Apple’s co-founder ron wayne on its genesis, his exit and the company’s future

It was a sunny but windy Tuesday morning in Brighton and the first day of Update Conference, an event that’s primary focus is mobile design and development, along with plenty of discussion.

Attendees were sipping their free coffee, quietly discussing the sessions that they were most excited by and in the corner of the break area sat a man, easily the oldest person in the room, talking quietly with a local reporter. That man, recognised by nobody, was Ronald Wayne – the third and often forgotten founder of Apple, now the world’s largest technology company.

Always in demand by the media, Mr Wayne found himself in England to talk about his part in the the formation of Apple, also to publicise his new book “Adventures of an Apple Founder” from a small table conveniently situated next to mine.

As the attendees shuffled into the auditorium at the Brighton Dome for a design session, I took the opportunity to speak to Mr Wayne and find out the reasons why he decided to sell his 10% stake in Apple just 12 days after the company was formed – a stake that would be worth around $35 billion dollars today.

Meeting Jobs, Wozniak and forming Apple

In the early 1970′s Ron Wayne was the chief draftsman at Atari when he met Steve Jobs, a young twenty-something hired as a consulting engineer at the company.

Working closely with many of the engineering staff at Atari, Wayne met Jobs a found his company to be mutually compatible, which resulted in the “talking about all sorts of different subjects” adding that he was “fun to be with, interesting to be with (and he apparently enjoyed my company also).”

Apparently, if Jobs had a problem or interest in something, it was Wayne that he would approach to discuss it.

With a background in slot machines, Wayne would often discuss his interest in the gambling machines, something that piqued Jobs’ interest. He recalled

one time that Jobs approached him and suggested they go into business together.

“[Jobs] knew of my interest in slot machines. At one point in time he approached me at one time and said he could get his hands $50,000 suggesting we go into the slot machine business. I said I had been there and done that, telling him it was the quickest way I could think of to lose $50,000.”

Both inside and outside of work, Jobs and Wayne would discuss socio-enonomics and calculus but also Jobs’ participation in a computer club known as the “Homebrew Computer Club”. The club was a place that Jobs and his “buddy” Steve Wozniak would attend, where they and other members would “chop up business machines that could serve as personal computers”.

Wayne recalls the first time he met “The Woz”:

I remember the first time met Wozniak, not only was he most charming and gracious man I had ever met, he also the most whimsical – he was like a sandbox with all the toys you can play with. He would build a computer just for the fun of building, whereas Jobs had other views that would be the start of a corporate entity.

During their time at the Homebrew Computer Club, Jobs and Wozniak worked on developing a product but had what they called “a philosophical disagreement”. Wozniak had developed the fundamental circuits for a computer for personal application (at the time nearly all computers were business machines) and both he and Jobs had different ideas on the how the innovations should be used.

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Apple’s co-founder ron wayne on its genesis, his exit and the company’s future