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How much would you pay for an old computer?

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It is believed that less than 50 of the original Apple-1‘s are still in existence and today one of those computers just sold for $905,000. This Apple-1 was put together by Steve Wozniak (Apple co-founder) in Steve Job’s family garage in the summer of 1976. This antique was purchased by The Henry Ford organization with goal to put it on display in their Michigan museum.

When they first sold these assembled computers back in 1976, there were few buyers until they got a local retailer to order 50 of them and sold them for $666.66 each (creepy). Steve and Steve then decided to make another 150 units and went to other vendors.

The last Apple-1 sold in an auction was sold in 2012 for $374,000.

Most people throw out old technology as it has become “consumable”. It is sad to see our garbage waste landfills are cluttered with non decomposing materials which many times could be recycled, melted, redeployed, put on display, or held on as a collectible.

The original Apple-1 sported 4 KiloBytes of memory. Let’s put that into comparison. Today’s typical computer has 4 GigaBytes of memory. That is 1 MILLION times more memory. The original Apple-1 had a 1 Megahertz processor and today’s systems have multi-core processors (e.g. quad, hexa, octa core) running in the Gigahertz range for processing speeds and support multi-threading (can run more than one task at once).

In 1975 Gordon Moore made an observation that processing speeds double every 2 years and began a much quoted statement called Moore’s Law. This was adjusted by David House at Intel to be processing speeds doubling every 1.5 years. All of them stemmed from how many faster transistors they could cram into smaller spaces. Lately some people feel we are slowing down to doubling of processor speed every 3 years. Despite all of these observations, it is interesting to consider when we might approach the computational capacity of the human brain.

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41 Comments
  1. While I understand that the computer is a piece of history and is worth more because it was handmade by Steve Wozniak himself…almost a million dollars for an obsolete dinosaur computer? They paid a million dollars just to display how far we’ve come..and I get that but, my goodness that’s a lot of money for something that has no other use than as a reminder. But, people do like to collect things and when an item is limited like that the demand must be ridiculous.

    • It’s just like those old Superman comic books. Whenever something wildly iconic and successful emerges, people always look to its origins. If surviving copies are extremely uncommon the price will just keep rising.

      • I have to agree on cheddar on this. Like his analogy, the rarity of one thing makes it more collectible. Hence, the rise in value. It is more than just a reminder.

    • This computer is just as important to the tech industry as the Wright Flyer is to the aviation industry. It’s not a shining, pristine example of what can be done, nor was it the first – but it was the machine that got the ball rolling, so to speak.

      Of course, the item’s value is purely sentimental, but that’s no worse than anything else. At least it’s not Beanie Babies, right?

  2. It’s no surprise having one of those computers is like hitting the jackpot, but that’s because this PC is an important piece of our technological story, why else would it sell for this much if that wasn’t the case? There are a lot people out there with a lot cash and time in their hands, they don’t mind spending a couple thousands on an old computer for their collection.

  3. I wonder who the buyer was. It should really go into a museum. I (and many others, I’m sure) would love to go see it as a part of an exhibit. It is so interesting to look back and see how far PC technology has come. Even in the last 15 years.

    • The article says, “This antique was purchased by The Henry Ford organization with goal to put it on display in their Michigan museum.” So it is going in a museum! 🙂 I think that it’s fitting to go into a museum as well. It really is a piece of our technological history.

      • That museum is near my house so I’ll definitely be checking this out. The thing is, I’ve never seen electronical technology in that museum before. But I will check it out and see if it was really worth $905,000.

  4. Why on earth would people buy a computer as old as 1976? I mean you have all this new computer technology today that is advanced and way ahead of those old computers which were good in their time. I would never spend over $900,000 for any computer. Not that I even have that money alone to merely spend on such a thing, but I just wouldn’t buy it for any extremely, steeply expensive amount. Why don’t they just put those old Apple computers in a museum and keep it there it for historical purposes?

  5. As much as this seems like a waste, and I wish I could call it one. The person that bought that computer has enough money to spend $900k for a piece of history. At this point that computer really doesn’t have any computational value, it is more like a piece of computing memorabilia. If you look at memorabilia collections people have spent much more on much less and arguably less important things. I obviously could not justify spending that much on a single computer but I am personally on a mission to collect every processor from Intel’s history, even that is an expensive task. I couldn’t imagine collecting computers, especially ones hand crafted by the fathers of computing.

  6. I think that it is awesome that they were able to buy the Apple-1 so that they could place it in a museum. I think that, that is an important piece of technological history, so kudos to them. However, I would never personally buy a computer like that. It only has how many gigabytes of memory? Oh, that’s right, it doesn’t even go into gigabytes, it only has 4 kilobytes of memory. Again I say, hooray for history, but no thank you for me.

  7. I would definitely pay for older computers. These older computers really do show us how it was like back in the day, especially when put into comparison of what would be a standard computer today. We’ve been able to compress the power of a couple thousand computers that would take up whole desks to fill, down into a computer that fits into the palm of our hand. But I’m all for preserving such artifacts because without them, computing wouldn’t be where it is today.

  8. I would pay up to $1000 if I had it to toss around, depending on how old it is. I believe things like this should actually just be recycled, why hold on to technology that can’t even be enjoyed anymore. Put it in a museaum but I don’t get what the appeal of owning a piece of history is. I guess you could just sell it again once it’s worth more and in that case it’s a good investment.

  9. I would never spend a lot of money for an old computer. I understand that with it being that old it is very valuable but I just could not see myself buying old things.

  10. To me that makes a lot of since. Then again, I used to work for Apple. If I had that type of money, I could see purchasing something like that. If it was the first Apple computer, that is a big part of our technological history.

  11. It is good to see that the apple 1’s still exist. I know they are an expensive artifact, but I didn’t thing they were nearly a million dollar artifacts. Personally, I would never invest in one, because I am not a collector. If I am going to buy something it is going to be benefiting me. Not just sitting in a glass case just being useless. You could build a very extreme gaming pc that is 1/100th of the cost and 20 billion times faster.

  12. I cannot understand why and how things like this go for such a high price. It is just junk to me really. But there are people with the money, and thus a market for it. I wish them all the best!

    • It has become a collector’s item. With its age and history, it has added value. That is why people are getting it. Those with deep pockets can get them though. I too have no desire to get older computers unless I have the hobby of collecting historical computers…which I do not have.

  13. Its definitely a long stretch to buy a piece of ancient hardware from the late 70’s but i can see how somebody with that kind of money would appreciate the product. It is, afterall, a piece of history.

  14. Wow…that is a lot of money. As some other people have pointed out, almost a million for a display piece seems excessive. I guess some people can just put a high value on preserving history. What would be really cool would be if the museum had the computer running and you could see how some of the old programs ran, but I doubt that would be the case. I’m sure they don’t want to run an almost 40 year old, $1 million dollar computer and have it wear out. Well, I guess I’m glad one of these systems are being preserved, and I’m really glad it’s not my money,

  15. Very interesting. If I had a lot of money, I would definitely buy one of Apple’s original computers. This is major history here. Computers totally revolutionized our world. I can also just imagine how much it will be worth 500 years from now. I of course wouldn’t benefit much from it, but my future generations would. It’d be nice to know that I’m leaving behind a huge part of American history to them.

  16. Interesting how limited supply works, isn’t it? There are so few of these that the price skyrockets because of scarcity.
    Admittedly, there’s more to it than that and the machine has a great deal of historical value – it’s obviously not being sold to be used but for exhibition purposes, so I can see why the price is so steep.

    Nobody would really bat an eyelash if a Picasso were to be sold for millions of dollars, yet a Picasso has no real “use”, and its aesthetic value is subjective. It seems to me like its price would primarily come from the historical and artistic importance of Picasso, so why should a historically important piece of engineering be treated differently?

  17. $905,000 is insane! Well, it’s arguably the most iconic computer brand out there, but definitely not the best performance.

    The advancement of processing speed is astounding, it’s amazing how much you can you pack into a silicone chip.

  18. I wonder how long it would take for someone who does not work in IT to crowdfund that sort of money for that sort of purpose. I have been getting a lot of reliable stories about how crowdfunding is not only a helpful way, but sometimes the only available way to reach a goal. The price is right, I guess, since there was a buyer.

  19. That’s absolutely way too much money to spend! People have such a crazy idealized view of this nostalgic junk. I love Apple probably a lot more than most people but paying that much for something that a few years later people carve out for fishtanks is nuts.

  20. The last paragraph speaks to me. I think we are approaching the limits of silicon. I am seeing the trend towards Quantum Computers in the near future. I wonder how many times that will multiply the capabilities of a computer when that happens.

    Now, with the old computers no longer in production, the rarity makes the price shoot up. This might be a good thing to “collectors” as their computers will gain value as the years pass. I have a 2 decade old computer still at home. The value of it is making me wonder.

  21. I can definitely appreciate that it’s a part of history, but I just don’t get why someone would spend that much money on it. The Apple “halo effect” seems to work backwards as well as its existing product line. I’m just not sure what people are actually paying for – the device or the brand?

    Obviously I’ll be made to look stupid when it re-sells for twice that amount in five years time!

  22. Well, it is a bit like asking: “how much would you pay for an antique radio?”or any other important communication device; it is an object that became history, and for what it brought with it deserves a place in history. Of course there are bound to have a price that is way above its real value.
    I would be happy invest in such a piece that is bound to have its value increased with time.

    • I would question your concept of “bound to”. It’s not really an investment, it’s more about speculation.

      An investment would suggest there’s a tangible expectation for future cash flow. I’m not sure how much the first VCR is going for but I just wonder whether people would be viewing it in the same way.

      We’re not talking about the first computer here. It’s one of the first Apple computers. This seems to be more about the brand than the technology. Whether we’re going to be talking about Apple in the same way in 10 or 20 years as now will really dictate what value there is in this, in my view.

  23. Unless I were opening up a computer history museum, I would not pay anything at all. I don’t see how they are worth much. Call me crazy but I would rather pay $374,000 for a house, vacation home, or to feed a village in Ethiopia for ten years than a used computer. It seems absurd to me. Even if I were opening up a computer history museum (which I would never do), the most I would pay would be maybe 5,000, maybe.

  24. $300,000? Wow that’s a lot of money. I’m actually planning on doing something similar with my game consoles, I keep it a habit to really preserve my consoles to be able to make them run decades after. Who knows maybe I’d be able to auction it.

    But what would be the point? I mean sure it’s a piece of sweet remnant of technology from the past but it’s not like it has any other value other than that.

    • I agree. The’re pretty much no point to it other than marvel and fascination. But I got to say, if you have the one remaining piece of history on your hands then it’s pretty cool. But then again, it won’t do you any good other than bragging rights.

      • Yeah. I just don’t get it, those things belong in museums and not as displays in your house. But hey, if you can sell it for $300,000 then why not eh?

  25. It’s really incredible how far computers have come in so few years. I remember the first computer I used was purchased by my mother for her work in 1992. By the time I graduated from HS in 2006 computers had gone through incredible changes just in my own life and memory. Now we have these tablets that still blow my mind, even though I’m 26 and expected to be well adjusted to new things because I am young.

  26. This is a very good investment for future generations to enjoy. Hopefully the later generations of nerds can see the value of this highly important purchase. One day people will look back at the apple-1 and be truly amazed at how far we have come when it comes to building computers.

  27. I can see antiques selling for a lot, I mean just check eBay. I would totally expect that an antique like that would sell for a lot now, and I can see it going for even more 20 even 10 years from now easy. Computers are advancing so fast it’s hard to think that just 30 years ago they were so underdeveloped.

  28. Makes sense, I’ve seen toys sold for more, just because they’re “collectible”. As time goes on the price of the Apple-1 will definitely increase, so I guess it’s a smart move to buy it now, as long as you have the money to afford it.

    I never throw out technology, I would prefer to crack it open and see if I can still use anything inside 🙂

  29. Personally, I wouldn’t pay anything for an old computer. I have absolutely no interest in old antiquish things and this is one of them. I know a couple family members who would pay quite a bit of money to have an old computer in there possession but me it would just end up being given away or going into the garbage.

  30. We are throwing our outdated celeron and pentium in garbage! 🙂

    So, it is a bit amusing to see the amount which is spent on “vintage” computers. They are not going to be of any benefit to you, then why to spend this some on it.

    I do have a computer from 1993, which I consider as “Mother Computer”, but I don’t feel like turning it on to see the Windows 95. It does need interest in keeping these gadgets as souvenir of time.

  31. I wouldn’t pay anything for an old computer. Electronics are very fragile and even the very new ones seem to break or stop working for no reason. Only buy used electronics/computers if you’re really desperate or you lack tons of money.

  32. In my current financial situation, I wouldn’t even think of buying something like that. It’s cool to own a piece of history, but it’s basically useless. I don’t even think it could run a browser. Maybe if I was rich I would consider buying it, but even then there is so much more I could buy for almost a million dollars. For example, I could buy around 1000 of the newest iPhones for that price. Or maybe I could buy 500 of the newest Macs. Maybe I would buy three extremely fancy cars. Or I could buy that old Mac. It just doesn’t make sense.

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