Apple is a multi-billion dollar corporation today, but in 1975 Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were just two guys making computers in a garage. Today, there are just a handful of Apple I's, the first Apple product, in existence — and, reports the San Jose Mercury News’ Sharon Noguchi, the hunt is now on for a woman who threw one worth $200,000 away.
Noguchi writes that Clean Bay Area, a Milpitas, California-based recycling firm, is offering a $100,000 reward to the woman who dropped off the Apple I in a box filled with other electronics in April. She apparently refused to give her name or get a receipt when she brought the boxes to the recycling facility, but the company was able to sell the rare computer to a private collector for $200,000 and wants to split the earnings with the mystery donor.
Why all the fuss about an old computer? The model dumped at the recycling center was one of just 200 that Jobs and Wozniak assembled by hand along with then-partner Ron Wayne. The original unit, which was the first pre-assembled personal computer on the market, sold for $666.66 when it debuted in 1976. Since only 50 are still believed to exist, the machine is one of the most coveted in computer history. Last year, an Apple I sold at auction for $905,000 — a small price to pay for The Henry Ford, a museum that has compared the machine to the Model T in terms of technological influence.
The owner of the recycling firm tells Noguchi that the woman was cleaning out her garage after her husband’s death, so likely didn’t know the import of the treasure she gave away. He’s urging her to return so she can claim her part of the proceeds from a computer that boasted “32K of on-board RAM” and had “a fraction of the processing power of today’s average wristwatch.”