A fully functioning Apple I computer is on display with its interfaces at Sotheby's in New York. Photo: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand
An original Apple 1 computer in full working order has sold for €491,868 ($630,000) at a European auction, smashing the existing record for this most sought-after piece of high-tech history.
Expected to sell for between €120,000 and €200,000 ($150,000-$250,000) at the auction hosted by Auction Team Brecker in Cologne on Friday, the computer was eventually sold to an anonymous internet bidder for a price that dwarfs the previous $374,500 record that was set when one came up for sale at a June 2012 auction at Sotheby's in New York.
The Apple I was the first true personal computer and each one of the 200 that were built in 1976 was hand-soldered by their creator, the computer genius Steve Wozniak, and personally sold by his friend and Apple co-founder the late Steve Jobs.
Until the Apple I, personal computers were the preserve of hobbyists and technology experts and, as Wozniak explained to the enthusiasts at the Homebrew Computer Club 36 years ago, what set his creation apart was that it allowed users to work on a "Human-typable keyboard, instead of a stupid, cryptic front panel with a bunch of lights and switches."
Simpler to use it may have been but at $666.66 in 1976, the computer was very expensive and potential owners still had to provide their own keyboard and monitor.
Of the 200 produced, classic Apple product expert Mike Willegal estimates only 43 survive today, of which only six are in working order.
Therefore the prices fetched at official auctions, and on eBay, have been climbing in recent years. However, in a similar sale at Christie's in London in October of this year, another Apple I failed to meet its reserve price of $80,000 leading some to speculate that prices had spiked following the death of Steve Jobs in October 2011 and that they would now start to fall, despite their growing rarity.
The record sale item was not only in working order, but was also up for auction complete with period Apple -recommended monitor, keyboard and data cassette recorder.