Gold River resident nets $285,000 from auctioned Apple I computer

07/11/2013 12:00 AM

07/11/2013 7:29 AM

In 1977, a psychologist at the San Juan Unified School District said he asked Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak to help him introduce teaching technology to schools.

More than three decades later, that psychologist has rolled out 3,000 software licenses to school districts across the country. He said he's played polo with Wozniak on Segways and spent time with Steve Jobs at conventions.

On Monday, Christie's auctioned an Apple computer he owned – one of the first ever designed – for $387,750.

Gold River resident Ted Perry, 70, sold several rarities, including a 1976 Apple I computer handcrafted by Wozniak, in the priciest online-only transaction the international auction house has hosted, according to the Christie's website.

Perry will keep $285,000 from the transaction.

"This was the Apple seed from which the entire Apple orchard grew," said Stephen A. Edwards, a computer science professor at Columbia University, who helped appraise the item for Christie's.

Edwards said no more than 200 Apple I computers were made, and few still exist since Apple recalled the product in the late 1970s after introducing the Apple II. The updated model included a monitor and keyboard, while the Apple I featured a green circuit board alone – and only 8 kilobytes of memory, Edwards said.

"Can you imagine buying a computer without a keyboard these days?" Perry said.

Perry said he acquired the Apple I in 1979 by swapping computer equipment with a seller who thought the outdated model was valued at $1,000.

"I thought it would be worth something some day," Perry said, hoping at the time he could get up to $50,000 for it. He left the computer in his garage untouched and later bought an Apple I reproduction to use.

Perry said Monday's buyer was from Italy, although Christie's has not disclosed any information publicly. The sale comes after a German auction house sold another Apple I for $671,400 in May.

Perry first took interest in computing in 1977 when a San Juan district student, whose deafness hindered his ability to focus, improved by working with a text-only minicomputer.

Perry then applied for and won a $250,000 innovation grant to develop a computer program that helped teachers write lessons, he said. The end goal: encouraging computer use in schools so more like the San Juan student could benefit.

Perry said he approached many tech companies, but only Wozniak offered to help.

"This is for education?" Perry recalls Wozniak asking. "He just handed (Apple's proprietary information) to me no hesitation. Apple's generosity made it possible for people to make programs for education for the first time ever."

Perry said he assembled a team of programmers and enrolled in a UC Berkeley computer science course.

"I'm really not a good coder," he said. "I understand the gestalt well."

Three thousand school districts later adopted the software Perry's team developed for use on Apple computers, Perry said. He said he kept in touch with Apple's executives, last speaking with Jobs six or seven years ago and at times seeing Wozniak monthly.

Perry's Segway polo team, the California Gold Rush, defeated Wozniak's Silicon Valley Aftershocks in the Woz Challenge Cup at Indianapolis in 2008.

Call The Bee's Jeffrey Dastin, (916) 321-1037.

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