Archive: Computer Collector Newsletter / Technology Rewind, Jan. 2004 - March 2006
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Kapor clean up at Christie's
by Evan Koblentz
There is still a buzz about the recent "Origins of Cyberspace" auction at Christie's. First, there was controversy about the prices (see our interview on this subject with seller Jeremy Norman at our web site, http://news.computercollector.com). Then, only 133 of the 254 items were actually sold (see the results at http://tinyurl.com/53s4b and the CNET article at http://tinyurl.com/3k57g).
Now, we've learned that top buyer and software pioneer Mitch Kapor (http://www.kapor.com/bio/index.html) is, in fact, a collector just like you and me.
It took some prodding in our interview: "I'm not a collector. I'm not trying to amass artifacts," he said at first. But he soon divulged the full scope of his collection -- "My original Apple II, TRS-80 Model 1, Commodore Pet, Atari 2600, some S-100 bus machines, an IMSAI. I am going to get them out of storage," he said. He was also on the board of the original Boston Computer Museum.
Kapor had a unique introduction to computers. "The first computer I actually ever used hands-on was a Bendix G-15 in 1966. I was at a summer program in astronomy for high school students in California. It was a decimal machine. It had a 7-digit word... it had several thousand words of storage" (http://tinyurl.com/4yua6). "The first one I owned was a TRS Model 1. I was completey fascinated," but it was the Apple II in 1978 that he found the most exciting. "That just did me in. It changed my life. I remember getting it right when the disk drives came out... I actually tried to get an Apple 1 back in the 80s," he added.
Now, Kapor plans to start his own informal museum. Along with his Christie's purchases -- the original business plan for J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly's post-ENIAC computer company and the original manuscript for Edmund C. Berkeley's book "Giant Brains Or Machines That Think" -- Kapor hired a professional archivist to organize his Lotus-era collection. That includes almost every version of the software and ephemera, many examples of competitive products, and about 80 linear feet of documents, he said.
It will all be exhibited, probably starting this summer, at the San Francisco office of the Open-Souce Applications Foundation (http://www.osafoundation.org) where he is president and chairman. This week, he also intends to meet with leaders of the Computer History Museum as well, to discuss scanning the Eckert/Mauchly and Berkeley documents for public viewing.