Just In Time For Christmas: Apple Macintosh Prototype For Sale

We do love a bit of retrotechnology around our workspace. But we have to admit, we really want to find this prototype Apple Mac under the tree this year. There’s only one problem. There’s only one for sale and only two like it known to exist, for that matter. The auction house thinks it will fetch up to $180,000. We will guess that number is low, but we will find out on December 4th.

The 1983 computer has a pre-production plastic housing and a 5.25 inch “twiggy” drive. Apple provided this machine, apparently, to Encore Systems so they could develop MacWrite ahead of the machine’s release date.

According to the auction site, there are only two surviving machines that have the 5.25 inch disk drive. These were the same drives used in the Lisa and were not known for reliability. You can read more about how Sony managed to escape Steve Jobs’ notice to deliver their 3.5 inch drives to the new Apple Macintosh. If you want to read more about the pair of twiggys that survived and how they were restored, Cult of Mac has a good article about the whole affair.

This is an amazing piece of history and — Apple fan or not — you can’t deny that these were highly influential computers. We liked the quote from Jobs himself at the end of the auction notice:

I’m one of those people who think that Thomas Edison and the light bulb changed the world a lot more than Karl Marx ever did.

We agree Steve. We agree.

If you like Apple forensics, there’s always a bad hard drive lurking around. Or you can just fake it.

19 thoughts on “Just In Time For Christmas: Apple Macintosh Prototype For Sale

  1. “I’m one of those people who think that Thomas Edison and the light bulb changed the world a lot more than Karl Marx ever did.”

    And it’s rather a shame, because look at the mess that has resulted from material abundance, and yet we are no more advanced socially.

    Ox-cart drivers in charge of spaceships.

    1. Just to make sure you’re aware of the difference between the prototype and the released product: Is the disk slot on yours as wide as the one in the picture? If so, congratulations! Where to sell it? Any big auction house would be interested.

    1. It was tooled for injection molding, since they made a lot of them.
      When the other two mentioned surfaced 6-ish years ago, the one with the highest serial# was like 1030
      They were never sold with this drive, and the article from years ago claimed Jobs ordered the twiggy drive systems at apple to all be destroyed, which is why they are so rare to find.

    2. Often in injection molding, they mold a portion of the object they know ‘might change in a future Rev’ as a removable steel insert in the mold. I imagine that may be the case here as the next revision insert would not need to be the larger one.

      1. They probably used a soft tool for these prototypes. They are machined from aluminum or some other soft ‘easy to machine’ material which is cheap but doesn’t last longer than a few dozen molds. Once the design is final they will make a hard tool which is machined from ‘harder steel’ and last for as long as the lifetime of the product with millions of molds coming out of it.

  2. “We agree Steve. We agree.”

    Being a HaD reader for way over a decade, I always found the use of the “we” pronoun a bit curious. Over time though, I got used to it. I reckoned it was merely used as a means for the author to express their personal view on something, while upholding the illusion of a tight team of writers working together on everything. These views were seldom very controversial anyway, and if they had a political touch it was always about something directly relevant to the hacker community.

    This is actually the first time I have ever seen said pronoun used for expressing a controversial opinion which I not only wholeheartedly disagree with but also fail to see the relevance of to the community. This it makes me wonder…

    Is this an opinion the whole editorial staff holds, and are all of you ok with the direction this takes the site?

    1. I think we’re probably OK with it, but I see your point.

      We use “I” when it’s a matter of the author’s experience, but we use “we” when expressing opinions that the majority of Hackaday is likely to support. We love open-source, for instance.

      We’re not a hive-mind, though. We sometimes disagree.

      But anyway, one throwaway quote at the bottom of a daily about an overpriced piece of nostalgic computer history doesn’t “take the site” in any particular direction, any more than a single article about a historical bomber airplane that one of our authors got to tour makes us “pro-war”.

      Comparing the relative impact of technology to philosophy/ideology is apples to oranges anyway, IMO. It’s a silly quote. I wouldn’t think too hard about it.

  3. What I find disappointing about mentions of the Twiggy drive is I’ve yet to see an article on the Lisa, and now these rare Macintosh boxes, that has pictures of the Twiggy disk drive. Sometimes they’ll show the Twiggy floppy disk. The website on the two 128K Macs with the 5.25″ drives shows their different mainboards, the inside of the case backshell with the signatures, and the bottom which compares the lack of some vents on the prototype.

    But why doesn’t anyone show the W#%W#@% disk drive itself? How about a video showing a Twiggy drive formatting a disk or doing some file access so people can see how the damn thing works?

  4. Wasn’t the twiggy drive also plagued by the variable speed to achieve the same data speed from inner tracks as from outer tracks ? The inner tracks also had density issues, fading quicker. Good choice to go for a hard enclosure with a higher magnetic capacity.

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