Apple's remaining co-founders, Woz and Wayne, reminisce about early company relics

Ron Wayne, the little-known third co-founder, to auction off his collection of early-Apple documents

Ron Wayne and Steve Wozniak
Bob Luther

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak yesterday said he wasn't surprised at the growing interest in early artifacts from the company, including the Apple-1, the first personal computer he designed and created.

"It doesn't seem that unusual at all," Wozniak said in a telephone interview Monday. "It's the largest brand in the world, so many people know Apple, and the Apple-1 is so rare. But it's also because the world's changed since Apple was started."

But Ron Wayne, a co-founder much less known than either Wozniak or Steve Jobs, thought a little differently. "I'm just amazed, to be perfectly candid," he said of the interest. "I just played a small part [in Apple]. It's all about Steve Wozniak creating this product."

Wayne, now 80, and Wozniak, 64, were referring to the brisk sales of Apple memorabilia over the last several years, including several Apple-1 machines that have sold at auction for more than half a million dollars each, and in 2011, the company's founding contract, which sold for $1.6 million.

In 1976, when that contract was drawn up, it boasted three signatures: Wozniak's, Wayne's and Jobs'. Wayne, then 41 and thus the elder statesman of the trio, was instrumental in the founding of Apple. He had been recruited by Jobs to convince Wozniak to launch the partnership. For his part, Wayne was offered a 10% share in the new company, Apple Computers.

Wayne relinquished his part of the deal just days later, receiving $800 for his shares. He bowed out in part because of past business venture failures as well as the fact that all the partners were personally liable for any debts the new company might accrue.

"No, I don't regret the decision," Wayne said Monday. "My passion was not computers. I had put my two cents in and was glad to help."

Wayne, however, is now selling the last of his Apple holdings, which are not in shares, but in paper.

Among the items slated for auction by Christie's on Dec. 11 is Wayne's document collection, dubbed the "Ron Wayne Apple Archive." It includes original working proofs of the Apple-1 manual, Wayne's original company logo -- perhaps the oldest in existence -- and design renderings of a proposed Apple II case. Christie's has pegged the value of Wayne's collection at $30,000 to $50,000, the high estimate an increase from an earlier $40,000.

Wayne's Apple II planned enclosure was not actually used, but it closely resembled the final in several ways. "The [actual case] philosophy was as I designed it," said Wayne. "Rather than a vertical design with a vertical motherboard and a separate keyboard, it was a horizontal design with an integrated keyboard."

Wayne also designed a door in the front of the enclosure that allowed access to the guts of the keyboard for repair.

"At the time, there was not a lot of money available [for production], so it was designed to be made without a lot of tooling," Wayne said. By the time Apple began production of the Apple II -- the personal computer was introduced in April 1977 and started selling later that year -- the company had more money and went with a more-expensive-to-manufacture case.

Also on Christie's auction block on Dec. 11 in New York will be an operational Apple-1, owned by Bob Luther, who arranged the meeting Monday of Wozniak and Wayne, their first since Jobs' death in 2011.

Luther's Apple-1, which he purchased at a sheriff's sale in 2004 for $7,600, could go for as much as $600,000, according to Christie's estimate. The Apple-1 will be accompanied by a canceled check from the original owner, Charles Ricketts, made out for $600 to Apple Computer in July 1976.

According to Luther's research -- which he recounted in his 2013 book The First Apple -- the Ricketts Apple-1 was the only documented instance of a direct-to-a-customer sale. Many of the 200-odd Apple-1 computers were sold by the Byte Shop of Mountain View, Calif.

But yesterday, Wozniak remembered at least one other Apple-1 that did not go through the Byte Shop.

"I tried to talk Steve [Jobs] into giving one to a woman to take to a school," said Wozniak, to show students and get them interesting in programming. But Jobs refused. "He made me buy it...for $300," said Wozniak.

Both Wozniak and Wayne also reminisced about the early days of Apple during the interview.

"It was the Garage Days," said Wozniak. "We didn't know the first thing about business, and Ron [Wayne] was a big part of the guidance. We started with nothing. But the fun was in designing computers. It was an exciting time in our lives, and memorable for the friends you made and the conversations you had."

"I knew it was special," added Wayne. "We were all motivated knowing that we were doing things with our lives."

Ron Wayne's Apple document collection Christie's

Ron Wayne's Apple document collection includes proofs of the Apple-1 manual, the oldest-known logo design, and plans for an Apple II enclosure.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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