One of what's believed to be only six still-working Apple 1 computers set a record at auction Saturday, selling for $671,400 in Germany.
The machine, built by Steve "The Woz" Wozniak in Steve Jobs' parents garage back in 1976, was sold along with the original owner's manual and a signed letter from Jobs to original owner Fred Hatfield.
Breker, the German auction house that handled the sale, sold another Apple 1 in December for $640,000, a substantial jump in price from the Apple 1 sold by Sotheby's in New York last June for $374,500.
Auctioner Uwe Breker said the appeal of the machine went far beyond the realm of geekery.
"It is a superb symbol of the American dream," he told The New York Times' Bits blog. "You have two college dropouts from California who pursued an idea and a dream, and that dream becomes one of the most admired, successful, and valuable companies in the world."
That can-do spirit is reflected in this brief description of the Apple 1's genesis, given in the Sotheby's notes to last June's auction (PDF):
When Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs presented the Apple I Computer to the Homebrew Computer Club in 1976, it was dismissed by everyone but Paul Terrell, the owner of a chain of stores called Byte Shop. Terrell ordered 50 computers for $500 apiece, insisting that the circuit boards come fully assembled rather than as DIY kits similar to the Altair, and Jobs and Woz managed to produce the requisite computers in 30 days. They continued production, immediately creating 50 additional Apple 1's to sell to friends and an additional 100 to sell through vendors, at a retail price of $666.66, a number that garnered complaints among conservative Christians, but provided a lucrative 33 [percent] markup.
Let's see, 50 computers in 30 days -- that's about 1.67 Apple 1s per day. At today's prices, that would add up to about $1,121,238 for a day's work. Not too shabby.
Sotheby's estimates that another 44 Apple 1s exist, in addition to the 6 that still actually work.