x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Apple still has bite

The sale of an 1976 computer at a premium price reminds us of the evolution of an everyday essential.

By today's standards, the Apple 1 computer is less than a toy. Built in 1976, it had 8 kilobytes of random access memory - a tiny fraction of the 1Gb (1,048,576Kb) available in the iPhone5. It was sold without a case, keyboard or monitor, it offered very primitive graphics, and its software had to be loaded from an audio cassette player. Forget web access; the internet wasn't even around back then.

But when it comes to the retro-cool factor, the original Apple is a collector's dream. So much so that an Asian buyer has just parted with €516,000 (Dh2.45 million) for one of the six functioning Apple 1 computers in existence.

The record price, fetched at auction in Germany, represents a considerable markup on the computer's original shelf price of $666.66 (Dh2,450). But only 200 of them were made, and each was handbuilt in a family garage by Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak. The documentation supplied with this one carries the signature of the late Steve Jobs.

Its sale at a premium price is a reminder that something we consider an everyday essential, the personal computer, evolved from this jumble of wires and soldered connections, and the genius of pioneers including  Jobs and Wozniak who knew what we all wanted decades before we did.