Ronald Wayne lives in a little house in the town of Pahrump, Nevada. The 83-year-old designer and engineer was Apple's original third co-founder, though nowadays he is perhaps best known as the unlucky guy who sold his 10 percent stake of the company for $800 just 12 days after it was incorporated in 1976. Today, it's estimated that his shares would have been worth $67 billion.
Wayne met Steve Jobs while working at Atari, and, according to Wayne, he joined Apple to help settle an early dispute between Jobs and Steve Wozniak about whether Apple circuits would be proprietary.
Motherboard caught up with Wayne in a phone call recently to talk about his early days with Apple, his views on technology now, and why he doesn't regret leaving what would become one of the world's wealthiest and most influential tech companies. Wayne also sent us a photo of himself to illustrate this article via snail mail, which can be seen above.
The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
MOTHERBOARD: After Apple became big, did Steve Jobs or Steve Wozniak come back and offer you more money?
Ronald Wayne: Jobs came back on three separate occasions. We had lunch together and he offered me a job at Apple. And each of those times I said no. But no, they never came back and just offered me more money. I am sure that Woz likely wanted to, Jobs for some strange reason, had a very different view of money than Wozniak did.
It's been widely documented that Jobs and Wozniak didn't always get along. What did you observe in the way they worked together?
Steve Jobs and Woz were great compliments to each other, but they were very different personalities. Let me put it this way, if you had your choice between Steve Jobs and an ice cube, you'd nuzzle up to the ice cube for warmth. But I suppose that is what it took to get Apple where it went.
What Apple products do you use now?
[Laughter] I have never owned an Apple product in my life, and I didn't even have a computer until the mid 90s. What would I do with it? If you say "anything you want," I'd come across the table at you. I had to have a reason. It popped up in the mid 90s when a friend asked to write him a short story and I delivered to him on a typewriter. So I had someone cobble a computer together for me and it just had basic internet and (Corel's) WordPerfect on it. And over the years I have never had anything but the simplest computers.
I was interviewed in front of an audience of a few hundred people in Brighton, England once. The interviewer said, "I understand that you have never owned an Apple product, now you do," and handed me an iPad, which I thought was nice. I thanked him and when I returned back to the States, I gave it to my adopted son who showed me how to use it. But once he had it, the chances of getting it back were between slim and none. That is the closest I came to ever owning an Apple product.
I have never been heavily involved in computers. I was a self-taught engineer for the better part of 60 years. I taught myself vacuum tube electronics because vacuum tubes were the only thing around, transistors wouldn't be around for another 10-15 years. Then when transistors came in, I taught myself transistor logic, then when integrated circuit logic came around, I taught myself that.
You designed the original Apple logo. Tell me about what you were thinking around that?
I knew at the time it was not a legit 20th century logo, it was a 19th century logo, but it was fun. Everything we did in the beginning was for fun.
I knew I was standing in the shadow of giants with these kids. I was 20 years older than them. And so I did this pen and ink sketch. I was trying to capture Newton and the apple, all the sudden a great idea is born. He was essentially an analyst of the natural sciences. He delved into optics and gravity. He built a text on the explanation of the mechanics and mathematics, why cannonballs behave the way they do, etc. The direct correlation is Newton and the apple triggering the idea. Woz and Jobs were participants in a hobbyist group that were taking business computers to scale down to personal computers. And Woz focused on a design of an ultra simple circuit. Jobs insisted on the word Apple, and I made the connection to Newton's apple.
I was supposedly the adult in the room watching these kids play. I thought it was totally appropriate, it wasn't a modern logo. A modern logo is like GM, it hits like a shot, its simple. I have seen that logo in so many places. I get fan mail from all other the world. They send me copies of the logo to autograph and I do it. I have an embossment seal, I use that as kind of certification.
What kind of phone do you use?
I don't own a cell phone, I just have it in the car in case of emergencies, it's a TracFone.
You don't have apps and games, or things like that?
Oh no, I have other interests. I supplement my income with collectors stamps and coins. You invest in gold in silver. I won't invest in anything dollar related, because I don't know when the roof will cave in, but it will. At the end of World War II, 40 nations came together to discuss what the currency and exchange rate would be. Before then it was the gold standard. But World War II was the most expensive war in history and most of these nations went bankrupt. Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations said that every nation that uses fiat systems will inflate out of existence. So it is coming.
Do you have any regrets?
I had to sell my house in Florida once. Do I regret selling my share of Apple? No, that has been my answer ever since day one and will be my answer until I die. There were several reasons why I separated myself from Apple. First of all, my passion was not computers, it was slot machines. I had a passion for them my whole life and I wanted to design them.
I was in my 40s, [Wozniak and Jobs] were in their 20s, it was like catching a tiger by the tail. If I had stayed with Apple, I would have wound up the richest man in the cemetery. I was in the shadow of giants, I knew I would never get my own project and it wasn't my passion anyway.
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