back to article Apple-1 prototype hand-soldered by Woz up for auction, bids expected to reach $500k

Got several hundred thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket? Why waste it investing in further education, or paying off debts, when you can spend it on an original "Apple Computer A" prototype, right, Jobs fans? apple computer A being sold by RR Auction Pic via RR Auction This specific piece of hardware is expected …

  1. imanidiot Silver badge

    Why the heck is a broken remnant like this worth that much?? Sure it's history, but is it REALLY 500k USD interesting

    Also: "three-handed" (two hands and a mouth really) soldering technique: with Wozniak holding the solder between his teeth" -> Yummy, lead poisoning.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Didn't he have enough fingers? I easily manage soldering with iron in one hand, solder in the other, and holding something else with the fingers that aren't holding the solder.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        You are Big Clive and I claim my £5

      2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

        I have short fingers and still manage. Solder between index and thumb, wire between any other fingers, and iron in the other hand.

        Face stays away from the smoke because solder evaporates when it's hot. A tall desk works well.

        1. that one in the corner Silver badge

          Your solder evaporates?

          You may want to turn down your iron!

    2. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge

      I wouldn't be too concerned about the amount of lead being ingested by holding solder between one's teeth. It would be insignificant compared to the Tetra Ethyl Lead used to enhance the octane rating of petrol back in the day.

      I would be more worried about having my face close to the soldered items and breathing in the flux fumes...

      1. that one in the corner Silver badge

        Breathing in flux fumes

        It was just pine rosin, like sitting in front of a cosy fire inside your log cabin retreat.

        Nothing to worry about compared to the rest of the crap in the air in the 1970s, anti-knock lead aside.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Breathing in flux fumes

          Danger Will Robinson!

          from hse.gov.uk:

          "Rosin-based solder flux fume is now regarded as one of the most significant causes of occupational asthma in Britain. When the asthmatic effects are fully developed they are permanent and irreversible. Continued exposure, even to very small amounts of fume, may cause asthma attacks and the person affected may be unable to do any soldering with rosin-based fluxes again. "

          Though I guess rosin fumes are a miniscule risk compared to the other fire dangers of Log Cabin Retreats currently, sad to say.

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        That's why you gently breathe out as you are soldering.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Why the heck is a broken remnant like this worth that much?? Sure it's history, but is it REALLY 500k USD interesting"

      Depends who you ask I suppose. Just look at the antiquities market. Or the plastic Star Wars figurine market. Or the Cindy doll market :-)

      Collectors will pay a lot for what they and/or their peers/community think might be valuable. First editions always command much higher prices.

    4. EricB123 Silver badge

      Pb for All

      I used to know a technician who kept a roll of solder so he could chew on it to relax. I think I'll just stick to eating a can of tuna each day.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge
        Coat

        Re: Pb for All

        I find that cans are too hard. Solder is nice and chewy.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Pb for All

        lead tastes sweet, it's one of the reasons kids would knaw on windowsills

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Holmes

    I am the despair of the antique auction trade

    If it don't work, I don't care who built it, I don't want it.

    Fetishising non-functional technology will only lead to tears.

    I did discover recently a group dedicated to making exact replicas of early apples, with long and involved discussions about chip date-codes and the proper amount of crinkle in the solder-resist... so obviously I am a minority.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: I am the despair of the antique auction trade

      Alternatively you may be interested in a novelty clock made out of a case and a motherboard from a working computer (which is now not working)?

    2. DS999 Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: I am the despair of the antique auction trade

      So I guess you're not interested in the second Antikythera mechanism I just found that I'm willing to sell you for $100, since like the first it is all rusted up and doesn't work? That's fine, I'll just put on eBay instead.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: I am the despair of the antique auction trade

        I'm not opposed to owning decorative pieces though I vastly prefer that they be usable (e.g. I have a number of hundred year old cameras, all of which work and all of which I occasionally use.)

        What I object to is this fetishisation: an object acquires value based on who made it, not on any intrinsic value that that person has added. In this case, there is no significant difference between this unit and any of the initial batch, apart from (a) who built them and (b) this one's broken. It's like the importance of the provenance in a painting: the collectors aren't collecting art; they're collecting people.

        A plague on all their houses.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: I am the despair of the antique auction trade

          Out of curiosity, what are the 100 year old cameras you have? Cheap and cheerful Box Brownie affairs or high end well known makes? If the latter, why those and not the cheaper ones?

          I'll be more impressed if they are functional, serviceable, "unknowns" rather than from the prestigious names:-)

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: I am the despair of the antique auction trade

            MPP press cameras, 4x5"; a couple of Sandersons in Quarter plate (and a couple I've designed and built myself, plus a modern commercial, all 4x5).

            So all serviceable, well enough known, but there are other better known names out there. It's a small field, though, at this distance :) I would have had to pay a lot more for a modern equivalent; an Ebony or Ghibelini or similar.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: I am the despair of the antique auction trade

        "So I guess you're not interested in the second Antikythera mechanism I just found that I'm willing to sell you for $100, since like the first it is all rusted up and doesn't work?"

        Other than for me to sell it instead of you and get the profit, no, not interested at all. I don't see much value in having a chunk of rusty metal sitting in my house. I'd consider buying a working Antikythera mechanism as a curiosity, but not for the price it would actually cost to build one. It's only about functional or artistic value to me, and although it has historical value, my stuff isn't a museum collection. In fact, when something has historical value, I want it less because having it makes it unavailable to a museum which can use it properly. I would score low on a sentimentality index.

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: I am the despair of the antique auction trade

      Yeah, I had a plate 77 unfranked penny red stamp. Apparently it can’t be used to send a letter through the post. Useless piece of rubbish, stuck it in the shredder.

    4. adam 40 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: I am the despair of the antique auction trade

      Quite right, in the recent Sputnik auction, Breker wondered why I didn't bid. So I replied:

      1. There is no accompanying documentation which would help to verify provenance.

      2. Not even a letter from the vendor stating the circumstances of his purchase, date of purchase etc.

      3. Only three photographs of the item were provided, and no internal photographs. No 360 degree coverage either.

      4. Condition-wise a number of modifications were disclosed, but without more details of the modifications (such as schematics, detailed photographs, notes and/or an engineer's report) it is difficult to know how much of the original electronics remain.

      5. Having compared the existing photographs with those of the most faithful reproduction I could find, a number of discrepancies were observed.

      In particular around the antenna mountings and possibly the construction of the antennas. This is inconsistent with the requirements for EMC/EMI testing where the sample should be representative of the original.

      However, a test report mentioning these differences would have gone some way to explaining this.

      6. The construction of the casing shows 4 extra screws that are not apparent on any other photographs of other Sputniks (including those of the original Sputnik 1)

      7. The construction of the stand isn't consistent with the 1957 Russian stand. I expect it was made later?

      8. The original silver-zinc battery has been removed from the casing, but is not included in the sale. (I know this would have discharged long ago, but nevertheless it's an important part of the history.)

      9. The mention of raspberries in your email was quite off-putting! But the whole story seemed to be quite surreal and didn't mention Sputnik once.

      Finally, although the opening bid was reduced to 80,000 Euro verbally, the online ask bid was not. Although without documentation as mentioned above, I would have been unlikely to part with anything approaching 80k Euro, this may have deterred other bidders.

  3. original_rwg
    Joke

    NFT

    Makes an NFT look like it has some value.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NFT

      Just as with NFTs and physical art, it's not about the value to the individual, it's about speculation and tax avoidance.

  4. Snake Silver badge

    Open source?

    Interesting: Woz was essentially making the Apple 1 designs completely open source.

    To which Jobs took it closed source to make a [very] handsome profit (together).

    So we celebrate the collapse of open source with vast sums of money for a token of this, plus celebrate it by granting Apple billions upon billions of dollars.

    ...

    Eh, it's a living.

    1. elaar

      Re: Open source?

      Yes, Woz is a technical legend. Jobs was technically useless and manipulative.

      And yet all of the fanboys love Jobs.

      There's many examples, such as Atari and Woz/Jobs with Breakout.

      1. ThomH

        Re: Open source?

        Woz is massively overrated; have you ever tried programming for a system he designed?

        The rule for whether base or auxiliary RAM is visible in the region $2000–$3FFF on an Apple IIe is that it'll be the latter if: (i) the 80STORE, PAGE2 and HIRES soft switches are all set; or (ii) the 80STORE switch is reset but the RAMRD switch is set. Otherwise it'll contain base RAM.

        There are similar rules pertaining to the other nine irregularly-sized memory regions that fill its 64kb of address space.

        Think that's just a corner the team was backed into by a desire for compatibility with the existing ROMs? Then you're wrong as per the IIgs, which amongst other things introduces shadowing (using a fast part of RAM as a write-through cache for a slow part, essentially) and invents another set of arcane rules about what situations lead to shadowing of what.

        Probably its best feature is having 'graphics' in the name while offering nothing beyond a plain single-buffered frame buffer (no hardware scrolling, no blitting, nothing), and putting that behind a 1Mhz 8-bit bus.

        With the IIgs Woz achieved what Apple hadn't otherwise managed: to kill the Apple II.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Open source?

          Writing odd values to odd addresses to page memory is par-for-the-course on 8-bit machines, the Commodore 64's memory map was probably just as crazy. The IIe had even more reason to do this than the C64 as it was maintaining backwards compatibility with computers and expansion cards over 6 years, the C64 didn't have that excuse.

          The IIgs could throw everything out and start again as it was 16-bit, it would make no sense to use the same memory map as its predecessors unless it's emulating software for them.

          The main thing that killed the IIgs was Apple deciding to artificially limit the speed of it to 2.8Mhz so it wouldn't compete with the Mac or any other 16-bit computer of the time.

          Also, the main thing that killed the III was Jobs deciding he wanted the case just so as it looked good and the board components had to be crammed into such a small space and he didn't like fans because they made a noise so it overheated, the result was the computer was guaranteed to cook itself.

          Woz I doubt was responsible for making the IIgs artificially slow and definitely wasn't responsible for silly case and ventilation decisions as he's on record as saying it was designed by marketing (aka Jobs).

          1. ThomH

            Re: Open source?

            > Writing odd values to odd addresses to page memory is par-for-the-course on 8-bit machines, the Commodore 64's memory map was probably just as crazy.

            As per above, this isn't about writing odd values to odd addresses. It's about triggering a bunch of soft switches — which are flipped one way or the other by access to a single address — with each individual chunk of memory having two or three different reasons it might be pointing at one thing rather than another.

            If you had programmed any other 8-bit machine you'd know this is not the norm. Every other machine uses: (i) regularly-sized memory areas; (ii) with a single point of control.

            If you're a fan of everything being possible in two or three ways, each method being a particular combination of two or three other discrete inputs then, yeah, there's a lot to like in the world of Woz.

            > The main thing that killed the IIgs was Apple deciding to artificially limit the speed of it to 2.8Mhz so it wouldn't compete with the Mac or any other 16-bit computer of the time.

            The speed-limiting factor in an Apple IIgs is the available speed of RAM.

            The 65816, like the 6502 before it, requires RAM accesses be completed in a single cycle.

            The 68000 provides at least four cycles for any RAM access to be complete.

            There is a conspiracy theory, which often nonsensically fingers Steve Jobs himself from then beyond the Apple grave, that the clock was limited, but basic facts seem to disagree.

            See also the Apple IIc+, which Apple launched two years after the IIgs and which ran at a nominal 8Mhz. It achieved that by using a cache between processor and bus. And Apple achieved that by licensing the cache from a third party.

            Even if they had magical superfast consumer RAM, to me it seems improbable that Apple could produce a faster Apple II machine in 1986, but had forgotten by 1988 and had to pay somebody else to help out.

            > Woz I doubt was responsible for making the IIgs artificially slow

            Right, because nobody was.

            1. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: Open source?

              If you had programmed any other 8-bit machine you'd know this is not the norm. Every other machine uses: (i) regularly-sized memory areas; (ii) with a single point of control.

              Going to have to disagree with that one. Take a look at the Spectrum +2A/+3's memory map. You OUT to one port setting a bit which turns on the special +2A/+3 memory map mode and then set or unset two other bits which choose which of the four special maps you want to use. Or you don't set the special bit and use the previous 128K/+2 memory map with the slight difference that you set or unset a further bit which is the upper bit of which of the four ROM banks you want in the bottom 16K.

              Then is another port which you OUT to which sets up the 128K/+2 memory mapping. You set or unset the bottom bit of which of the four ROM banks you want in the bottom 16K (however if you really are on a 128K/+2 then the upper bit in the port mentioned above doesn't exist and you're only switching between two ROM banks using this bit) and set or unset three bits which select which RAM bank is active in the top 16K. Also, just becuse, setting or clearing another bit will switch the screen which is displayed.

              Or you can select Spectrum 48K mode with another bit and then there's no way back.

              With a C64, near the top of the memory there are a bunch of banks. The first bank is RAM or overwritten with the low part of the cartridge ROM if you have the cartridge plugged in. Then above this bank you have a bank with the BASIC ROM, or RAM, or overwritten with the high part of the cartridge ROM if you have a cartridge plugged in. Next there is a bit of RAM, above that a smaller bank which can be I/O, RAM, or the character ROM. Finally there is the kernel ROM or the high part of the cartridge ROM if you have a cartridge plugged in - again.

              If you're a fan of everything being possible in two or three ways, each method being a particular combination of two or three other discrete inputs then, yeah, there's a lot to like in the world of Woz.

              If you set 80STORE you're saying you want to page in display memory and the PAGE2 and HIRES bits allow you to choose the amount of memory, depending on the current screen resolution. Or if you're just interested in RAM use RAMRD and you get all the alterate RAM paged in for reading including the display memory.

              Given that if you use RAMRD you could page out the code you're currently executing, being able to page just the display memory is useful if you're only interested in accessing the display memory.

              There is a conspiracy theory, which often nonsensically fingers Steve Jobs himself from then beyond the Apple grave, that the clock was limited, but basic facts seem to disagree.

              Apple IIgs on old-computers.com:

              Sales were strong initially and the IIGS even outsold the black and white Macintosh units that were its contemporary. Sadly, Apple wanted Macintosh to be its future. The total number of advertisements and commercials for the IIGS could probably be counted on one hand. If the computer had been introduced a year or two earlier, things might have been different. The Apple IIGS disappeared from the market in 1992.

              In one final gasp, the Apple II supporters at Apple designed the Apple IIGS Plus, code named "Mark Twain". It had an 8Mhz 65C816, a built in SuperDrive, 2MB on the motherboard, and a hard drive. Prototypes leaked out and a user group that has one and wrote a series of articles about it. Apple management vetoed this unit.

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

              2. ThomH

                Re: Open source?

                > In one final gasp, the Apple II supporters at Apple designed the Apple IIGS Plus, code named "Mark Twain". It had an 8Mhz 65C816, a built in SuperDrive, 2MB on the motherboard, and a hard drive. Prototypes leaked out and a user group that has one and wrote a series of articles about it. Apple management vetoed this unit.

                The Mark Twain was designed in 1991, a full five years after the release and therefore likely six or more after the design of the original IIgs.

                Nevertheless, per the only owner of one:

                > Despite rumors that the Mark Twain is a speed demon, a standard 65C816-4 CPU running at 2.8 Mhz is found in the same physical location as it is on the other IIGS models.

        2. ChrisC Silver badge

          Re: Open source?

          "Probably its best feature is having 'graphics' in the name while offering nothing beyond a plain single-buffered frame buffer (no hardware scrolling, no blitting, nothing)"

          Other than the Amiga, how many of the IIgs's competitors offered any of those things?

          1. ThomH

            Re: Open source?

            That's a selective quote; the point is that the CPU has to do the work, but can't do that efficiently because of the 1MHz bus.

            If the question were which other machines don't offer hardware and also offer such speed-limited memory access then the answer would be 'none'.

            1. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: Open source?

              This source disagrees:

              On the Apple IIgs, the 256K of built-in main memory is divided into two sections: The "fast" RAM, banks 00 and 01, and the "slow" RAM, banks E0 and E1. CPU access to slow RAM required the CPU to slow to the 1MHz speed of the earlier Apple II models. (Later models with 1MB on board are similar, just with more fast RAM).

              It's possible to set a soft switch ($C035) to control write shadowing, in which writes to bank 00 and 01 are copied automagically into banks E0 and E1. This allows the CPU to run at full speed while accessing this memory. The primary purpose of this was to allow the CPU to write data into the video buffer, which was in slow RAM, without slowing down.

              So it is only a section of memory that is slowed down to 1MHz (screen display and I/O so disk drives keep working), and there is a solution which allows the screen to be written to at near full speed.

              I quoted the question for clarity but the answer agrees with the question and goes into more detail.

              1. ThomH

                Re: Open source?

                Yeah, you've misunderstood the source.

                The mechanism described uses banks $00 and $01 as a write-through cache for banks $e0 and $e1. Writes still occur at 1Mhz.

                The statement "there is a solution which allows the screen to be written to at near full speed." is false.

                Not a surprise you've taken the positions you have given your lack of familiarity with the machine.

            2. ChrisC Silver badge

              Re: Open source?

              Selective for good reason - those things you mention weren't common AT ALL back in those days on competitor systems, regardless of how good or bad the other capabilities of said systems were. So criticising the IIgs for daring to suggest that it had graphics capabilities, just because it didn't include a bunch of barely seen elsewhere hardware to help mitigate its relatively slow memory bandwidth/CPU, felt like a bit of an unfair dig at the system.

              Let's not forget that It wasn't all that many years prior to the IIgs when we used to go gaga over the graphics abilities of systems that were even less potent than this, and some of those systems (such as the Spectrum) were still in full production when the IIgs was released. It's all too easy to forget just how relatively primitive most of those early systems were, yet how utterly awesome they seemed at the time.

              1. ThomH

                Re: Open source?

                > Selective for good reason - those things you mention weren't common AT ALL back in those days on competitor systems, regardless of how good or bad the other capabilities of said systems were. So criticising the IIgs for daring to suggest that it had graphics capabilities, just because it didn't include a bunch of barely seen elsewhere hardware to help mitigate its relatively slow memory bandwidth/CPU, felt like a bit of an unfair dig at the system.

                On the contrary: the issue is that the extreme and unusually-severe bottleneck to write to video memory isn't otherwise alleviated. Trying to talk about half of that equation while ignoring the other is absurd.

        3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

          Re: Open source?

          The Apple II series was horrible to code for, but remember that every single logic gate between chips consumed well over 1 square centimeter of PCB space (DIP chip, traces, caps). Somewhere the Internet has articles calculating the cost and space saved by each hack and they add up to a show-stopper amount.

          Remember all those chips in the Apple ][ floppy disk and its controller? All of that was address selectors, a 256 byte ROM of 6502 driver, a 256 byte ROM of state machine, and a one byte shift register. Head positioning, sector positioning, and the actual bits on the r/w head were all done by the main CPU. "D5 AA 96"

          The same goes for the video. An analog hack from RAM to NTSC video was brilliant, cheap, and tiny.

          Woz's mistake was too much emotional attachment to his past work. The chips got better but he enjoyed the tricks of making old stuff work better than it should.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Open source?

      I would imagine the plans he'd already given away were still "open source" in that he gave them away for free and I doubt Woz placed any restrictions on them. I suppose, in an alternate universe, someone else took those free plans and built a batch of computers, sold them, and made a killing, possibly bringing Woz along for a newer iteration and something other than Apple was born. Meanwhile, Steve Jobs, ever on the lookout for opportunity, hooked up with Bill Gates and the rest is history :-)

  5. Stu 18

    bargin, not much different from the cost of a new iPhone then

    what he said :-)

  6. Winkypop Silver badge
    Coat

    Well, i'll ask him but I don't think he will be very keen!

    Uh, he's already got one you see!

    What!?! He says they already got one! Are you sure he's got one?

    Oh yes it's a very nice!

  7. adam 40 Silver badge
    WTF?

    Apple user self-repair

    Not allowed any more, so this is a bit of rare history...

    https://d2skn5554g4boz.cloudfront.net/2020-website/644/3457351/3457351_7.jpg

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Apple user self-repair

      That's a good example, but often those kind of "repairs" were done as part of the original manufacture process to get the boards working. Back in those days I was having to work with boards like that - not Apple boards but other devices. Often created as a result of design and layout issues that were "fixed" with a few extra wires.

      It showed you how the companies were being run - when I started my first job I was doing test and setup for Dolby A boards out of production in London and never saw it happen there because Dolby wanted quality, not just the quick sales which my next job (medical devices) did with a few extra wires soldered onto all the boards.

      1. that one in the corner Silver badge

        Re: Apple user self-repair

        Dolby audio made to better quality standards than medical devices!

        You'd really like to hope it was always the other way around, wouldn't you? But then you see stuff like this:

        https://youtube.com/watch?v=2o8MDCIlOEk

        EEVblog #822 - World's Worst Tablet Computer Teardown

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Without Jobs, Woz had no market"

    Without Woz, Jobs had no products...

  9. gerryg

    A bit off topic but hopefully related

    About 30 years ago I attended the pre-auction viewing of Jimi Hendrix paraphernalia including a white Stratocaster, reserve £50,000 (further off topic, it felt like viewing the proceeds of a grave robbery)

    I had neither £50,000 nor the inclination but I couldn't but feel that a new Stratocaster and spending the other £45,000+ on lessons would have got me closer to my idol.

    With Monet's Waterlilies as least it's a decent picture but this is a discarded broken circuit board - I'm at a loss to understand the aura.

    1. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: A bit off topic but hopefully related

      I struggle to see the appeal of most artworks, not least those which can and do sell for considerably larger sums than this PCB.

      OTOH, as someone who's been immersed in the home computer scene since the dawn of the 80's, and who earns a living from designing embedded hardware/firmware, I very much can see the appeal of owning something like this.

      Then again, I used to be a part-owner of the bus used in the Spice Girls film, so maybe my brain is just wired up differently when it comes to having an appreciation for things of a collectible nature...

      1. cookieMonster Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: A bit off topic but hopefully related

        The spice girls bus!!!

        Fair play, not much to brag about these days but still it’s something, and it’s more than what most can do.

        PS: their “music” was dreadful

  10. Grogan Silver badge

    People sure assign big monetary value to stupid fucking things. Imagine the people the money spent on useless flotsam like that could feed.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like