An original Apple 1 computer built by Steve Wozniak in the Jobs family garage is the star attraction in an incredible collection of scientific collectibles being auctioned off in New York tomorrow.
Bonhams History of Science auction – its first – is a history buff’s ultimate shopping trip. Along with the Apple 1, of which just 200 were made, articles belonging to luminaries the likes of Charles Darwin and Ada Lovelace, medical and biological curiosities, artwork and original inventions are on the block.
The auction starts at Bonhams New York, 1pm EDT (4am AEDT). Here’s a selection of the most wanted; you can view the whole collection at Bonhams’ website.
Apple 1 Motherboard
Built by Steve Wozniak in the Jobs family garage, only five of these have been sold in the past four years. Unlike those four, this one looks like it’s in original shipping condition. Just 200 were made and they became the first pre-assembled personal computers on the market. This one is in working order – Bonhams have this video of it in action – and comes with tape decks, keyboard and monitor.
Link: Lot 286 – APPLE 1 COMPUTER.
Expected price: AU$340,000 – 570,000
Ada Lovelace sketch
If you’re hardcore about vintage computers, this lot puts the Apple 1 in the shade – and for a fraction of the price. It’s a “Sketch of the Analytical Engine invented by Charles Babbage” by none other than the Countess of Lovelace, Lord Byron’s only child, maths prodigy and considered by many to be history’s first computer programmer. Babbage demonstrated his Analytical Engine concept in Turin in 1841 and Italian military engineer L.F. Menabrea took notes. Lovelace not only translated the notes to English, but expanded on them in a way that proved to the world it was a genuinely programmable computer.
Link: Lot 272 – [LOVELACE, AUGUSTA ADA BYRON, COUNTESS OF, translator.] MENABREA, LUIGI FEDERICO.
Expected price: AU$20,000 – 28,000
Helmholtz Sound Synthesizer
Mix some phat 19th Century beats with this wood and brass sound synthesizer built by Max Kohl after the design by Hemholtz. It’s the first electric keyboard, designed to “identify the various frequencies of the pure sine wave components of complex sounds containing multiple tones”. Bonhams says it knows of only one other example, none of this size or quality, which combines “timbres of 10 harmonics to form various vowel sounds”.
Link: Lot 245 – HELMHOLTZ, HERMANN VON. 1821-1894. Chemnitz: Max Kohl, c.1905.
Expected price: AU$23,000 – 34,000
Charles Darwin signed letter about barnacles
Darwin’s study of barnacles in particular led him to classify a group of organisms according to the principle of ‘common descent,’ the idea that related animals and plants all descend from a common ancestor. In this letter, Darwins tells a colleague that he can’t wait to hear details from a man who claims he has watched a group of barnacles have sex.
Link: Lot 80 – DARWIN, CHARLES. 1809-1882.
Expected price: AU$23,000 – 34,000
Manhattan Project Viewing Window
A viewing window from the secret WWII Manhattan project bomb program, in which work by Albert Einstein and Enrico Fermi led to the development of the first hydrogen bomb and the Fat Man atomic bomb which destroyed Nagasaki. It’s on a wooden cart, because despite the fact it’s 54″ – about the size of large family TV – it weighs 680kg. It emits a yellow glow due to its high percentage of protective lead oxide. But it’s definitely not radioactive.
Link: Lot 262W.
Expected price: AU$170,000 – 280,000
Letters from Samuel Morse
Morse first attempted to build his famous overland telegraph underground. When it fizzled out, he was persuaded to use a system of poles proposed by the British engineer Charles Wheatstone. This group of documents relate to Morse’s construction of the first electromagnetic telegraph line, in which he orders 400 chestnut posts at a price of 98 cents apiece. Six weeks later, construction would begin and end on May 24, 1844, with Morse telegraphing his famous message: “What hath God wrought!”
List: Lot 225 MORSE. TELEGRAPH DOCUMENTS.
Expected price: AU$11,000 – 17,000
An early form of the motion picture projector, widely used by traveling showmen in the 17th Century known as “Savoyards” who gave lantern shows projected onto white backdrops. Also popular parts of magic acts. This one comes in a beautiful mahogany box, with 10 hand-colored glass slides depicting “a variety of scenes, including the great Pyramids of Egypt, a scholar in his study, a jungle scene with dragons and snakes, and a tropical scene”.
List: Lot 233 MAGIC LANTERN. Pettibone New Improved Sciopticon. Cincinatti, Ohio
Expected price: AU$2,300 – 3,400