistication of these essential features grew, and the Apple I thus helped launch the personal computer revolution.

Let's be clear about something: this proposal was submitted to committee by one motivated guy, this isn't the result of some huge group of engineers getting together and "scientifically" coming up with the definitive list of attributes which define what qualifies as a "personal computer". It's clearly a laundry list assembled specifically to elevate the Apple I. This is a politically motivated definition that makes zero actual sense.

(Why is it significant that the circuit board is preassembled when the rest of the machine wasn't? Who cares if it's DRAM or SRAM? Mass storage was extra, BTW... it just goes on and on. Nobody in their right mind would say buying an Apple I was the same experience as buying, say, a TRS-80 Model I, unless they paid someone else to put it together for them, and if you're paying someone else to put it together "turnkey" micros far more civilized than the Apple I had been on the market for several years by this point. It's complete BS, pure and simple.)

Edit the second: Here's more about the proposal. It is riddled with outright lies. For instance:

All computers before the Apple I, including hobby computers, had a front panel for entry of binary data into memory, for observing binary data in memory, and for running software. All computers after the Apple I followed its formula of startup code in ROM, keyboard input, a video display, and elimination of the front panel.

No. Show me the front panel, please. (All of these machines were on sale before the Apple 1, and started at roughly the same price ballpark for a minimal "sit down and type on it" system.):

593px-Sphere_Personal_Computer_Ad_January_1976.jpg

640px-SWTPC6800_Computer.jpg


poly88.jpeg

... Sigh.
 
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bzotto

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(Why is it significant that the circuit board is preassembled when the rest of the machine wasn't? Who cares if it's DRAM or SRAM? Mass storage was extra, BTW... it just goes on and on. Nobody in their right mind would say buying an Apple I was the same experience as buying, say, a TRS-80 Model I, unless they paid someone else to put it together for them, and if you're paying someone else to put it together "turnkey" micros far more civilized than the Apple I had been on the market for several years by this point. It's complete BS, pure and simple.)

I think crowning any particular product from that time the first of anything ends up ultimately being a sort of epistemological dead end. What is fascinating to me is that this period, roughly 1974-77, was like Florence in the Renaissance for this stuff. Serious advances were being measured in months or even weeks and there was so much that was just "in the air" and being hashed out at club meetings and by mail and phone between excited engineers, enthusiasts, and entrepreneurs. No one really knew what the future was going to look like as it was being shaped, and so many interesting ideas popped up all over the place.

Conveniently, I'm doing a talk at VCF West this weekend titled "Sphere 1: The First Modern Microcomputer", a distinction I just totally made up, based on vibes because it's useful as a lens for discussing the innovation that was happening.

There's no need to overthink the obvious historic significance of the Apple 1, technically and culturally. In terms of the industry, I do think it's interesting to e.g. consider the Apple 1's weirdly succinct ~12 page manual. At a time when micro systems all came with huge xeroxed binders stuffed with data sheets and theories of operation, I wonder whether the mass-market friendliness that the company eventually became known for was peeking through even then. (Too bad you had to BYO the transformers.) It was the Apple II that was the real watershed product.
 
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Al Kossow

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I think crowning any particular product from that time the first of anything ends up ultimately being a sort of epistemological dead end. What is fascinating to me is that this period, roughly 1974-77, was like Florence in the Renaissance for this stuff. Serious advances were being measured in months or even weeks and there was so much that was just "in the air" and being hashed out at club meetings and by mail and phone between excited engineers, enthusiasts, and entrepreneurs. No one really knew what the future was going to look like as it was being shaped, and so many interesting ideas popped up all over the place.

Conveniently, I'm doing a talk at VCF West this weekend titled "Sphere 1: The First Modern Microcomputer", a distinction I just totally made up, based on vibes because it's useful as a lens for discussing the innovation that was happening.

There's no need to overthink the obvious historic significance of the Apple 1, technically and culturally. In terms of the industry, I do think it's interesting to e.g. consider the Apple 1's weirdly succinct ~12 page manual. At a time when micro systems all came with huge xeroxed binders stuffed with data sheets and theories of operation, I wonder whether the mass-market friendliness that the company eventually became known for was peeking through even then. (Too bad you had to BYO the transformers.) It was the Apple II that was the real watershed product.
"advances were being measured in months or even weeks"
fast forward 50 years, and thanks to the web that has been cut down to literally minutes worldwide.
I was there then, and maybe if you were in the Valley or Boston, word of mouth spread in days, but
turn around time was literally waiting for the month's Byte or Computer Hobbyist

I was working for The Itty Bitty Machine Co in Shorewood, WI (connected to IBMC in Evanston, IL and Ted Nelson https://archive.org/details/Itty_Bitty_Machine_Company_brochure_1976-08 ) when the Apple I came out. Literally no one
paid attention to it. One just sat on the table in the back of the store, ignored.
 
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Eudimorphodon

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I think crowning any particular product from that time the first of anything ends up ultimately being a sort of epistemological dead end. What is fascinating to me is that this period, roughly 1974-77, was like Florence in the Renaissance for this stuff. Serious advances were being measured in months or even weeks and there was so much that was just "in the air" and being hashed out at club meetings and by mail and phone between excited engineers, enthusiasts, and entrepreneurs. No one really knew what the future was going to look like as it was being shaped, and so many interesting ideas popped up all over the place.

Yes. And what's really annoying about this pointless exercise is that some of the people that get really invested in some particular candidate (which is a really common disease among those pushing the Apple-1, sorry, gotta call it out) just completely miss through their willful ignorance is how insulting it is to just discard and denigrate the efforts of all those other people working in the field in their drive to crown a winner. There was a positively Biblical-level flood of technical innovation going on in the computer technology field in the early 1970's and every drop of it it raised all boats together. It is seriously not okay to just arbitrarily give the crown to somebody based on a completely made-up set of arbitrary criteria like "oh, that one has two circuit boards instead of one, NOT A PERSONAL COMPUTER".

And the other thing that really ticks me off about this is all the pretending that this paradigm of "a machine you can use just sitting down at a keyboard and looking at a screen" was invented by microcomputers at all, let alone by Steve Wozniak with the Apple-1. (I've noted before how, unfortunately, Woz's autobiography, is a serious offender here. If you took it as your only source you'd not only believe that he invented the first video screen connected to a microprocessor, you could be forgiven for coming away with the impression that it was Woz that actually was the one that figured out that microprocessors could be used to power real-time interactive computers, period. I mean, seriously, parts of the book read like he thinks that the manufacturers of these chips started churning them out after they found the plans in a green meteorite that also had a suspiciously burly baby in it, with no idea what they had on their hands.) The idea of a computer that had an interactive terminal and was at the beck and call of a single individual dates back in prototype form to the early 1950's. There are so many machines going back to at least the mid-1960's that are better "personal computers" than the Apple I by any number of measures, the only disqualifications are size and price, And of course those are both completely subjective criteria.

At a superficial level the only thing distinguishing 1973's Wang 2200 from 1977's TRS-80 Model I is a roughly 10x spread in purchase price:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/db/Wang_System_2200_Computer_1974.jpg/341px-Wang_System_2200_Computer_1974.jpg


Obviously that's a pretty big deal, it's the difference between a nice used car and a badly used house, and technically one is implemented with a single-chip microprocessor instead of a wad of medium-integration ICs, but the point is that everybody knew where they were going with this. It was all a matter of making it smaller and cheaper. Nobody gets to wear the "inventor" crown here, sorry.

I do think it's interesting to e.g. consider the Apple 1's weirdly succinct ~12 page manual. At a time when micro systems all came with huge xeroxed binders stuffed with data sheets and theories of operation, I wonder whether the mass-market friendliness that the company eventually became known for was peeking through even then.

That's an... interesting take on "friendliness", there. It's certainly thinner than the manuals that would come with systems where the option existed to solder up the PCBs from a bare kit, but, well... it kind of goes without saying that you could skimp on a fair amount of the theory of operation necessary to bootstrap the machine from a bare pile of circuits if the assumption is somebody did all that testing before it went out the door. The manual nonetheless has schematics on half the pages, and the "usage instructions", such as they are, consist of two pages of machine language monitor syntax, two and a half pages of an assembly language listing of the ROM, and a "HOW TO EXPAND THE SYSTEM" page that would be complete gibberish to someone who wasn't pretty well versed in 6502/6800 hardware theory. In short, "succinct" could very much be a synonym for "incomplete".

This is what a friendly user manual looks like. We might laugh at how goofy and simplistic this is to our modern jaded eyes, but if we think the definition of "personal computer" implies a machine usable (inside of a reasonably short learning curve) by someone with qualifications little beyond a decent grasp of English and basic mathematics the humble Trash-80 has a really strong claim thanks to its manual alone.
TRS80-manual.png

I mean, seriously, let's get real here, on the Apple I you not only had to load BASIC from a tape, all you had from power-on was this minimal monitor, Apple I BASIC doesn't even have save and load commands! There's "succinct" and then there's "unfinished"...
 
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falter

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Yeah Uncle Bernie's criteria are a little.. skewed. You can really go nuts with semantics on this stuff. It's like asking 'what was the first video card'? Well, do you mean literally a card? A card that puts out video of *any* kind (maybe the VDM-1), or a graphics card (Dazzler, GT-6144). Do you mean only for home computers or business computers?

The IEEE motion is a crank spouting nonsense to make their favorite more than it is.
 

VERAULT

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i respect the hell out of WOZ... But I agree with Eudimorphodon about the comments Woz made in his book I-Woz. I read it.. It was a pretty terrible read. I dunno... did he write it or have a ghost writer? Some people just dont have it in them to actually write a book let alone ones own story. If he did write it.. well the man did get brain trauma in a plane crash... so i dunno.

The book came off super grandiose although i have to believe he didnt mean it to be... but regardless it was a dissapointingly bad book.


Computers have been in constant development since the early 20th century... in an electronic capacity that is. I believe these ignorant jobs worshipers think everyone had paper and pencil until the apple 1... yeah its insulting to completely ignore everyone elses accomplishments up until that point.


I consider my wang 700 an early computer.. It has multi peripherals.. cassette based program storage and a character display and extended keyboard... sounds like a computer to me.... 1970.... think it beats the apple 1 by 6 or more years.
 
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Eudimorphodon

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The book came off super grandiose although i have to believe he didnt mean it to be... but regardless it was a dissapointingly bad book.

Unfortunately his autobiography isn't a one-off, he comes across sounding pretty insulting in interviews on the topic quite a bit. Take this gem from an interview from Founders at Work as an example.

Everybody else in the world, the Altair, the Sphere computers, the Polymorphic computers, the Insight computers, every one was designed by basically insufficient engineers, not top quality engineers...

I've seen/heard plenty of other examples in various interviews where he comes across as either self-aggrandizing or, honestly, just kind of clueless about what other people were up to. And... honestly, I try not to hold it against him. I'm not going to take a position on this, I'm not a doctor nor a psychologist, but the fact is there seems to be a pretty wide consensus that Woz is probably "on the spectrum" to some degree. And... this would explain a few things.

FWIW, I also have a pet theory that association with Jobs might have also trained him to perfect the art of building yourself up by tearing others down. Obviously I don't know exactly what the dynamic of their relationship really was, but Jobs' whole deal was strategically deployed self-promotion and puffery, and it's pretty clear based on some of the anecdotes about their relationship that Jobs wasn't shy about deploying various types of emotional manipulation as necessary. Stuff like that has got to rub off.

But whatever's going it is critical to remember we're dealing with an unreliable narrator. Distribute grains of salt appropriately.
 
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falter

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I've read that Woz was pretty sheltered and probably was just unaware of what else was going on. I remember reading a passage somewhere where he talked about being astonished to learn of the microprocessor, sometime in 1975. I gotta think it's possible to be unaware - I came up in the 90s and as far as I knew Commodore consisted of the PET, the VIC, the 64 and the Amiga. I only learned of the TED machines and the KIM via ebay in the late 90s.

One rhetorical question I have - if Jobs hadn't come back to Apple - if it had died under Sculley in the mid 90s - would anyone be willing to pay $500k to $1M for an Apple-1? Would people like Uncle Bernie still be singing its praises, hailing it as a game changing machine and the first 'true' personal computer?
 

NeXT

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No. It would be as valuable as a KIM-1 in the sense that it was sold by a now dead computer company, technically now owned by one or more subsidiaries, which it to say it would still be a grand or two at best.
 

stepleton

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Once rarity is accounted for, I think price largely boils down to the nostalgia, so if we're considering a world where Apple dies around '97 or '98, we have to contrast the amount of hypothetical Apple nostalgia against the amount of real-world Commodore nostalgia that exists today.

I can't speak for Europe, but in the USA, a lot more people who are grown-ups today may have encountered various Apples in school computer labs than CBM kit; furthermore, by the mid-'90s, the popular wisdom was that Apple brought the GUI to the masses and "Mac vs. PC" was already a legendary battle. For this reason I predict there would be more nostalgia for Apple than for CBM, and the Apple-1 would still be considerably more pricey than a KIM-1. Not six or seven figures --- I reckon more like 2x to 10x maybe.

This has nothing to do with claims of the Apple-1 being the "first PC", which I think are pretty silly.
 

Gary C

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Holy cow, reading through Uncle Bernie's posts on those threads really made my brain hurt. I want those minutes of my life back.

I certainly wasn't endorsing some of the posts (though Uncle Bernies Apple 1 kits are very useful) but some (such as Mike Willegal) have contact with Woz and have some useful insights and Corey does seem to be the authority on the A1

I have refrained from commenting on the 'first personal computer' thread because its a bottomless pit with little meaning.

But the DRAM/Single board bit seems perverse and designed to remove S100 systems and others.
 
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falter

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Once rarity is accounted for, I think price largely boils down to the nostalgia, so if we're considering a world where Apple dies around '97 or '98, we have to contrast the amount of hypothetical Apple nostalgia against the amount of real-world Commodore nostalgia that exists today.

I can't speak for Europe, but in the USA, a lot more people who are grown-ups today may have encountered various Apples in school computer labs than CBM kit; furthermore, by the mid-'90s, the popular wisdom was that Apple brought the GUI to the masses and "Mac vs. PC" was already a legendary battle. For this reason I predict there would be more nostalgia for Apple than for CBM, and the Apple-1 would still be considerably more pricey than a KIM-1. Not six or seven figures --- I reckon more like 2x to 10x maybe.

This has nothing to do with claims of the Apple-1 being the "first PC", which I think are pretty silly.
Up here in Canada I didn't encounter Apple much at all as a kid. I was aware of it, but only a few family friends had Apple IIs or Macs.. most, if they even had a computer, were Commodore. Aa a child I remember being underwhelmed by the IIe our school had vs my C64. While Apple has a far wider audience due to iPhone and other gadgets, I feel like Commodore has far more cultural appreciation than Apple in terms of computers. There's 100,000,000 Commodore themed YouTube channels. Lots of Apple too but not nearly the same level IMHO. Up here Apple was just too expensive and seemed primitive compared to Commodore, at least as far as a game loving kid was concerned. Maybe it was different in America.
 
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