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Stanford Archives Offer a Look Into the Evolution of Apple

Stanford Archives Offer a Look Into the Evolution of Apple

In an interview, Steve Wozniak and the late Steve Jobs recall a notable moment in the annals of computer lore, the naming of their fledgling computer company some years ago.

Yahoo! tells the story:

“I remember driving down Highway 85,” Wozniak says. “We’re on the freeway, and Steve mentions, `I’ve got a name: Apple Computer.’ We kept thinking of other alternatives to that name, and we couldn’t think of anything better.”

Adds Jobs: “And also remember that I worked at Atari, and it got us ahead of Atari in the phonebook.”

The interview, recorded for an in-house video for company employees in the mid-1980s, was among a storehouse of materials Apple had been collecting for a company museum. But in 1997, soon after Jobs returned to the company, Apple officials contacted Stanford University and offered to donate the collection to the school’s Silicon Valley Archives.

Stanford curators were soon at Apple headquarters packing two moving trucks full of documents, books, software, videotapes and marketing materials. These materials now make up the core of Stanford’s Apple Collection.

This collection, which is the largest known assembly of Apple historical materials, can act as a resource to assist historians and entrepreneurs to understand how a little startup can become an industry leader. Stanford historian Leslie Berlin stated the following:

Through this one collection you can trace out the evolution of the personal computer. These sorts of documents are as close as you get to the unmediated story of what really happened.

The collection is stored in hundreds of boxes, which take up more than 600 feet of shelf space at Stanford’s climate-controlled off-campus storage facility.

“Apple as a company is in a very, very select group,” said Stanford curator Henry Lowood. “It survived through multiple generations of technology. To the credit of Steve Jobs, it meant reinventing the company at several points.”

After Stanford received the Apple donation, former company executives, early employees, business partners and Mac enthusiasts have come forward and added their own items to the archives.

Among the other items in the Apple Collection:

  • Thousands of photos by photographer Douglas Menuez, who documented Jobs’ years at NeXT Computer, which he founded in 1985 after he was pushed out of Apple.
  • A company video spoofing the 1984 movie “Ghost Busters,” with Jobs and other executives playing “Blue Busters,” a reference to rival IBM.
  • Handwritten financial records showing early sales of Apple II, one of the first mass-market computers.
  • An April 1976 agreement for a $5,000 loan to Apple Computer and its three co-founders: Jobs, Wozniak and Ronald Wayne, who pulled out of the company less than two weeks after its founding.
  • A 1976 letter written by a printer who had just met Jobs and Wozniak and warns his colleagues about the young entrepreneurs: “This joker (Jobs) is going to be calling you … They are two guys, they build kits, operate out of a garage.”

The archive shows just how far ahead of their time the Apple founders were.

“What they were doing was spectacularly new,” Lowood said. “The idea of building computers out of your garage and marketing them and thereby creating a successful business — it just didn’t compute for a lot of people.”