In addition to my Mimeo, I’m now the proud custodian of an original Apple-1 that I just acquired from the estate of a German software engineer. This is an NTI board, which appears to have all it’s original components, no visible modifications, and has hardly (never?) been used. Other than some residue/corrosion on the 6502, the board looks to be in pristine condition.
The seller has requested to remain anonymous, and so the board doesn’t have a “name” as yet. I’m going to do some more homework and thinking and give it a name once I finish restoring it to operating condition. That process could take weeks or months, depending on our initial testing…but I’m in no rush and would prefer to take it slow and avoid making mistakes.
I hope to take possession of the board this weekend and will post some photos as soon as I can. In the mean time I can share a few its identifying characteristics:
- white ceramic Synertek 6502 (date code 7643)
- 8K of RAM
- Original big blue caps
- 4 blue / 1 gold 22uF caps
- circled #6 next to the heatsink
- white square label “39” on the reverse
- no box, manual, receipt, ACI, keyboard, monitor, transformers, or cassette player
I look forward to sharing the journey of making this board operational with all of you…and yes the plan is to eventually loan this to a museum where it can be enjoyed by others.
Nice ... Congrat's on your acquisition.
I wonder though ... How can the board look so good and the Processor IC look so bad?
That is the $100,000 question...and does it extend down into the socket? I’m open to suggestions for how to clean the 6502...was planning to start with a fiberglass eraser to expose the metal and then maybe isopropyl alcohol wipes?
Worst case I have spare white ceramic MOS 6502’s, but not the Synertek version.
No don’t do that with a fiberglass eraser.
From the pics it looks like it had antistatic foam that deteriated on top of the board. You can see it on some of the other chips in the pictures. They must have brushed most of it off. I expect when the board arrives it will be a little sticky if they haven’t cleaned it off.
DO NOT PULL THE CHIPS UNTIL THE BOARD is soaked in 90%+ Isopropyl alcohol for a day to further dissolve the foam and residue, then cleaned with a soft bristle tooth brush (don’t forget to heat bend the handle on the brush to save your fingers), then soaked & agitated in distilled water, then repeat, pull the chips and do it all over again. You don’t want that decaying foam in the sockets or you will be dissesmbling them since replacing a socket is a last resort if one goes bad on a real Apple-1. Right now the chips are keeping the “crud” out of the sockets.
Please be careful with that 6502, it is very rare. I only know of less than a handful of Synertek white 6502 on Apple-1, most had MOS chips.
How do I protect the labels and markings on the board?
Send me pictures of the labels and markings. There is stuff made to protect both, but you have to know what you are doing.
These are the three obvious ones:
Corey is absolutely right with regard to NOT cleaning with the eraser. (abrasive!)
Alcohol will not likely remove the prints on the top of the IC's but would certainly destroy any
black marker or other markings on the PCB, so take caution when cleaning. Some of those original
markings might be quite valuable. (!)
As for cleaning the 6502, there are specific chemicals that will clean the legs without stripping
the gold plating, but I would not use those same chemicals on the top of the microprocessor IC
-primarily because it might destroy original 6502 markings. (you don't want to do that!)
As Corey indicates, use caution when moving forward with the cleaning. Some mistakes can't be undone.
Still, I envy the fact that you have these problems ...
I agree...good problems to have but still challenging. I’m not gong to do anything before gathering lots of feedback and perhaps experimenting with my Mimeo boards to perfect techniques. I started this thread because I can’t afford to make a mistake and so far the feedback has been super useful. I will take some macro photos of the problem areas and post them over the next few days.
Though the markings are important for identifying the board, and perhaps contribute to it’s value, preserving the board itself and preventing/correcting corrosion is probably more important. I really do view myself as the custodian of a relic of historical significance that will hopefully still be around long after I’m gone.
Ok just a cursory look, but liquid mask on the sticker and stamp. Use blue tape when applying to limit the mask and peel up when still tacky so you have clean lines.
The mark on the front top trace looks like a peeled solder mask. When you receive the board let me know if that is the case.
By liquid mask do you mean what's used when painting patterns on RC cars and stuff like that? I have a vague recollection of using something like that when I was a kid...but want to be sure I get the right stuff. Also, the mark on the front top is peeled solder mask so no need to protect it...I've got the board in my hands now.
I don’t know about RC cars, but I bought mine in a Hobby Lobby store and it is a white goopy liquid that hardens into a peelable rubber layer. You can get some and experiment on a scrap PCB with a printed paper label.
Btw. Very useful stuff to have around. Good for coating/protecting labels before retrobrite or soaking plastic cases in peroxide to remove yellowing.
With liberal local application of 99% IPA and about an hour of gentle scrubbing with a soft toothbrush, I was able to the 6502 mostly clean except for some pitting on the label:
I also had pretty good luck with some of the RAM ICs that also had the same grime on their legs:
Tomorrow I’ll let the PCB repair team at work start testing each component now that I’ve addressed the glaring cosmetic. We are still debating giving it a bath in distilled water...but we’ll first see if there any continuity issues that would warrant that step. I’ll post a complete board photo tomorrow as I didn’t have time today to take one after it dried. In the mean time, here are some photos I took yesterday:
Very impressive difference indeed!
After physical cleaning, we began the work of actually trying to bring up the board today. The capacitors all measured nominal readings, but there’s some issue with the 5V supply and maybe a DRAM issue. I had to leave before the guys could finish their testing so I’ll have more to report tomorrow...but in the mean time here are some photos from today:
It’s super useful to have the Mimeo around to test against. It’s one thing to review circuit diagrams, but being able to measure values on the Mimeo and compare to the Apple-1 is sometimes much quicker. It also gives us the opportunity to quickly swap socketed ICs if necessary. Those TI sockets are a real pain though.
I’ve never been happier to see a blinking cursor in my life!
Can you load basic from a cassette adapter yet? That is the big test. I think you have an ACI from your Mimeo to use.
Haven’t loaded basic yet...saving that for tomorrow using the ACI that I got from you. We put many of the ICs into the PinPoint and tested them...including the DRAM, and so I’m reasonably optimistic that it should work.
BASIC works! Well, not at first but it does now. We had an issue when trying to run the burn-in test from the manual where if we entered the commands in a single line, the monitor would read back slightly different values when we listed the program. If we wrote them in to an address one at a time, it worked...smelled like a DRAM issue; but we had tested each DRAM IC in the PinPoint already and they all passed. So we tested them again individually and again they passed.
We swapped the first 4KB of RAM with another set of ICs and now everything worked. Turns out one leg of one DRAM module had some corrosion that we hadn’t spotted earlier and it made good contact in the PinPoint but not in those terrible TI sockets. Once we cleaned it, the burn-in test passed, Mike’s DRAM test passed, and we could load BASIC via the ACI and run everything we tested.
So the board is fully functional without repairing or replacing any components...just a lot of cleaning and careful testing. I photographed and videoed the process and will try and post something to YouTube this weekend.
Thanks to Corey and everyone else who offered advice and suggestions. I couldn’t be more pleased with my purchase and that this pristine gem-of-a-board has finally seen the light of day.
Congrat's to you!
You have a very unique piece of history there and your stewardship and careful skill has brought it back to life again.
I was 100% sure to know these pictures.
And yes, this Apple-1 was offered to me fall 2017. It is indeed a small world.
I got a large collection of pictures of this Apple-1. I was even asked how to remove the dirt. Not even the dirt at the CPU, all over the board little pieces of sticky dirt are visible on early pictures.
In the original offer schematics were included.
Unbelievable how many Apple-1 are offered those days. I've got several offers and appreciate this. Even an Apple license plate was offered to me and I was crazy enough to buy it.
I assumed that I was not the first/only person approached. You would have been the natural first person to contact since you live in Germany. The schematics are photocopies, so did not factor into the purchase price. I offered a fair price for only a motherboard of unknown condition, with no documentation, accessories, and limited provenance and eventually the sellers accepted. I’m very pleased with the outcome.
Would you be able to share those photos with me? I’d like to archive and keep all info related to this board...especially photos and documents from before it came into my possession.
I do think we are reaching the end of “newly” discovered Apple-1 boards. It’s becoming harder and harder to find one from owners who have gotten them in an estate of a loved one who died and would accept a set offer of cash (still a lot of money) vs selling at auction which takes time and may require an upfront marketing investment.
Once we hit auction only sales the prices are just going to keep going up because the buyers will stop being vintage computer fans with some access to a reasonably large sums of money and the buyers will be from the art/collectible world who have some very deep pockets.
I agree it will slow down.
On the other hand, there is no need for any owner to go to the public and many deals are done privately. They may go to their favorite golf club or so and talk to people they know and the deal is perfect.
Some people I know and even family members have bought some extraordinary rare vintage cars and other rare artefacts this way. And still nobody has a glue that these collectibles exist. If it is more important for you as a owner WHO will get your beloved collectible, money doesn't matter and the artefacts move silent from one building to another.
Bought in 1976, you still can be the first owner for the next 30+ years or already sold it to a friend or give it to your child to preserve it at home. A newly discovered Apple-1 could even show up 2050.
Many people like their privacy. I saw no need to talk to anyone about my collection for decades. Just accidently at an auction my name came up to the surface.
If that hadn't happened, I wouldn't have been unknown forever. It had its good points. I got some nice talks, got in touch with interesting people and bought more vintage computer in a year than in 10 years before.
And I'm just a tiny light in the collector's scene.
Collecting computer was and is fun for me and a hobby. I will not bitterly overreach others or speculate on a possible profit. I bought many computers and artefacts well overpriced because I wanted them. They'll never make a profit. I don't want to blame anyone for doing business. There are just some owner of Apple-1 etc. for other reason than making money.
I guess some Apple-1 in the Registry do not exist or do not exist anymore. But I am absolutely sure, more is to discover. It is just a matter of time.
Many Apple-1 ended up at Apple Company. Some are taken by employees, some may still be somewhere at the company. Just imagine, you are someone in the right position, walking through the building and finding an Apple-1. You may take it to your office or home and of course you would not call CNN "I found another Apple-1". This happened as we know, so how many times it happened and we don't know?
The same may happened with some early Apple II.
Why I am so sure about it? Pretty easy, I know about one existing Apple-1 that I would love to add to the Registry but the information given to me by owner confidentially and I have and will respect this. So yes, there are more.
Hopefully some previously unknown Apple-1 will be anonymously communicated to the Registry.
Any unknown Apple-1 is suspicious. It is very tempting for counterfeiters. That is why I like the Registry so much. It's not only preserving information and satisfy the wish of many enthusiasts to get more information about this first Apple computer. It is some protection. The provenance will be more important in the future than ever before. Today you can buy thousands nearly perfect copies of rare paintings, watches or whatever. I don't want to see this with the Apple-1. It already happens with some other computer like golden C64 and some more.
But that is all academic consideration. I am excited to see what we will see in the future.
Have a great day to eveyone and enjoy your private collection,
I've put together a not-so-short video documenting the restoration of this Apple-1. Hope you find it interesting! I've certainly remembered that I don't enjoy filming and editing videos...gonna stick to still photography!
Direct YouTube link
PS. Anyone know why the "video" tag is not working? Has that been disabled by the admins on purpose? It would be nice to display YouTube videos inline.
Great video! One for the archives. Thanks for sharing!
I'm trying to trace the history of this Apple-1, though I'm pretty sure I won't get very far. It deserves a "name" and ideally it should be that of the first owner. All I know about him is that he lived in Rochester NY and sold this board in 1978 or 1979.
The first step in trying to identify him would be to ask the second owner...but he has unfortunately passed away and his heirs have no idea whom he purchased it from. The next step would be to try and figure out how/where/when it was sold. It's an NTI board, and the latest date code of any component is 7650. To me that suggests it was assembled in 1977 some time. Were there any retailers who carried the Apple 1 on the East Coast in 1977/78? Otherwise it may have been sold directly by Apple...in which case I'm not confident my investigation will get very far. Could this have been one of the 15 boards ordered by Data Domain? Reviewing Mike's registry, my board appears to be very similar to the board belonging to "Dave in Arizona" as that also appears to have the same white ceramic Synertek 6502.
Good chance it was purchased though Stan Veit's "Computer Mart" in NYC, while Rochester was not super close to NYC, if you wanted to see any microcomputer in the flesh before you bought it that was the place to go in the area. I'm not sure that will help much though, as Stan is no longer with us and back in 1976/77 I'm not sure how well records were kept and if they still survive.
Hmm...that makes sense. Unless anyone has any other ideas of further avenues I can explore I’m going to stop actively looking for the first owner. I have another idea for naming this Apple-1 which I need to think about a bit more.
In the mean time, I had a friend take this photo of the board “in situ” as it may have been when the first owner brought it home (if he ever used it):
While going through all of the 1 related documents I’ve collected over the years, I came across this January 1977 issue of Interface Age magazine containing an Apple-1 advertisement. Notice the address label on the cover:
I’ve had this for 7 or 8 years, but only now noticed to whom this magazine was originally sent: Ray Borrill of Data Domain who sold ~15 Apple-1s from what I’ve learned in my research. I only paid attention to the label because as I was handling the magazine the address label fell off.