Spiritual Steve
Bonhams To Offer First Handwritten Letter By Steve Jobs Ever To Come To Auction

Los Angeles – Steve Jobs (1955-2011) wasn't like most 19-year-olds. He had dropped out of college, was living in a cabin in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains and had just returned from a stint working on an apple farm. Jobs was renowned for his relentless pursuit of innovation and perfection, and as a teenager was on a quest in search of the meaning of life. In an autograph letter written to his childhood best friend Tim Brown, to be offered as part of Bonhams History of Science and Technology sale on November 3 in Los Angeles, Jobs discusses Zen Buddhism and his desire to travel to India for the Kumba Mela, revealing both a spiritual and poetic side. This is the first time a handwritten letter by Steve Jobs has ever come to auction. It has an estimate of $200,000-300,000.

As CEO and co-founder of Apple inc. Steve Jobs revolutionised how the individual could engage with technology – his work in creating the iMac and iPhone had a profound effect on culture around the world and inspired a generation of tech entrepreneurs. The letter gives a fascinating insight into the private life of a fiercely private man. It was sent to one of Jobs' closest friends from Homestead High, Tim Brown, and is a response to Brown's letter sharing his thoughts on Zen Buddhism. The letter shows a wisdom that belied his 19 years, he appears an intelligent young man attempting to grapple with the complexities of life:

"tim i have read your letter many times / i do not know what to say. many mornings have come and gone / people have came and went / i have loved and i have cried many times. / somehow, though, beneath it all it doesn't change - do you understand?"

Jobs goes on to express his desire to travel to India for the Kumba Mela, a major Hindu pilgrimage and festival, a trip Jobs made in April 1973. It would have a profound effect on him and his work. The trip also inspired his practise of Zen Buddhism. Upon returning, he began following Kobun Chino Otogawa with whom he met almost daily, a practise that continued throughout his life. Jobs signs off the letter " i will end by saying i do not even know where to begin. / shanti / steve jobs.". A wonderfully circular line which, again, shows the existential curiosity that a young Jobs possessed.

Bonhams Director of History of Science and Technology, Adam Stackhouse, said: "Steve Jobs was both a brilliant and complex man, but the real Jobs was hidden from public view. This letter gives us a fascinating insight into the mental processes of one of the world's greatest creators and entrepreneurs. It is known among his friends that Steve Jobs rarely, if ever, wrote letters. It is a testament to the respect Jobs had for Brown that he put pen to paper to share his thoughts, with the two keeping in touch throughout their lives. This is particularly special as no autograph letters from Jobs have appeared at auction before, and certainly no material as revealing and insightful as this."

Postmarked a day before his 19th birthday, the letter finds Jobs returning to South Bay, San Francisco from his time in Oregon after he dropped out of Reed College and spent time on the All One commune/apple farm. Around this time, Jobs was working at Atari, the Sunnyvale-based video game company led by Nolan Bushnell, saving money for his trip to India. As evidenced by the lack of a return address on the envelope, Jobs didn't have a fixed abode.

Other highlights from the sale include:

• Apple Macintosh prototype the earliest known Macintosh to appear at auction. Macintosh Personal Computer, Cupertino, CA, circa February 1982. Called the machine that "has changed our lives forever" by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, this extremely rare early 1982 prototype with the earliest iteration of the logic board is the first to ever come to auction. The Macintosh began as a personal project of Jef Raskin, who envisioned a Swiss army knife of a computer: a low-cost, easy-to-use, high-volume appliance named for his favorite apple. Already by 1981, utilizing the 16/32-bit Motorola 68000 microprocessor used in the Lisa, they had the design for a machine 60% faster and much less expensive than the Lisa. It was this design that caught the attention of Steve Jobs who, after being removed from the Lisa project, was looking for something new to capture his attention. This example dates from almost two years before the official launch. Estimate 30,000-40,000.

• Steve Jobs sets the stage for desktop publishing. A document Signed ("steven jobs") as Chairman of Apple Computer, Inc. & ("K.R. Wigginton") in an agreement between Apple Computer, Inc. and (Kenneth) Randy Wigginton, as a semi-independent developer, for a "MacIntosh Word Processor" and the core editing routines. Cupertino, CA, July 12, 1982. Randy Wigginton was one of the earliest Apple employees. He was still in High School in 1976 when he began working with Steve Wozniak on the circuit design and ROM software of the Apple II. He was also one of team members that had adapted Microsoft's 6502 BASIC for the Apple II, which became known as Applesoft BASIC. Although he had frequently been the target of Steve Jobs' criticism, Jobs recognized that Wigginton was a brilliant programmer and brought him onto the Macintosh team as soon as he had taken it over. The present document is the initial contract between Wigginton and Apple Computer, Inc. It outlines the parameters of the agreement including targets, payment, ownership, marketing, technical support and even the loan of hardware, including 2 Macintosh computers, an Apple Lisa, and a ProFile Disk Drive. Estimate $40,000-60,000

• Apple First generation iPad prototype with switchboard utility. Apple iPad, model K48AP, Cupertino, c.2009. The iPad was many years coming. Steve Jobs had long spoken about the "friendly" computer especially with the development and introduction of the original Macintosh. He envisioned a portable, intuitive, self-contained computer. Apple continued to work toward this goal even after Jobs was pushed out of the company eventually releasing the MessagePad running Newton OS, but with only limited success. Jobs cancelled all Newton products when he returned and shifted the focus of the then troubled company. Several years later, when he saw the multi-touch technology that Apple was developing, he decided to put that to use first in the iPhone. It wasn't until 2007 that Jobs revisited the tablet: "The tablet project got a boost in 2007 when Jobs was considering ideas for a low-cost netbook computer. At an executive team brain-storming session one Monday, Jony Ive, Apple's Chief Design Officer, asked why it needed a keyboard hinged on the screen; that was expensive and bulky. Put the keyboard on the screen using a multi-touch interface, he suggested. Jobs agreed – so the resources were directed to revving up the tablet project rather than designing a netbook. Estimate $8,000-10,000.

12 October 2021


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