Pioneering tech up for auction
German hammer house to sell early Apple computer, first ever calculator
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A German auction house announced this week it is to sell a range of antique technology curios, some of which date back as far as the 1600s.
Last November, Cologne-based Auction Team Breker made international news when it sold an original 1976 Apple 1 computer for $640,000. On 25 May Breker will host another auction where another of the six surviving Apple 1s will be available for purchase as well as a host of other industry firsts and technology precursors.
One of the lot numbers is widely hailed as the first truly 'personal' computer on the market. The 1973 Nat Wadsworth Scelbi-8H (estimated to be worth $20,000 to $25,000), was built around the first Intel 8-Bit microprocessor and fell within the budget of the average user. However it failed to charm the market and only 200 units were produced. Only three have survived.
Also on Breker's roster is the 1974 MITS Altair 8800, now considered by many to be the first commercially successful PC (estimated to be worth $4,000 to 7,000). Ed Roberts' Altair graced the front cover of Popular Electronics magazine in January 1975 and likely inspired Apple founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in how to market the Apple 1. Bill Gates and Paul Allen built in an improved operating system called Altair BASIC, laying the foundation stone for tech history, both in terms of OS and application development.
Three hundred years before the Apple founders' birth, French philosopher, physicist and mathematician, Blaise Pascal, designed the world's first mechanical calculator with digital carry-over. In 1642 at the tender age of 19, Pascal started work. Operators of his device used a stylus to turn digit-wheels with engraved silvered scales (the 'keys') connected, via gears, to a paper 'display'. A sliding rule changed the function from addition to subtraction. Multiplication and division relied on the '9s complements' principal still used in computers today. The machine is estimated by Breker to be worth $30,000 to $50,000.
The auction also includes early examples of audio players, magnetic disk readers, encryption devices and telephones.
"This sale is unique in presenting masterpieces from the spectrum of antique technology, from the 17th century to the 21st," said Uwe Breker, founder of Auction Team Breker.