Field Trip: Computer History Museum
HOST: The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, chronicles the evolution of calculating masterpieces that have helped shape the world we live in. Behind me are components of the Sage, a Cold War relic originally designed to detect enemy bombers over the United States. Deployed in the early '60s, it weighed 300 tons, and cost about $10 billion. It had only a fraction of the computing power of the smartphone on your nightstand. Appraiser Brian Witherell and I explored more of the Computer History Museum's treasures and came upon the cornerstone of a Silicon Valley icon, the first Apple computer. HOST: Well, Brian, we're all familiar with the look of a personal computer at home, but it's a far cry from what we're looking at here. But this is sort of the birth of that, isn't it?
It is indeed, yeah. The Apple I was designed by Steve Wozniak, known as "The Woz." It's a milestone. It's really a technological breakthrough for us. The 1970s was an exciting time. The Home Brew Computer Club was a group of people that were meeting to share ideas, share technology. HOST: And what year was this?
1975. HOST: 1975 Steve Wozniak was one of the members of this club.
He was. So while at one of these meetings with the Home Brew Computer Club, a spark goes off in his head, and it's the microprocessor chip. And it ignites something in him. He goes home, he brainstorms, and he comes up with what we see before us today. What makes it so important is it's the beginning of Apple Computer. And just like the light bulb that goes off in Woz's head, the light bulb goes off in Steve Jobs' head, and he says, "We can market this, this has potential." So he develops the marketing packaging idea and markets this to a local computer store here in the Silicon Valley for $666.66. HOST: When you bought this, you wouldn't get it in this wood case. You would just get the motherboard and some loose pieces that you had to solder together.
That's right. It was really a do-it-yourself. It was not as we think of a computer today. You would still need additional components. You would need a cassette recorder for the operating system, a monitor, keypad, and a power source. HOST: How many of these were built?
Approximately 200, they think. And of that 200, we can account for about 63 today. HOST: Given that there were so few of these made and even fewer that have survived, what's the range of value on these today?
I think it depends on the configuration. A fully functioning system with all of its components, directions, and a letter from Steve Jobs sold in Germany in 2013 for nearly $700,000. That's the benchmark. So when we go down from there, if we just had a motherboard like this, we're probably talking conservatively $100,000 to $150,000 at auction. And with a signature, that would only enhance the value. HOST: Well, while you have said this isn't the very first home computer, there were other people working in that area, this certainly is the birth of Apple computers, and it's great to see it. Thanks for sharing the information.
Thanks, Mark, it's been fun.
Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.
Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."
Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.
Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.
Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.
Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.
Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.