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1976 wooden Apple-1 computer sells for $400K at auction

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A rare piece of digital history went up for auction this week.

A beautifully hand-crafted, wooden Apple-1 computer, built in 1976 by the tech giant’s founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, fetched $400,000 at John Moran auctions this week in Monrovia, California, near Los Angeles.

The machinery — specifically, the motherboard — is encased in wood carved from the Hawaiian koa tree, and represents just one of only 200 that were made. The full kit also features a built-in keyboard, a detached Panasonic monitor, two cassette tapes of Apple software and a user manual — and is among perhaps 20 or so continuously functioning systems in the world.

The computer had only two previous owners, noted John Moran Auctioneers, the second of whom purchased the piece from the original owner, his Chaffey College professor of programming, for $650 in 1977. The former student, who remained unidentified, kept the “Chaffey College” Apple-1 personal computer in operable order.

Apple-1 computer made of koa wood
The still-operating unit would have been sold for $666.66 in 1976 during Apple’s launch.
John Moran Auctioneers
Apple-1 made of Koa wood
Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne, created their Apple-1 prototype in a garage in the mid-1970s.
John Moran Auctioneers

“This is kind of the holy grail for vintage electronics and computer tech collectors,” said Apple-1 expert Corey Cohen in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “That really makes it exciting for a lot of people.”

Wozniak and Jobs, along with co-founder Ronald Wayne, created their Apple-1 prototype from a garage in Palo Alto, California, some 45 years ago.

The first Apple-1 computers were sold in 1976 with a cheeky price tag of $666.66.

“While that sounds pretty ominous, 666, it’s because Steve Wozniak likes repeating numbers,” Cohen told NPR’s “Morning Edition.” “Even his own phone number at the time had a repeating number.”

Apple-1 made of Koa wood
The wooden case was fashioned by the Byte Shop, the first retailer to sell Apple products, in Mountain View, California.
John Moran Auctioneers
Apple-1 made of Koa wood
The Hawaiian koa wood exterior is even rarer today as industrial deforestation has reduced the native tree’s prevalence on the islands.
John Moran Auctioneers

The wooden case which held the Apple founders’ technology was fashioned by the Byte Shop, the first retailer to sell their products, in Mountain View, California. It is only one of six Apple-1’s featuring the koa exterior — valued even higher today as industrial deforestation has reduced the native Hawaiian tree’s prevalence.

The winning bidder has not been reported — though they apparently scored a pretty good deal compared to the previous Apple-1 computer sold at a Bonhams auction in New York in 2014, for an impressive $905,000.

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