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Christie's to auction off rare, original Apple 1

Want to get your hands on a small piece of tech history? Get your chequebook ready, because Christie's in London is auctioning off one of the first Apple computers.

Up for auction on 9 October is an original Apple 1, designed and hand-built by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. One of just 200 ever made, the computer launched in 1976 in Palo Alto, California, and was originally sold for $666.66 (£420). It "boasts" just 8K of memory, which pales in comparison to even the base-level iPod Touch these days, or a modern toaster for that matter.

But bidders won't be after this piece of history for its performance. And don't expect to get it for a deal. The retro computer, which comes from the estate of former Apple employee Joe Copson, is expected to fetch around $127,000 (£80,000) when it hits the auction block this fall.

It could very likely sell for far higher than the estimate. An original Apple 1 motherboard sold in June for $374,500 (£237,000) when it went up for auction at Sotheby's. Back in 2010, someone shelled out $213,600 (£135,000) for an Apple 1.

"This is the computer that started Apple, now recognized as the most valuable company in the world. Its significance in making computer technology accessible for all cannot be undervalued," Christie's scientific specialist James Hyslop said in a statement.

Back in 1976, the late Steve Jobs and Wozniak convinced Paul Terrell to sell the devices in his Byte Shop chain of computer stores. Terrell ordered 50 Apple 1 motherboards at $500 (£315) each, provided Jobs and Wozniak delivered them pre-assembled rather than as DIY kits.

Jobs and Wozniak "famously invested all they could to finance the first Apple creation, with Jobs selling his only mode of transportation, his VW and Wozniak his HP-65 calculator to generate enough funds for the project," according to [PDF] Christie's. The duo soon moved on to more mass producing computers and getting rich via Apple's IPO, but the Apple 1 represents the original seed of the Macs we all know today.

"Intended to make technology more accessible, the Apple 1 consisted of a pre-assembled motherboard, representing a major step forward in the world of computing when all other examples on the market were bought as self-assembly kits requiring engineering prior to use," Christie's description of the lot reads.

It did not, however, come with a casing, power supply, keyboard, or monitor. Buyers needed to scrape up their own means of input and a television set to operate it. Less than 50 Apple 1 computers are estimated to be in existence today.

Vintage Apple products and memorabilia do not come cheap. Earlier this year, a hand-written note from Steve Jobs' days at Atari went for $27,500 (£17,300).