So recently, there’s an article on the news about a computer which had sold for 200,000 dollars. The computer itself, an Apple 1, built by Steve Wozniak back in the seventies, had originally only sold for 666 dollars. But, a woman had taken it to a recycling center, and effectively thrown it away. The company’s now trying to attract the woman, so they can share the profits they’ve made from selling it. But just why was this computer so special? And what was it made of? So, the story of the Apple 1 takes us back to the [U.S.] West Coast in the mid seventies. Steve Wozniak was happily working at HP designing calculators, and he went along to one of the early meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club, where he thought he was going to talk about TV terminals and being able to connect to the ARPAnet for a TV, but actually, everyone was talking about the cover of Popular Electronics, where the MITS Altair 8800 had just appeared on the cover. It was probably the first computer that used a microprocessor as its CPU, rather than building it discretely out of logic chips. If you want to know more about it, click here, where Jason at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge will explain theirs, they have the serial number 3. Wozniak hadn’t even heard of these CPUs at the time, but was interested, and he was given a data sheet for the 8080, which was at the heart of the machine, and took it home, and began to look over it. And he realized that it was very similar to a computer he’d built previously out of discrete logic components, which he called “the cream soda computer” because he’d built it out of cream soda cans for the case. So he started looking at this, and very quickly realized that he could design a computer based around this, using very few chips in the CPU, some RAM, some ROM and put it together to build a complete computer for much less than the cost of the Altair. He then realized that he could link it in to a terminal he’d built. And the terminal was just a machine that you could use to connect to ARPAnet through a normal television; which he’d done there. Now, ARPAnet was the forerunner, in those days, of the Internet; and so he’d built this system that could connect to it through a cheap domestic television set. Rather than having to use lots and lots of lights on the front of your Altair to communicate with it, just use a television screen; it’d be much easier to communicate through that. And you could put a proper typewriter keyboard in it, and produce a system. So he worked out these things. He reused his circuit for his television terminal, connected that up to the logic inside his CP — his computer he’d designed, put it together with a keyboard; and he’d managed to design — he hadn’t built it at that point — a complete computer. He then looked at the design, and someone he was working with suggested he look at a different CPU called the 6800 because it was considerably cheaper and you could get one, as an HP employee, for about 40 dollars. So he redesigned the system using that, and he also looked at RAM; and he’d originally considered using what was called static RAM, but then decided, because it was cheaper again, to use what’s called dynamic RAM, and he’d managed to get a good deal on some dynamic RAM as well. So he’d redesigned his circuit. And then, he’d heard about a new chip, which was the 6502. This chip is used in lots and lots of computer systems, right through to the mid-eighties; things like the BBC Micro, the Commodore 64, and so on. So, he redesigned the circuit again around this, although it was just basically plugging in the new chip. And he then went off to build the computer. Normally, something like the Altair, and other computers at that time, you would program them by having switches on the front to type in the memory locations and the data that you wanted to store there. What Wozniak realized, because he was working with calculators at the time, at HP, is that calculators were effectively computers to some extent. They had programs, they had processors – they did things, you’d put input. But the calculators started up straightaway because the program was burnt into the ROM inside it, so he programmed his initial program for the, what became the Apple 1, into some ROM, and put that into a system so his computer would start up straightaway with what he called his monitor program, so the user could see the data on the TV screen, and they could input the data using a standard keyboard. And it’s perhaps this that made the difference between the Apple 1 and everything that followed it, and what had come before in terms of [units?]. Because before, yep, you could plug a keyboard in; yep, you could plug a video display in. But actually, most of the time, you’re entering the data, to get it started at least, via the toggles on the front. What Steve Wozniak’s genius moment was, was that he actually replaced that with a small bit of program built into the system and a VDU display, using a typical telly, and a keyboard for entry. So you went from being something that only hardware hackers were perhaps comfortable with, to the forerunner of the PC that we know today. So Steve Wozniak built the, uh, the Apple – what became the Apple 1 for himself, and he took it to the Homebrew Computer Club and started showing it around to the other people there. And of course, he showed it to his friend, Steve Jobs. And Steve Jobs realized that while other people in the computer club were taking copies of the schematics, they weren’t actually building it themselves. And so he said to Wozniak, “Why don’t we make up some circuit boards ourselves, and actually sell them to people?” They could make the boards for 20 dollars, sell the kits for 40 dollars including all the components, and still make profit. People would see them as a deal, because they were getting all the parts. And, Wozniak wasn’t perhaps sure at first, but he – Steve Jobs turned to him and said, “Look, whatever happens, if we fail, we can at least have got a company to our name. We’ll have made a company.” And Wozniak liked this idea. And so together, they started a small company called Apple. So, if you want to find out more about the history of the Apple 1 and Apple itself, I can recommend two books. Steve Wozniak’s biography iWoz goes into the details about how he created it, and what he was doing at the time. Great read. And also, if you’re interested in the technical side of it, there’s this book, The Apple I Replica Creation, where Tom Owad goes into how you can actually build your own Apple 1; goes through how to program it, and so on. Looks at the hardware inside it. Both great reads and available from your all usual bookshops.