- For Apple's bundle of online services, see Apple One.
The Apple Computer 1 or Apple-1, originally released as The Apple Computer and retroactively referred to as the Apple I, is a limited production kit computer that the Apple Computer Company introduced in July 1976 for US$666.66. This prototype computer was made for hobbyists and included a BASIC interpreter, extensive printed documentation, multiple I/O ports on the main PCB and the ability to create and add simple peripheral devices. The Apple I was the predecessor of the Apple II series which had the industry's first color graphics computers for consumers, and was the first computer sold by a predecessor company of Apple Inc.
Unlike the Apple II and other computers after it, the Apple I was sold as a populated circuit board kit with a MOS MCS6502 processor that the end-user had to assemble for themselves. Some hobbyists created custom cases for it in wood or plexiglass. Apple switched to providing metal and plastic casing for future models of their computers once they began to target the consumer market and not just computer club hobbyists.
Unlike the Apple II computer which came with Steve Wozniak's magnetic sector floppy disk drive, the Apple | came with no peripherals or storage, beyond the ROM chip holding the BASIC interpreter, the interface ROM, and 4Kb (expandable to 8Kb) RAM for storing running computer instructions.
In order to run software on the Apple I computer, a user had to connect a keyboard and a television, and then use the keyboard to input instructions in machine code or load the Apple BASIC programming language from a cassette tape.
Future Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak designed the Apple I board around the MOS 6502 processor, for which he had written a BASIC interpreter. He completed the schematic by March 1, 1976. Wozniak showed his hand-built prototype at a meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club on April 11. He had built it with experience gained from building a simpler board, called the Cream Soda computer, in 1971. Hewlett-Packard and Atari declined to acquire Wozniak's design, so Steve Jobs sold his Volkswagen Bus and Wozniak sold his HP-65 calculator to raise funds to make it themselves. Since Wozniak was still an employee of Hewlett-Packard, he obtained a release on May 5 to allow him to build the computers. Assembly began in a bedroom of the home of Jobs' parents, then moved into the garage when they ran out of space. Jobs enlisted his sister Patty and friend Daniel Kottke to help assemble the boards.
The Apple I is considered the spiritual ancestor of the Raspberry Pi as the first hobbyist computer. As the first product of the Apple Computer Company, it was mostly sold to enthusiasts belonging to computer user groups on the Pacific coast of North America.
As of 2017, 63 of the devices have been confirmed to exist, 3 of which have been verified to still be functional. The proceeds from the Apple I project went to obtain investment funding and acquire office space, equipment and supplies needed to produce the consumer-oriented Apple II computer.
- The Genesis of Apple by Owen W. Linzmayer, Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World's Most Colorful Company, p.5-25. No Starch Press. 2004.
- Learning by Accident by Steve Wozniak with Gina Smith, iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the personal computer, co-founded Apple, and had fun doing it p.47-48. W. W. Norton & Company. 2006.
- Cream soda – The first computer by Shashwat Pradhan, Emberify Blog. 2014-10-01.
- Cream Soda Days by Steve Wozniak with Gina Smith, iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the personal computer, co-founded Apple, and had fun doing it p.75-92. W. W. Norton & Company. 2006.
- Steve Jobs’ sister weighs in on effort to preserve Apple co-founder’s childhood home in Los Altos by Jason Green, The Mercury News. 2013-09-24.