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Appetite (And Cash) for Vintage Technology Collecting Soars

When the large aluminum doors of Mountain View’s Computer History Museum reopened in January, senior curator Dag Spicer was easily able to guess the age of all who entered the “Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing” exhibition. If visitors headed straight to the Apple II on display, they were likely 34; if the IBM personal computer caught a person’s eye, he could be 30; someone who went over to the Super Nintendo was probably around 25. “People unconsciously date themselves by gravitating to their first computer,” Spicer says.

That kind of nostalgia is driving the collectors’ market for technology created within the last 40 years. The pursuit of outdated computer equipment reached a new high recently with the sale of an Apple 1 computer for $212,267 during an auction at Christie’s in London. The catalog describes it as “the first Apple computer…heralding the home- computer revolution. Introduced in July 1976, the Apple 1 was sold without a casing, power supply, keyboard or monitor.” The computer came with a signed letter from Steve Jobs and was shipped from the garage of his parents’ Mountain View home. At the time of its creation, the Apple 1 sold for $666.66, and the price was dropped to $475 just 10 months later in an effort to sell off the entire lot (approximately 200 were produced). Rumor has it that, just six months prior to the auction, the Apple 1 exchanged hands on eBay for $50,000. Jaws must have dropped in the Christie’s audience, which included Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, when the price hit $100,000 and kept climbing. Read more...