Pascal to Apple: The geekiest auction ever (pictures)
An Apple-1 and a 17th century mechanical calculator replica are just a few of the nerd delights on auction later this month.
One of the last working Apple-1s
The highlight of German auctioneer Breker's May 25 "Auction of Firsts" is this functioning Apple-1, believed to be only one of six working systems like it still in existence. Built by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in Jobs' parents' garage, it includes the original manual and a letter from Jobs to the original owner.
Breker estimates it could sell for as much as $400,000. (Watch a video of the system in action.)
Another Apple first in the May 25 auction is one of the first mouse-controlled systems, the Lisa-1. It had a very short run in the 1980s before giving way to the more reliable Lisa-2 and eventually, the Macintosh. Breker estimates it will fetch up to $40,000 at auction.
The MITS Altair 8800 from 1974 pre-dated Apple and is often credited with kicking off the age of the PC. The Altair made headlines in early 1975 and also inspired Jobs and Woz, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and many hilarious portrayals of computers in early 1980s Hollywood flicks.
Based on Intel's 8-bit microprocessor, the SCELBI-8H is often considered the first true PC, but it was a commercial failure, with only 200 units produced. Breker says this is one of only three that survives and estimates it to be worth more than $20,000. Not bad since it went for $565 with 1k of memory in 1974.
In the 17th century, French physicist, mathematician, and all-around smart guy Blaise Pascal devised a gear-driven mechanical calculator that proved a novel concept -- machines could do math. A few centuries later, machines don't just do math, they build our entire virtual existence around digits. Breker is auctioning off a 20th century replica of Pascal's machine that's expected to fetch up to $50,000.
Not surprisingly, Breker's auction includes plenty of analog devices that we might not associate with the digital age. One of the more interesting items is this Ford typewriter dating to 1895. Much like my old F-150, this one can apparently survive just about anything and is estimated to be worth up to $20,000 with its copper grille (much more than my old truck with its similarly tinted rusty grill).
Also in Breker's collection are plenty of old telephones, the earliest of which is this 1905 L.M. Ericsson & Co. desk unit. Now valued at as much as $13,000, it's better known as the "coffee grinder." No information is available on which mobile OS it runs; I'm guessing some kind of variant of Symbian.
Floppy disks and the magnetic strips on all kinds of plastic cards owe part of their existence to the likes of this 1909 Telegraphone, the first magnetic disk recorder. At the unveiling of a predecessor device in 1900, inventor Valdemar Poulsen played a magnetically recorded piece of audio. So, if Jay-Z were laying down beats at the turn of the 20th century (admittedly in a more enlightened alternate universe), he'd likely be using something like this.
Now this is just a cool piece of history. Perhaps the world's most complicated typewriter, the Enigma machine was used by the Nazis to encode and decode messages during the first half of the 20th century and is the predecessor to today's infinitely more complex methods and tools for encryption. Tens of thousands were constructed and this one could draw a bid of as much as $33,000.