The Peculiar Truth
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The Peculiar Truth

The Peculiar Truth about Apple’s Little-Known 3rd Founder

photo: BBC
  • Ronald Wayne was an engineer who grew up in Cleveland in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • After moving west to California, he made his first foray into his own business, which involved slot machines.
  • That company did not succeed. Wayne blamed the failure on his lack of business acumen.
  • He returned to engineering and got a job at a new company called Atari.
  • That’s where he met fellow employees Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.
  • In 1976, the two Steves pitched Wayne on their concept to create a personal computer company. They would name it after the Beatles’ record label.
  • Steve & Steve wanted Wayne onboard. He was intrigued.
  • The two Steves were in their 20s. Wayne was in his 40s and deemed more of a grownup. They wanted Wayne’s input, and they needed a tiebreaker vote on decisions.
  • Steve & Steve each received a 45% share in the company while Wayne would receive ten percent.
  • Ronald Wayne drafted an agreement, which the trio signed.
  • With that, Apple Computer was born on April 1, 1976 — April Fool’s Day.
  • Wayne was responsible for writing the owners manual for the first Apple computer.
  • He also created the first Apple Computer logo, which was nothing like the one used today.
  • Wayne grew anxious about venturing into another risky enterprise. The failure of his slot machine company left him nervous about losing his shirt — again.
  • So, just twelve days after signing on as a founder of Apple Computer (or months later, according to Wozniak), Ronald Wayne declared that he had left the company.
  • Jobs tried to get Wayne to reconsider. He failed.
  • Jobs and Wozniak bought off Wayne’s shares of their fledgling business for $800.
  • Wayne kept his job at Atari until he left in 1978.
  • He then opened another business of his own — Wayne’s Philatelics. He bought and sold rare stamps and coins.
  • After a robbery, he moved his stamp shop from California to Nevada, where he has lived ever since.
  • Apple Computer went on to become a worldwide success. Ronald Wayne did not profit from it.
  • In the 1990s, Wayne sold the original business contract he and the two Steves had signed in 1976. The sale price: $500.
  • Twenty years later, that same document was purchased at auction for $1.6 million. Ronald Wayne did not profit from that, either.
  • For decades, Wayne never possessed any Apple devices until he was given a free iPad at a business conference.
  • His website — which lists him as an engineer, historian, and poet — promotes merchandise for sale bearing his original Apple Computer logo from the 1970s.
  • As of this writing, Ronald Wayne is in his late 80s, and he lives in a trailer park in Pahrump, Nevada.

Dan is the author of over a dozen novels. His latest is Tight Five. He publishes ‘The Peculiar Truth’ every Tuesday.

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Dan Spencer

Dan Spencer

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Author of over a dozen novels, including Tight Five. I publish The Peculiar Truth every Tuesday. https://medium.com/the-peculiar-truth