Steve Wozniak's name may be on the shipping label for one of the devices, but it isn't the Woz selling it or more than a dozen other Apple prototypes currently available on eBay. Seller Hap Plain just happened to pick up the Cinema Display with Woz's name on the label while on the hunt for other, rarer Apple products.
Screenshot: Gizmodo (eBay)
Plain, who spends his days working at a Lexus dealership in Monterey, California, is part of the vintage Apple collector community. But where most collectors are trying to accrue a wishlist of machines sold to the public, Plain prefers the prototypes.
And he has quite the collection. So far, it includes (but is not limited to) prototypes of the Mac Portable, Apple's original laptop; the 170, Apple's first Powerbook; an G3 iBook; Macintosh TV; Lisa 2; and an Apple IIc.
The collection started when Plain was fresh out of university and living in the Bay Area. To make money while he looked for work, he started doing conversions of G4 Cubes. This required spending a lot of time on Craigslist looking for more Cubes, and it was there that he saw a clear Macintosh SE. After doing some research, he reached out to the seller, trading parts and a little cash for the computer.
What followed was more research, which resulted in Plain realising he had a pretty dang priceless piece of computer history on his hands. It also led him to more sellers, and more importantly, former Apple engineers also living in the Bay Area. "They didn't work there any more and they turned me onto a buddy, and so on and so forth, and then I kind of started amassing a collection of these things," he tells Gizmodo. "And now it's sort of to the point where I have enough credibility, I guess you could say, that people will email me with either somebody that they know that worked there or a family member or what have you."
Now Plain has more 48 different devices in his collection, including two different Mac clones, the Outbound 125 and the Dynamac. And that Cinema Display that was probably used by one of the founders of Apple.
But Plain doesn't plan on keeping all of it. When he gets extras, or stuff that doesn't really jibe with his personal preference for G4 Cubes, 20th Anniversary Macs and Macintosh Portables, they go up on eBay, which is where you can get that Woz Cinema Display for $US400 ($513), or a Lisa 2 prototype packed into a Lisa 1 chassis for almost $US99,999 ($128,285). He even has a first generation iPhone and a first generation iPad for sale.
And as long as engineers keep leaving the company with spare units in their pockets, Plain (and collectors like him) will be out there, waiting for the day those engineers just start bulk-selling all the old products shoved in the corner of a garage.