It’s hard to believe, but Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak had not met each other in person until Wednesday evening in Seattle.
The two tech luminaries never crossed paths despite the fact that they helped launch two of the most influential technology companies that have gone toe-to-toe against each other for the past four decades.
Got to tell Paul Allen how what he did was a part of starting Apple. That's what doing things first is about. pic.twitter.com/A2Fws6mcai
— Steve Wozniak (@stevewoz) April 13, 2017
Allen brought folks together at the Living Computer Museum + Labs in Seattle, which he founded in 2006. It was a private Apple reunion event of sorts, in advance of a new permanent Apple Computer Exhibit that debuts Friday and showcases Apple’s first 23 years in business. On display are computers like an operable Apple I — a Living Computer Museum director called it “the most important computer in history” — and machines like the original Apple II, IIe, IIc, Apple III, Lisa, and Macintosh computers, as well as a Bondi Blue iMac.
UA 332 SFO to SEA for private event at Living Computer Museum. Regarding Apple's first 20 years. (@ Gate G92) https://t.co/zGClD1QmMy
— Steve Wozniak (@stevewoz) April 12, 2017
— Steve Wozniak (@stevewoz) April 12, 2017
“It’s great to add to our interactive collection the supremely iconic Apple I Steve Jobs used as he and Steve Wozniak grew the company,” Allen said in a statement. “Over the years, Microsoft and Apple have been both fierce competitors and friendly collaborators, and while our approaches to the market have differed, we shared a common vision: to bring the computing world to people’s fingertips. This is an exciting moment for the Living Computers: Museum + Labs.”
— Paul Allen (@PaulGAllen) April 13, 2017
At the event on Wednesday were early Apple employees, members of the famed Homebrew Computer Club, and other folks involved in early personal computing.
Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates chair at the University of Washington’s computer science school — now named The Allen School after a $40M donation from the Microsoft co-founder — was at the event on Wednesday.
“It was a phenomenal evening, and it’s a phenomenal exhibit,” Lazowska said. “What I particularly appreciate is that the displays give Woz his due as the engineer – the person who made things work.”
The Living Computer Museum + Labs is home to the world’s largest collection of fully restored and useable vintage computers. It’s funded entirely by Vulcan, Paul Allen’s investment company. Any proceeds the museum raises are funneled into community and educational programs. The museum also just expanded this past November.
Allen was involved in the museum’s expansion project and his footprint is evident on many of the new exhibits. Several of Allen’s passion projects, like ocean and wildlife conservation, are on display. One exhibit showcases how big data can be used to study shark populations. On display nearby is a drone that was used to survey Africa’s elephant populations and hunt down poachers.
As far as the rare Apple I on display starting this Friday, it’s one of just two that are fully functional and still out in the wild. The only other Apple I the museum knows of is a machine bought by The Henry Ford museum in Michigan for nearly $1 million. The Living Computers machine was acquired about 11 years ago for an exhibition in Albuquerque, N.M., where Allen and Bill Gates originally started Microsoft.
“We’ve set this up to run every day for about the next 10 years,” Lath Carlson, the museum’s executive director, told GeekWire last week.
Wozniak — who is often credited with inventing the modern personal computer — was also in Seattle last month, speaking at the Digital Summit Seattle conference. He shared stories about his career at Apple and told the crowd about his current passions like the Silicon Valley Comic Con, which brought in more revenue to San Jose in its first year than the Super Bowl. He is also speaking to as many high school and college students as he can, spreading his message to make the most of your youth.
“I worked designing calculators during the day and went home at night and got to work on my ideas,” Wozniak said of the time in his career when he and and Steve Jobs started Apple. “When you’re young you can waste your free time or use it to pursue your ideas.”
In 2010, Wozniak voiced support for Allen when the Microsoft co-founder sued a bevy of tech companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and others over patents. But then in 2011, Wozniak bashed Allen for being a patent troll.
Wednesday night’s event also took place during the Portland Trail Blazers’ final game of the season at the Rose Garden. Allen, who owns the team, typically attends almost all home games, so the museum event held particular importance (Random Blazers fun fact: The season isn’t over, and Portland will host Golden State during the playoffs — you can certainly expect Allen to be at each game).