Apple's prototypes have had a bad habit of popping up online via eBay, Craigslist, and other means lately, but this gem is Apple's first stab at what we now know as Apple TV.
This isn't the Pippen (God have mercy on the 42,000 of you who bought it), but is rather Apples first foray into interactive television. Apparently Apple spent part of the 90's working on a predecessor to today's video-on-demand services. There were never any production units, only prototypes including this one.
Randall Bennet posted a few pics on his Tumblr of the original Apple TV circa 1996. The pictures came from Rob Gould who had access to the unit pictured above during his time at Bell Atlantic which is now Verizon for those not familiar with the "Baby Bells" and their consolidation in the mid to late 90's.
When it boots, you see the Mac OS Finder on your TV and the inits start loading on the bottom of the screen. It played video from MPEG1 streams at 1.544 mbps, which actually didnít look bad at all in standard-def.
Very interesting stuff. The unit appears to have composite outs as well as S-video outs for a little better picture. The box connected to a user's cable, and internet judging by the cable and ethernet ports on the back. It definitely is a very early iteration of what the cable-box, and set-top box have become today. Apple TV and this box appear to be light years apart, and rightfully so. This look back to 1990's cable television is definitely a blast from the pay-per-view past. Does anyone else remember hooking their video game consoles up via a cheap RFU adaptor because your television didn't even have composite inputs?
Those were the days.