Ron Wayne's document cache

December 22nd, 2011 3:43 PM
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Earlier this month, Apple's founding contact was auctioned from the estate of Wade Saadi by Sotheby's. Its estimated value was in the range of $100,000 to $150,000 USD.

It went for $1,350,500 — almost ten times more than expected. For comparison, an actual Apple-1 computer went for $213,600, or 15% as much as the contract.

It's hard to see this sale as yet another unfortunate transaction in which Apple co-founder Ron Wayne was involved. He sold this same contract in 1994 ago for $500 (although some reports indicate it was several thousand dollars); if he'd held onto it, he could've sold it for 2,701 times more than what he got for it. Of course, that's nothing compared to the $800 for which he sold his 10% share of Apple stock in 1976. Today, it'd be worth $35 billion, or 43,750,000 times more.

But there may be hope yet. That contract was one of several documents that Wayne has kept in his possession all these years. Brian Heater of Engadget recently rifled through Wayne's archives:

The documents, stashed in a USPS mailer kept by the door of his office, were a veritable treasure trove of information, including pages of pages of plans and pencils drawings of an Apple I enclosure Jobs asked Wayne to build — his creation was ultimately rejected by Apple and lost to history as the company gained steam.

Also stored in the envelope were a facsimile of the contract signed by Wayne, Woz and Jobs, which recently sold on auction for more than $1 million — in fact, it was Wayne's original copy that hit the auction block. He had parted ways with it for far, far less some time ago. Wayne's Statement of Withdrawal is in the pile as well — the document effectively ended his term with the company, filed for a $5 fee. Also inside are an Apple I operation manual, with the company's original logo, designed by Wayne himself and an Apple II order form.

Will one of these documents end up on the auction block next? Will Wayne's brushes with fortune ever bear fruit? Or will he forever earn nothing more than a footnote in Apple's history?

(Hat tip to Jon Brooks and Bloomberg, both via Mike Maginnis)

Apple founding contract for sale

December 5th, 2011 3:27 PM
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A bit more than a year after an Apple-1 sold at an Christie's of London auction for $213,600, another irreplaceable piece of Apple history will be up for bid. Next week, you'll have the opportunity to bid on the contract that established Apple as a legitimate business entity.

Sotheby's "Fine Books & Manuscripts" auction (N08811) occurs on Tuesday, December 13, 2011, at 10:00 AM EST in New York and consists of personal and autographed items belonging to the likes of Cole Porter, Joseph Heller, and Giacomo. Lot #241 of 353, listed as being the "property of various owners", has the title "APPLE COMPUTER CONTRACT AND DISSOLUTION OF CONTRACT SIGNED BY JOBS, WOZNIAK AND WAYNE (3 DOCUMENTS)" and is described as follows:

Two typed documents signed by "Stephen G. Wozniak", "steven p. jobs", "Ronald G.. Wayne": Apple Computer Company Partnership Agreement, dated 1April 1976, 3 pages (8 ½ x 11 in; 216 x 279 mm) with small staple holes and crease in upper left corners; With: Amendment dated 12 April 1976, 1 page, with erasure and minor corrections to text; And with: Registrant's Copy of County of Santa Clara Statement of Withdrawal signed by "Ronald G Wayne," 1 page.

This document founded the company in 1976, but it was invalidated and succeeded a year later when Apple was incorporated. The estimated value is between $100,000 and $150,000 USD, with bids being accepted both in-person and online.

Apple's founding contract (zoomed in)

These John Hancocks can be yours — if the price is right.

What I find to be the most striking aspect of this auction is not the future bidding that will occur, but the trail this piece of paper must've travelled to arrive at this auction. How and why did the document leave the possession of Woz, Jobs, and Wayne? Was it sold, stolen, or misplaced? Have the current owner(s) approach Apple Inc. to attempt a direct sale? Is there any legal basis for this contract to be in the possession of a third party and not returned to its original owners? IANAL and do not have the answers to these questions. But I look forward to more information being revealed as its sale approaches and more publicity is garnered.

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Selling to Pawn Stars

March 3rd, 2011 11:10 AM
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Finding an Apple II for sale is not hard; one need only look on eBay, Craiglist, or any number of other online classifieds. Less common are in-person sales, and though they do occur at places like KansasFest, they rarely receive the publicity that an Apple IIGS did on a recent episode of Pawn Stars.

This show, a product of the History Channel, is a reality television series in which Las Vegas pawn brokers assess personal property and broker various transactions for people hoping to strike it rich in the city of Lost Wages. It's sort of an edgier take on PBS's Antiques Roadshow. I've never seen either show but was alerted to the Pawn Stars's Feb. 14 episode, "Wise Guys", described as follows:

The Pawn Stars take a mission briefing when presented with a fully functional 1941 M3 Armored Scout Truck from World War II. Will the gang head to battle for this bulletproof piece of military history or will an auto ambush force them to retreat? Then, Rick and Corey meet a man hoping to sell a check signed by notorious mobster Carlo Gambino. Will Rick make him an offer he can't refuse or will this deal sleep with the fishes? And later, Rick and Chumlee check out a 1987 Apple II GS Computer. Will they boot up some cash for this classic piece of technology or is the deal bound to crash?

I watched as a woman in her thirties tried to sell an Apple IIGS with boxes, manuals, and duplicated floppies. I was annoyed by the broker who said that he'd "sell it to someone who would turn it into an aquarium." His disregard and contempt for our favorite retrocomputer was palpable. I mentioned this to Emily Kahm, the vocal talent of the Open Apple podcast and the person who first pointed me to this episode. A regular viewer of the show, Kahm provided some context:

Rick is a shrewd businessman, and his whole business is buy low, sell high. Even when he thinks things are very, very cool, he always points out the flaws and the trouble to the seller so that he has more room to talk down the price. (and seriously, as a regular watcher, I've seen him go from the "interview" portion raving about the utter rare-ness of the coin/document/autograph/toy and saying there's nothing else like it in the world to telling the seller that it's just not worth that much because he would need to get it graded/refurbished/verified/whatever and that he doesn't have a great market for it…all true statements, but he selectively shares them with the seller). If you have any doubts about whether or not he was really interested in the Apple II, you need to watch the last minute of the episode :-)

Indeed, the background to the closing credits almost redeemed the show's star. The lot's television debut was briefly available for free streaming from the History Channel's Web site. The episode has since migrated to a $1.99 purchase from the iTunes Store.

But that's not the end of the story! As seen in this episode, the Apple's seller didn't get her original asking price. The show's hosts graciously allowed her to renege on her handshake in favor of a better deal on eBay:

This is the Apple IIGS (2 GS, ][GS) from the Pawn Stars episode “Wise Guys” (Season 4, Episode 10) – not just one LIKE the IIGS on Pawn Stars, but this is the ACTUAL COMPUTER FEATURED ON THE SHOW!!

So, you may ask, "Didn't you sell that computer to the pawn shop?" Well, I had agreed to sell it during the taping, but immediately afterwards regretted letting it go for only $100. So they said it was no big deal – I could keep my computer, and they could keep their money.

So why sell it now? Well, I've been out of work for quite a while. I've also recently moved into a smaller home, so I don't have the room to keep it set up anymore, and it's taking up a lot of room in storage.

And finally, "How do I know it's the same one from the show?" Well, in the listing I'm including a picture of myself with the computer – check it against the episode, it's me! Also, the F1 Racer disk (the one shown being played in the episode), is autographed by Chum Lee! In addition, the game Rick was playing at the end of the show (Thexder) is in the stash also.

The auction closed on Feb. 27 for $315, plus $175 shipping for the many disks and peripherals listed in the auction description. What do you think — a fair deal? Worth the trouble of selling online vs. a quick trip to the local pawn shop? How much did the televised publicity contribute to the ultimate price tag?

(Hat tip to EddieDX4)

Castle Wolfenstein painting for auction

February 14th, 2011 10:38 AM
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Growing up with the Apple II, I enjoyed the computer more as a games machine than anything else. Sure, punching numbers into Visicalc or writing short stories in Apple Writer can be fun, but not so captivating to a five-year-old's imagination as Choplifter or Lode Runner.

One game that made an impression like no other was Castle Wolfenstein. Eleven years before its 3D successor, this Apple II game was spouting synthesized German at players as they made their way through a Nazi stronghold. I would wake up Saturday mornings before the rest of my family to play this game, and to have the pre-dawn silence suddenly broken by a stormtrooper bursting into the room and screaming at me was nerve-wracking. Castle Wolfenstein and Silent Hill are the only games that have made me so scared, I wanted to turn off the system. It's a powerful legacy for its late creator, Silas Warner, to have left.

Now, a piece of that history is up for auction. The box art for Castle Wolfenstein was based on an original painting which is currently listed on eBay. Here are the details:

Castle Wolfenstein paintingThis is the original painting by John D. Benson used as the cover for Muse Software’s 1981 game “Castle Wolfenstein” – the game that inspired id Software’s “Castle Wolfenstein 3D”! Castle Wolfenstein is the first in the genre of stealth-based computer games. Created by Muse software, it was available on the Apple II, DOS, Atari 8-bit family and the Commodore 64.

[The piece is for sale by Walter Costinak, who] was an incredibly successful video-game web designer, having created sites for id Software, Activision, Ritual Entertainment and many more. About nine years ago he bought this painting on eBay for his personal collection from someone who had acquired all the art from Muse's assets.

The original artist has contact me to let me know the painting is done with Alkyd Oils, not watercolor.

The dimensions of the piece (including matte and frame) are 27 1/4 inches by 23 1/4 inches. Also included are the original C64 manual and game disk (NOTE: disk slipcover is *not* original, and I don’t know if the disk still works).

Proudly show off the retro gaming geek that you are and hang this is your home, office, boardroom, or subterranean lair! Good luck on your bidding, schweinhund!

Although the artwork itself may not be a masterpiece, its historical value is at least that of its current bid, which at the time of this writing hasn't increased from $305 in the last 48 hours. I'll be watching this auction with more than a passing interest. Best of luck to all bidders!

(Hat tip to Andy Chalk)

Sold at Christie's: Apple-1 #82 for $213K

November 25th, 2010 11:00 AM
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Last week, I belatedly reported that Christie's auction house would be selling an Apple-1 on Nov. 23. On that date, by the time I remembered what day it was, the lot had already sold and Christie's had closed. I was at work at Computerworld and mentioned the occasion to the news chief, who suggested I write about it, as the reporter responsible for Computerworld's auction's pre-event coverage was on holiday. I was already planning on blogging about it for this site but didn't have any details about where the computer had gone, so I questioned the potential for my article to be newsworthy.

But thanks to a blog comment by Eric Rucker, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at KansasFest 2010, I was able to take the story in the opposite direction by examining where this particular Apple-1 had come from. A quick trip to IRC, and I had the retrocomputing expert on the line, helping me get my facts straight.

The resulting article, which got some love on Google News, is now posted on Computerworld.com:

Christie's auction house in London today sold an Apple-1 computer for £133,250, or $213,600.

The lot, which went up for auction at 9:30 a.m. ET today, had an estimated value of between $160,300 and $240,450.

Two hundred Apple-1 computers are estimated to have been created and sold for $666.66 before Apple Computer Inc. was founded in 1977. Once the Apple II, the company's first official product, was released, many of the Apple-1 models were reclaimed as trade-ins. Only about 50 are still known to exist, many of them indexed by hardware developer Mike Willegal.

Read the rest of this story at Computerworld.com »

FS: Apple-1, via Christie's of London

November 15th, 2010 10:20 AM
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It's not often that retrocomputing news spreads quickly, but by the time I write this blog, it's already old news: on Nov. 23, Christie's auction house in London will auction an Apple-1 computer. The estimated value is $160,300–$240,450.

I first heard the news via Sean Fahey's Twitter, which linked to the Daily Mail Reporter's story. I figured the number of people who even knew what an Apple-1 was would end the story there — but within 24 hours, it was making homepage headlines on everything from Computerworld to CNN. A Google News search shows nearly 300 news stories covering the story.

All this attention is a bit mystifying, as although only a quarter of the original 200 Apple-1 units are known to exist, their appearance on the auction lot is not that unusual. There was one on eBay just two months ago, which sold for just under $23K. That one came with a caveat: "I have not applied electricity to the motherboard in well over ten years, and do not intend to for this auction. Thus, you should assume this is an auction for a museum quality historical artifact, not a working computer." Similarly, the Christie's lot does not describe their unit's working state. Why theirs is going for so much, other than the prestige of the Christie's name, I cannot discern.

Some of the marvel being heaped upon this ancient technology is also both baffling and irritating. "Song storage capacity: Zero", indicates the Daily Mail Reporter; "Its minuscule amount of memory — eight kilobytes — wouldn't even be enough to store a single iTunes song", wrote PC Magazine. If you mean MP3 files, then sure — not even Maxster would run on this machine. The MP3 codec was not developed until the 1990s, well after the Apple-1's debut in 1976. But to consider "song" and "MP3" to be analogous is narrow-minded. I bet the Apple-1 could beep a mean rendition of "Turkey in the Straw". Other functions within its ability are also being misgauged; "this setup 'could barely power a game of Pong'", quoted CNN. I didn't realize Pong required more than 8K of RAM? But both comparisons miss the point. To say that the modern consequence of the Apple-1 is a digital Walkman casts Steve Wozniak's invention as more of a quaint novelty than the technological revolution it was.

For my money, I'd rather buy a Replica I. This Apple-1 clone comes as either a kit ($149) or preassembled ($199) from Vince Briel, expert hardware developer. As related in the documentary Welcome to Macintosh, Briel created the clone with a unique look and even some additional features, so that it would not be confused for (or passed off as) an original Apple-1 (though Mike Willegal seems to be working on a more authentic replica). I built my own Replica I at KansasFest 2009 and had a blast, though my manufacture was not without its flaws (which some Computerworld readers have accused me of staging!). Due to the lack of a monitor, I've not used the Apple-1 in the 16 months since I built it, which I feel better about for having paid $149 than $240,450.

It's unfortunate that all this attention has been focused more on the Apple-1 has a historical artifact than on the vibrant and modern retrocomputing scene. Nonetheless, it'll be interesting to see where the Apple-1 goes. There's already one in the Smithsonian Institute, but another museum might benefit from its own. Does the Computer History Museum have one? How about the Louvre? Surely we can all agree the Apple-1 is a work of art!

Watch this blog for the exciting conclusion to this fast-breaking news story.