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Friday, May 25, 2012 8:01pm
Sotheby's to auction Jobs Atari memo, Apple I motherboard
Auction house Sotheby's will be selling two bits of history soon -- one strongly related to Apple, the other less so -- both tied to the late Steve Jobs. On June 15, the company will be auctioning a rare working Apple I motherboard, one of only six known to exist in this state, and expected to fetch more than $180,000. Also being auctioned in a separate lot is a rare handwritten memo and typed report from Jobs from his time at Atari.

The handwritten memo acts as an addendum to the report Jobs prepared while working at the company on the game later known as Atari's World Cup Football. The document dates from around two years prior to the start of Apple, but does list Jobs' design company name "All-One Farm Design" which pre-dates his co-creation of Apple. The address for "All-One Farm Design" is listed as the same residence and garage that later housed Apple in its earliest days, the home of Jobs' parents. The name comes from a communal farm Jobs used to visit.

The memo is a standard addendum to an engineering report and shows Jobs long before his more conceptual work years. The memo makes further suggestions for streamlining and improving the game, increasing the "shelf life" for arcade operators by introducing more playable elements. The document, which begins in cursive but reverts to conventional lettering thereafter and is addressed to Jobs' supervisor Stephen Bristow, shows that even before Apple, Jobs had an interest in improving the customer experience.

The full report covers topics such as adding more sounds and increasing the durability of the hardware for the game, which would have been sold as a tabletop video game to arcades at the time. The stamp of the design company includes a Buddhist mantra, "gate gate paragate parasangate bodhi svahdl" or "going, going, going on beyond, always going on beyond, always becoming Buddha."

The rare Apple I motherboard is one of fewer than 50 still known to exist, most of which are now in museums. Because the motherboard is still in operational condition, it may exceed Sotheby's estimates. Apple's original founding contract was recently sold by the auction house for $1.6 million, more than ten times its original estimate of $150,000. A 2010 auction of a non-functional Apple I brought in over $213,000 during an auction at Christie's, a great increase over a 2002 auction where one fetched a mere $14,000.