News last week that Sotheby’s will auction off “The Contract That Founded Apple” – a partnership signed April 1, 1976 by the late Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ron Wayne – no doubt caught the eye of techie collectors and even sparked speculation that Apple might buy the document.
Sotheby’s expects the December 13 auction to fetch up to US$150,000.
We’ll see about that, but don’t expect Wozniak to be among bidders, because, well, he believes this contract is kind of overrated.
He doesn’t doubt its authenticity, mind you. He does, however, question the historical significance that has been attached to its signing, as I learned through an email exchange with him back in autumn.
In a nutshell, I had caught wind of the fact that Woz has long doubted the almost universally accepted story that Apple was founded on April Fools’ Day in 1976. Unable to find documentation of that fact online myself, I turned to Owen Linzmayer, author of Apple Confidential 2.0 by No Starch Press, who quickly found a copy in his files of the very contract that is about to go on the auction block.
It is indeed dated April 1, 1976 and is indeed signed by Jobs, Wozniak and Wayne.
When I sent Woz a copy of my copy, I figured that would be the end of the discussion. It was not. He replied:
“This was the partnership formed to produce a PC board for the ‘Apple 1.’ It was actually a different company than the one that got financed and produced the Apple ][. This one was a partnership. The real company was a corporation. So it’s a bit murky.”
Linzmayer begged to differ, having this to say about Wozniak’s reading:
“Seems like splitting hairs to claim that the Jobs/Woz/Wayne partnership that produced the Apple I isn’t the same company that Jobs/Woz and (early investor/CEO Mike) Markkula incorporated shortly thereafter. Two of the founders are the same, the industry is the same, the companies share the same name, and the products are the Apple I and Apple II. Technically Woz is correct in that Apple Computer the partnership isn’t the same legal entity as Apple Computer Inc., but to call it murky is stretching it.”
Personally, I still find Linzmayer’s assessment more compelling than Wozniak’s, even though that requires discounting the fact that Woz was there and Linzmayer wasn’t.
Nevertheless, if I was ponying up US$150,000 for “The Contract That Founded Apple,” I’d at least want to know that one of Apple’s founders harbors such doubts about its historical stature.