Expensive Knick-Knacks (4/12/99)

Holy yikes, they're everywhere! Shortly after we told you about the Weird Mac Thing on eBay, the faithful viewer known only as Eg'z pointed out a second "Apple Interactive TV Unit" up for bid at everyone's favorite online auction house. This entry is billed as an "Extremely Rare Apple Computer" and bears the slogan, "Own a Piece of Apple History!!!" There are plenty of photos of all sides of the unit, plus some snapshots of the board and chips inside. Apple's sordid prototype history is bubbling up through the cracks, proving that you really can find anything on eBay. (Personally, we're holding out for an original playlist from one of the only two 1998 Gilman St. performances of Steve Jobs' and Larry Ellison's secret punk band, the Thin Clients-- now there's a real piece of Apple history.)

More details have since come to light about these mysterious set-top boxes; the most complete factual run-down comes to you courtesy of the PowerBook Zone, who displayed remarkable tenacity in their research efforts. (Giles and Willow would be proud.) Apparently these things are prototype interactive TV devices that were manufactured for testing in England, as part of a collaboration with British Telecom in the 1994/1995 time frame. They're based on the old LC475 motherboard and were intended to give customers a way to access "video on demand" services. The product obviously never actually entered the production stage, probably because whatever video service it was built to run never came out, or because the video company went with a different set-top box. Nevertheless, dozens of them were used in the testing phase, so it seems likely that there are plenty more of these things floating around out there somewhere.

When last we checked, the original prototype that surfaced on eBay was up to a high bid of $941, with just three days left to go; the second instance is already up to $320, with five bidding days remaining. Sounds like an awful lot to pay for a unit that does almost nothing-- neither box up for bid seems to include a remote control or keyboard (perhaps a standard ADB keyboard would work?), there's absolutely zero documentation, and whatever video-on-demand service and infrastructure it was designed to work with doesn't exist. So basically, people are bidding hundreds and hundreds of dollars for a diskless LC475 that does nothing but put the word "Apple" on your TV's screen. (Hey, but at least it's in that familiar Apple Garamond font!) Hmmm, we think we'll pass-- have to save up our money in case that playlist ever surfaces.

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The above scene was taken from the 4/12/99 episode:

April 12, 1999: Uh-oh, those Weird Mac Things are multiplying even as we speak. Meanwhile, rumors of Apple's migration to Intel resurface, and Apple elects for a little plastic surgery to make the iMac's mouse even cuter-- with dimples...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 1459: Obligatory Intel Rumor (4/12/99)   Ah, yes-- PowerPC death rumors. It seems like there's always some "PowerPC is going away" angst mixed into the Apple rumor gene pool, and that makes sense; the PowerPC is crucial to Apple's survival and success, yet its continued development is almost entirely out of Apple's control...

  • 1460: A Mouse With Dimples (4/12/99)   iMac 333's are definitely starting to become available in the retail channel, as reported by multiple sources who have actually been able to buy them and take them home-- including Tangerine ones, which hopefully puts the whole "Banana and Cherry" issue to rest for the time being...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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