The first Apple computer was a kit. These early versions were hand-built by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and first shown publicly at meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club. This club was an informal, Silicon Valley-based group of electronic enthusiasts and technically-inclined hobbyists. In other words, nerds – über nerds, with a number of infamous hackers and future entrepreneurs among its members.
The Apple I was essentially a motherboard, with CPU, RAM, and basic text/video chips on a single board (see above). You had to build your own enclosure, and provide your own keyboard and monitor. But it was a fully functioning system on a single circuit board, it was reasonably affordable – and that was a breakthrough at the time. Apple had incorporated a few months earlier (on April 1st), but this was their first product to make it to market.
[A side note: A little over a year later, Connecting Point – then known as TEAM Electronics, on E Street in Grants Pass – would become one of the very first retailers in the world to sell and service the newly-introduced Apple II – launching a decades-long partnership between the two companies that persists to this day.]
Its $666.66 price tag works out to about $2,800 in 2014 dollars, adjusting for inflation – which may seem a bit steep for such a rudimentary device. But recent auctions have seen original Apple I’s selling for as much as $50,000. They’re extremely rare, and an important part of computing history. The Apple I paved the way for the revolution to come.
So check your attic. Scour your garage. Look under the bench in your cellar workshop. You may be sitting on a goldmine.