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DIY Kit Lets You Build Your Own Apple I, No Soldering Required

SmartyKit Apple I Replica
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

If building PCs that operate at 5 GHz seems passe, perhaps you'd rather put together a system that speeds a long at a blazing 1 MHz. Launching later this year for an introductory price of $119, SmartyKit provides all the parts you need to make a replica of the original Apple I computer.

The SmartyKit is designed to indulge Apple and computer history fans taste for nostalgia, while potentially teaching kids about how computers work. The kit comes with 15 different chips, including the same 1 MHz MOS 6502 processor used in the Apple I and a ROM chip that holds a copy of Steve Wozniak's original Monitor operating system. 

The kit also comes with breadboards and jumper wires and a battery holder for powering it (it can run off standard batteries). There's no soldering involved as all the chips and wires are just attached to the breadboard. So it won't look quite like the Apple I.

SmartyKit Box

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

You can get video out via a composite port too, so if you plan to use a modern monitor you may need a composite to HDMI adapter. For attaching a keyboard, there's also a PS/2 port, which is an anachronism since PS/2 debuted in 1987. However, these ports, though dated, give you the opportunity to connect to modern screens and keyboards, albeit using PS/2 to USB and Composite to HDMI adapters.

Once you get the kit, you'll have access to a number of online tutorials which show you how to build it and how it works. SmartyKit CEO Sergei Panarin said that it should take "about two weekends" to complete the build.

The operating system has two built-in applications, one which lets you program in BASIC and another that outputs an image of Apple Founder Steve Wozniak's face made out of ASCII characters. Unfortunately there's no way to connect a storage drive to the SmartyKit to add more applications. As Panarin told us, the main goal of the kit is building it, not running software on it afterwards.

Steve Wozniak's Face App

(Image credit: SmartyKit)

The original Apple I was built by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in 1975 and made its commercial debut in 1976 for the princely sum of $666, over $3,000 in 2020 money. Only 200 units were produced and, in the years since, they have become pricey collector's items. In 1977 Apple moved on to the much more useful and popular Apple II.

There's no precise launch date for the SmartyKit, but Panarin said that it should be out later this year. If you visit the company's website you can sign up to be alerted as to when it goes on sale. 

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.