Ron Wayne, the third and forgotten co-founder of Apple

Tue, Jun 29, 2010

Apple History, Featured, News

Contrary to popular belief, there were actually three Apple co-founders of Apple Computer. While everyone’s heard of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, not everyone is familiar with Ron Wayne.

Wayne, who is now 76, initially met Steve Jobs while they were both employed by Atari. When Jobs and Wozniak up and decided to create Apple (though Woz needed some convincing from Jobs), they offered Wayne a 10% stake in the nascent company for his services.

While Wayne wasn’t involved with Apple for a terribly long time, he certainly left his mark on Apple history. In addition to drawing up the original Apple logo, a old-timey portrait of Isaac Newton, Wayne also wrote up Apple’s articles of incorporation and the original manual for the Apple I.

So what happened?

Well, as luck would have it, Wayne sold his 10% stake in Apple just two weeks after receiving it. All told, Wayne cashed out of Apple for $800. Now living off of social security and what he describes as “modest trade in collectors’ stamps and coins”, Wayne’s 10% stake in Apple would today be worth $22 billion.

“What can I say?” Wayne explained to CNN, “You make a decision based on your understanding of the circumstances, and you live with it,” he said.

So why did Wayne, an engineer by trade, leave Apple and subsequently billions of dollars behind? Wayne explains that he had previously accumulated thousands of dollars in debt from an unsuccessful slot-machine business, and he was understandably apprehensive about starting a new business initiative and potentially going down the same road again.

“I was really getting too old for that kind of thing,” Wayne recalls. “The way these guys were going, they were going to bulldoze through anything to make this company succeed. But it was going to be very rough ride, and if I wasn’t careful, I was going to be the richest man in the cemetery.”

So Wayne decided to get out while he was ahead, and sold that fateful 10% share back to Apple for $800. And while it’s easy to wonder how someone could make such a bad decision, there was really no way Wayne could have anticipated just how successful Apple would go on to become.

Putting things into context, Wayne astutely points out that “when you’re at a focal point in history, you don’t realize you’re at a focal point in history.”

Lastly, and oddly enough, Wayne notes that he has never owned an Apple product because he’s never had a “real use for computers.” He did, however, recently purchase a Dell, “saying he’s too familiar with Microsoft Windows to want to switch.”

CNN notes that Wayne is planning to publish a book soon, tentatively titled “Adventures of an Apple Founder.”


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