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Thread: Sphere 1

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Farmington, Utah
    Posts
    6

    Question Sphere 1

    I'm glad I found this site, because it seems like this is the right crowd to help me authenticate some information about Sphere Corporation and the Sphere 1 that was marketed first as a kit, and then as an assembled PC in 1975. I've found some people online saying it was the first "true" PC for various reasons, and others who completely leave it out.

    I have the first Sphere 1 System Mike Wise ever built and have been asked to sell it, so I've been researching its history, which has always been fuzzy to me because family stories are so unreliable. I don't think we'll end up selling it because the minimum we can let it go for is $2K, but I am more interested in substantiating the information.

    I've put together some links I found on it and am very interested in any feedback any vintage lovers can offer. And, since I'm Mike's daughter, please be kind if you happen to have personal feelings on the matter. I don't need him to be important or whatever, I really am trying to figure out the facts of the story. I know he was brilliant, but also crazy, so it is hard to figure out.

    Here are the links I found:

    http://www.wix.com/hivalerie/sphere1#!links

    Thanks for any help!

  2. #2

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    Well I'm confused. Did you just find this in the basement or something? What facts do you have that make this the prototype first Sphere 1? No one knows who you are, you have no profile and you're selling this on an ebay account that hasn't been used since 2008? Good luck.

  3. #3

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    Wow. That website is truly, truly horrible... For one, it's entirely in Flash - making it unviewable on most systems. Two, even if you have flash, it's almost unusable, and there isn't actually a link to the auction that I can find. There is a "widget" displaying pictures of the thing, but clicking it won't bring you to the auction on eBay. I had to go to eBay and search for it. I'm not one to go around criticizing things for no reason - but this is truly about the worst I've seen. Creating a site to advertize your item is one thing - but this isn't how you do it... I'd suggest just giving people links to your auction.

    For those of you interested, here is the eBay auction: http://cgi.ebay.com/290580400322

    That said, this is one truly rare system. One of the original products that defined the term "vaporware". To see one, complete, is really amazing. Occasionally bare circuit boards turn up, but never the whole thing.

    Do you have any software for it? Does it work?

    -Ian

  4. #4

    Default

    Neat system although I'd have to see the provenance regarding the "first one he built."

    Are there any notes, records or other docs?

    Is there any software or other material related to the unit?

    Regardless, a Sphere is worth more than $2K, probably a lot more, so your auction should work out well. The more detail (pictures and related docs) that you add to it the higher it will go.

    BTW, I disagree with the "First Personal Computer" claim although if you use all of the qualifiers that Byte used: Integrated screen, keyboard, numeric keypad, etc. then you're probably close...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Farmington, Utah
    Posts
    6

    Default

    Wow, tough crowd. I actually had someone look over the system and give me more specs. He had me take the auction down until he gave me more facts. The new auction just went up with all of the details as to what he found. http://cgi.ebay.com/290581271940

    The new auction site should answer questions about what is and is not included much better by way of boards and has the link to the schematics. As for proof that it was actually Mike Wise's computer or actually the first he built, I'm not sure how to go about that. I am his only child and grew up with this thing in my closet. Then when he passed away, it moved into my garage. How to authenticate that? He and my family told me it was the first one he'd built. If that's just family lore, then at least it is clearly the only one he kept, because I've been staring at it for 35 years. I'm sure I could find one of his old business pals to verify that if needed, I guess.

    I honestly never believed all the hype about dad until people were going on and on about what he'd done at the funeral. And then I decided to sell the system and had to look into it more, it became clear that the "first" thing was debatable, but many knowledgeable people felt it was very significant in the PC story. I don't want to hype it up to be anything more than it is, but it is a complete, very early system from a very interesting, even brilliant, guy. I'd like to see it valued highly not just monetarily, but for what it is.

    Sorry the flash site made you so sad. I spent 30 minutes on it figuring it would be supplemental to the auction, and you saw it right after the first auction came down. Maybe I'll do an html version if I get time. As for having no profile, I came to this list as a non-technical newbie for any info I could find out about my dad and was very open about that. Also I am clear in the eBay listing that I'm not a regular seller. I don't think I have to be a prolific hawker of stuff to qualify me as someone who has something valuable to offer, but the auction will tell, I guess. I've tried to be very straightforward and don't claim to have your clearly superior understanding of these things. As for vaporware, that's just self-satisfied nastiness. Thanks for your hospitality.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    3,786

    Default

    Yeah, I'd have to agree that the comments on the website and the "vapourware" comment aren't really relevant to the thread.

    Ma'am, you'll have to understand that, while we don't think you are scamming anyone (OK, I can only speak for myself), there have been some (possibly inadvertent) scams involving replica Apple Is (and a couple of other units) so, authentication IS important in cases like this where rarity could result in an extremely high monetary investment.

    If you were selling the Star of India, people would expect verifiable authentication, wouldn't they?
    Legacy Computers and Parts

    Sales of, parts for, and repairs to, Vintage and Legacy computers.

  7. #7

    Default

    The auction looks great and I hope you get what you're expecting from it.

    Sorry about being part of the "tough crowd" but "first" is almost always a hard thing to justify.

    I'd actually love to see this thing (and any related papers, parts, software, etc.) offered to the Computer History Museum. It would be a great addition to their collection and, with your backstory, I suspect the curators would jump at the chance to add it. You'd have to take the writeoff rather than cash, of course, but it would help memorialize your dad's work properly.

  8. #8

    Default

    Eh, let 'em bid with the rest of the crowd j/k. I'm gonna see if I can triple the current bid to $3.00 and be the high bidder for a while. Braggin rights in itself.

    Kidding aside, best of luck and thanks for coming back and posting/following up. I see folks over on the cctalk list also talking about the auction so it has some good attention amongst the collector crowd. Any time there's a high profile or "rare" to find system you'll end up with a healthy amount of speculation and research. Obviously folks who are wanting to plop down a paycheck for a system want to make sure it's not just a replica or scam. Either way best of luck. The more pictures and close up shots you can get the better for everyone.
    Looking to acquire: IBM 5100, Altair 8800

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Farmington, Utah
    Posts
    6

    Default

    Thanks for your comments and input. As is clear, I'm pretty out of my element, and I do want to authenticate as best I can, just trying to figure out how to prove I grew up with this thing always hanging around. And hey, I threw up a non-flash site for the crabbies--just as ugly, easier to load: http://sphere1.yolasite.com/.

    The system is with my friend who gave me the better specs for the current auction, I can ask him if he is willing to take more pictures.

    I'd love to see it in the museum, but it's an economic issue I'm afraid. Otherwise it may still be in storage.

  10. #10

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    My apologies - I never meant for you to take any of that personally. I just wanted to point out that a lot of people (especially people that collect old computers... ) are going to have a problem viewing and using that website. The new one you made is quite nice - it's actually very good. Very straightforward, and easy to use, and informative.

    And on vaporware - I wasn't trying to insult you. I was using that to point out just how rare this machine is. It's so rare, that many people don't even believe that it exists. AFAIK, the company never made it into full production. They only made a couple hundred of the things. The advertising, however - everyone has seen. I don't think there is anyone collecting old computers today that doesn't know what the Sphere 1 is. We all know what it looks like... but nobody has ever, physically seen one. I've seen a bare CPU board.. but never a complete machine. I've heard tales of a complete machine existing - but again, just stories.

    You did a very good job putting information together for your auction this time around. A big thing was also adding the word "computer" to the auction title. I'm sure there are collectors out there with search notifications set up for "sphere computer", which weren't going to catch your previous auction. I'm sure that this will go a lot higher than you imagine. You can look around and see how much an Altair or a Sol 20 is worth - but those machines are downright common in comparison to a Sphere.

    Also, yeah, you did hit on a bit of a sore spot with some people by saying it was the first. Lots of claims over the years have been made as to what was first - or what was considered the first home computer. Various requirements, such as being a kit, or fully assembled, or having the ability to store programs on external media, etc. try to define it, but it's really hard. Add to that the fact that many people like to claim they have the "first" something - even when they're talking about an Apple II, or a TRS-80, etc. Saying "this was the first" is always going to be controversial, since everyone has a different idea as to what "first" means. For example, the Mark 8 came out before the Sphere - in 1974. But the Mark 8 was a kit. So is it still first? Many, many long threads have been written on the subject - and that's neither here nor there. Just pointing out that the subject is touchy.

    And... we get a lot of drive-by posters here. People that come in, don't introduce themselves, don't enter their location into their profile, and immediately start posting things for sale. Some have been scammers. Obviously, we trust you now - especially since you've come back to talk to us. I know that you're used to seeing this computer in your closet - but to us, it's like someone showed up out of the blue with a unicorn for sale.

    But, regardless, my apologies for being harsh earlier. Not my intent. I hope your auction goes well.

    -Ian

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