How to build an Apple I replica computer


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Retro computing lets you get to grips with technology’s history, showing how far modern computers have come. Here’s how to build your own working Apple I replica.

Computers have come a long way since Apple first started in 1976. In those days when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak first put together the original Apple I computer kits, everything was sourced and assembled by hand.

Apple was a tiny company based in Steve Jobs’ parents’ garage, and Apple sold kit computers out of the garage.

Apple I kits consisted of a huge motherboard, several dozen logic chips, large power capacitors, diodes, resistors, A ROM chip, and a 6502 CPU designed by MOS Technology and licensed to Motorola.

The 6502 was a common CPU in the 1980’s – being used in Apple, Atari, and Commodore computers. It was the first truly low-cost microcomputer CPU and was the key element that enabled the personal computer revolution to happen.

For the Apple I, it was also left as an exercise for the user to build a homebrew power supply and obtain a keyboard sourced from a company called Datanetics, which later made the Apple II keyboard.

You can see a 1979 photo of Jobs with an Apple II at the Computer History Museum’s website.

The Apple I was sold in kit form – no completely assembled units were sold.

The machine was first released on April 11th, 1976 – just ten days after Apple was founded on April Fool’s day of the same year. As a joke, Steve and Steve decided to set the price of the machine at $666.66 US dollars.

The Apple I’s sales were small, mainly due to its extremely limited capabilities. There were also much more advanced kits from other companies available, such as Sinclair of the UK, whose machines offered built-in video, graphics, a keyboard, a cassette port, and later, color.

Steve Wozniak’s original Apple I computer, built in the Jobs family garage and housed in a wooden box, was originally on display at Apple’s own internal museum at R+D Six on 1 Infinite Loop, in Cupertino, CA, but it now sits in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

The original Apple I's location: an internal museum at Apple's R+D Six, on the left.