Steve Jobs’ handwritten Apple-1 ad auctions for big bucks

Anything Apple and old usually fetches a decent amount at auction, whether it’s one of the company’s first computers from the 1970s, an original iPhone still in its packaging, or even a pre-Apple job application by Steve Jobs, the man who co-founded and later transformed the tech company into one of the most successful businesses on the planet.

Speaking of Jobs, another artifact linked to him has just gone under the hammer at Boston-based RR Auctions for $175,759 — six times more than expected.

It’s a piece of paper featuring the draft of an ad handwritten by Jobs. The ad is for the Apple Computer-1, which originally launched in 1976 as the Apple Computer and later became known as the Apple I or Apple-1.

A draft Apple ad handwritten by Steve Jobs.
RR Auctions

As ads go, you couldn’t get more simple, with the penned content containing little more than the tech specs of Apple’s first computer. The draft also includes Jobs’ signature in lowercase print, along with his parents’ home address and phone number.

“Penned neatly in black ink on an off-white 8.5 x 11 binder sheet, the advertisement, which essentially serves as a rough draft specification sheet for the Apple-1, was given to the consignor during a visit to Jobs’ garage in 1976,” RR Auctions says in its listing for the lot.

The ad includes the description: “All Power Supplies, 8K bytes of RAM (16 pin 4K dynamic), full crt terminal—input: ASC11 Keybd, output: composite vidio [sic], fully expandable to 65K via edge connector, 58 ic’s which includes 16 for 8K ram!! Monitor software (for 2 proms on board (256 bytes) included.”

The listing notes that Jobs references “basic on the way (ROM).” It never materialized for the Apple-1 though came with the Apple II the following year. The late Apple boss concludes by quoting a $75 price for “board only + manual, a real deal.”

According to Apple historian Corey Cohen, the tech specs of Jobs’ draft for the ad line up with the original ad for the Apple-1, which first appeared in the July 1976 issue of Interface Magazine.

“This first marketing blitz granted Apple the requisite funding to evolve from ‘two guys in a garage’ to two of the most influential figures of the late 20th century,” the listing said.

The lot also included two original Polaroid photos taken at The Byte Shop in Mountain View, California, showing an Apple-1 computer board fully assembled with an accompanying keyboard and monitor, and an Apple-1 computer screen displaying an Apple Basic program.

The simplicity of the ad seems all the more remarkable when you consider how just eight years later the company, already enjoying a high degree of success, broadcast its iconic 1984 ad (for the Apple Macintosh), created by ad agency Chiat/Day and directed by Ridley Scott.

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