From Landfill to Life Changing: How One IT Company Owner Rescued Computer History

by Brooke Kennedy

Update: All of the items sold in RR Auction’s Steve Jobs and the Apple Computer Revolution auction for a combined value of over $115,000.

The saying goes that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and for one man it was historical treasure indeed.

More than 15 years ago, the consignor, an IT company owner who wishes to remain anonymous, was dropping off some used computers at a scrap yard in Portland, Oregon, when he happened upon some pieces of Silicon Valley history. Among the landfill he spotted some early Apple computers new in their boxes. 

“I immediately recognized these as too valuable and historic to be destroyed, so I bought them from the scrap yard,” said the consignor.

His instinct was correct—the cache of unopened computers had once belonged to Del Yocam, Apple’s former Chief Operating Officer. 

Del Yocam was the man who transformed Apple from a small start-up into the powerhouse technology manufacturer as many people know it today. Yocam was a 34 year old manufacturing and operations specialist when he first came across Apple in 1979. Itching to work for a start-up company, he met with Apple’s first chief executive, Michael Scott, who offered him a position with the company as director of materials. He helped set manufacturing facilities to help meet the demand for their Apple II computer, which had skyrocketed in sales. 

Del Yocam also formed an unlikely friendship with Steve Jobs, who at the time was ten years his junior. Both men were quite different in personality, but Jobs enjoyed learning about Yocam’s field of business while Yocam admired Jobs’ passion around computers. They worked together for several years until Jobs was ousted from the Macintosh project in 1985. Yocam was even present at that faithful meeting. “[Steve] came out, he just came right over to me and basically cried himself out, because they were taking [the Mac] away from him,” stated Yocam in an interview with Cult of Mac. Jobs left Apple six months later, but Yocam stayed with the company for another six years, retiring on his 10th anniversary.

Del Yocam's personally-owned Apple Lisa computer with the engraved presentation plate visible. It sold for $81,251.
Del Yocam’s personally-owned Apple Lisa computer with the engraved presentation plate visible on the right side. It sold for $81,251.

The consignor put the lots into RR Auction’s Steve Jobs and the Apple Computer Revolution auction taking place on March 18. Among these items is an untouched “early release” Apple Lisa 1 with ultra-rare ‘Twiggy’ drives, estimated to go for at least $65,000. The computer features an engraved presentation plate on the front: “Thank you, Del Yocam, From the First Production Build, May 1983.” Personally owned by Del Yocam, this computer was issued to him when he served as vice president and general manager of the Apple II group. The Lisa failed to find commercial success and was discontinued in 1985, making this early, unmodified model an extremely desirable collector’s piece.

Still, the importance of the Apple Lisa cannot be overstated as it featured the first graphical user interface (GUI) imagined by Jobs in 1979. More than $50 million dollars was spent on its development, and this model is widely regarded as the prototype for the world-famous Macintosh. 

Among the other vintage electronic marvels are Del Yocam’s one millionth Macintosh Plus, Special Edition Apple IIGS, and Apple IIGS Woz edition. Unfortunately, there were some items the consignor could not save, leaving those pieces lost to the rubble. Still, these items were saved from a destiny of destruction, preserving some computer history. Several tech-based news outlets have covered the auction, including AppleInsider and Cult of Mac.

“As the years have gone by, I realized just how important these computers have become and I want them preserved for the next generation of computer collectors,” said the consignor.

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