We've got exclusive photos of the world's first desktop PCs - saved from the dumpster, 52-year old Q1 PC features Intel's first 8-bit CPU and a retropunk design

Q1 computer
(Image credit: Just Clear)

Just Clear, a house clearance company in the UK, recently stumbled upon two of the world's first-ever desktop computers.

Launched with Intel's 8008 processor in December 1972, the Q1 model was manufactured by the Q1 Corporation in the United States. With a design resembling a typewriter and a neon-orange plasma display, the Q1 marked a significant - if now mostly forgotten - milestone in computing history.

The discovery of the pair of ancient computers was made during a routine house clearance. Initially unaware of their significance, the company set the machines aside for further research.

A significant find

After several internet searches yielded little information, Just Clear's founder, Brendan O'Shea, consulted an expert.

"Our teams find all sorts of items while clearing houses daily, some with historical significance. But never did I imagine we'd find something so crucial to the field of technology and the history of computing," Brendan said. 

"I’m told that these models are extremely rare, so to find a pair of them is beyond exciting. The computers were buried under a hoard of boxes and initially we just thought they were two nice pieces of 70's computing history that perhaps we would have data-wiped if not suitable for reuse and sent to our E-waste stream. However, after consulting our advisors and conducting research over time, we realized we had, in fact uncovered two ultra-rare items, of which there are only three known in existence in the world today.”

Q1 computer keyboard

(Image credit: Just Clear)

Q1 Everything device

(Image credit: Just Clear)

The pair of computers was put on display at technology exhibition at Kingston University titled "Creating the Everything Device: Showcasing the machines that built the future". The exhibition included first generation Atari, Sinclair ZX81, ZX Spectrum, Sinclair QL, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron, Amstrad, Commodore, and the Dragon 32, and was curated by Paul Neve and Professor Islam Choudhury.

"There would be no PCs, no Macs, no Apple or Android phones without the Q1 Corporation," Neve commented. "The early pioneers in the 1970’s and 1980’s laid the foundation for today’s ‘everything’ device - the modern computer, which is so ubiquitous in everyday life. We rely on computers for our work, communication, productivity and entertainment, but without the early trailblazers none of this would exist."

Just Clear has yet to decide on the future of the two Q1s. They may be auctioned off or sold privately.

Q1 side view

(Image credit: Just Clear)

Q1 top

(Image credit: Just Clear)


(Image credit: Just Clear)

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Wayne Williams

Wayne Williams is a freelancer writing news for TechRadar Pro. He has been writing about computers, technology, and the web for 30 years. In that time he wrote for most of the UK’s PC magazines, and launched, edited and published a number of them too.