Vintage-computer fest celebrates 40 years since our first bite of Apple

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The colorful era of the first iMacs on display in an Apple Pop-up exhibit at the Computer Museum of America in Roswell, Ga.
Colorful early iMacs are among the technological wonders on display in the Apple Pop Up exhibit at the Computer Museum of America.
Photo: Computer Museum of America

Phil Schiller says Apple is too busy “inventing the future” to “celebrate the past” by building a museum.

So if you are in search of history on the 40th anniversary of Apple’s founding, you might want to travel to Georgia. There, a guy named Lonnie Mimms has taken over an old CompUSA building and meticulously crafted a tangible timeline that would make Apple’s futurists — perhaps even Schiller — pause with nostalgia and pride.

Mimms’ Apple Pop Up exhibit will get special attention April 2 (the day after the actual Apple anniversary date) and April 3 when the Computer Museum of America in Roswell, Georgia, hosts the Vintage Computer Festival Southeast 2016.

The Apple exhibit is only a small part of a computer collection that numbers more than a quarter-million technological artifacts. Still, it is sizable and important enough to merit its own set of rooms at the museum. The exhibit takes visitors from a re-creation of the famous garage where the Apple I was built, to prototypes for devices that never made it to the production line, to the latest innovative machines coming out of Cupertino.

Mimms won’t say exactly what Apple fans might see, but promises displays of rare and never-before-seen items.

Walk through the 40 years of Apple innovation.
Walk through 40 years of Apple innovation.
Photo: Computer Museum of America

“I probably have the deepest collection,” Mimms told Cult of Mac. “I’ve got original documents that came from the first nine Microsoft employees, I have four Apple Is, one of four prototypes for the Apple III…. I take it very seriously. I am looking for historical significance and the stories behind them that bring them to life. Otherwise, they’re just boat anchors.”

There could be a few thousand Apple fans around the world who hang on to all of their devices, purchase a legacy piece now and then, and keep it all in good working order. But the most devoted collectors, people like Mimms, say only a small number of people go deep with their collections. There are impressive public museums in Prague in the Czech Republic and Turin, Italy, that exhibit rare and authentic items, but many of the most impressive artifacts are in the hands of private collectors.

Ask any serious Apple collector about the best people in this hobby, and there’s a good chance Mimms’ name will come up first.

A timeline of the legendary iPod.
A timeline of the legendary iPod.
Photo: Computer Museum of America

Mimms loves to talk about the history of computers and the pieces he holds that fill out the story. Yet each time I called him, he always seemed to be in the middle of unloading a semi tractor-trailer carrying another collection he had acquired.

The story of the computer is also about size and capacity, and Mimms’ Computer Museum of America possesses many pioneering machines like the Kenbak-1 from 1971, the Mark-8 and Shelbi 8 from 1974, and the Altair from 1975.

And while Apple is a big part of the main computer museum, Mimms felt the Apple story deserved its own space (take a virtual tour of the Apple Pop Up Museum to see for yourself).

“I don’t think there has been a more high-profile product than since maybe Coca-Cola,” Mimms said. “You could go to sub-Sahara Africa, where a person might not have drinking water, but they have an iPhone. You can’t underplay the significance of a company that has penetrated that much of the world.”

The Apple exhibit has 10 rooms, with the first two devoted to the pre-company friendship of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and a re-creation of the garage where they and a handful of engineers built the Apple I.

One room is devoted to the machine that really fueled the personal computer revolution, Wozniak’s Apple II. There is a room displaying the devices that came after the Apple II, a room that tells the story of Jobs’ dismissal from his own company, and one that marks his return. There are rooms devoted to the iMac, the iPod and the iPhone — and one room that changes with the latest products from Apple.

The museum does not keep public hours, so much of Mimms’ collection is kept in six storage locations because the building simply can’t hold everything. Mimms plans to have the museum open to the public by 2017.

The Apple Pop Up exhibit in Roswell will eventually hold regular hours for the public.
The Apple Pop Up exhibit in Roswell will eventually hold regular hours for the public.
Photo: Computer Museum of America

Visit the Apple Pop Up Museum

The Computer Museum of America’s Apple Pop Up exhibit will be open to the public during the Vintage Computer Festival Southeast this Saturday and Sunday. For Apple’s 40th anniversary, the Apple exhibit will feature rare items from 1976 to the present. Among the featured speakers will be Jerry Manock, an industrial design guru who worked for Apple from 1977 to 1984.

What: Vintage Computer Festival Southeast 2016, sponsored by The Computer Museum of America and the Atlanta Historical Computing Society.
When: Saturday, April 2, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, April 3, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Kings Market Center, 1425 Market Blvd., Suite 200, Roswell, Georgia, 30076
Admission: Adults, $10 for one day and $15 for two days. Children ages 17 and younger get in free with a parent or guardian. College students free with a student ID.

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  • Barry Marshall

    Well if Apple’s recent releases are inventing the future then Apple had better take off the blindfolds, since it seems more like a rehash of the past.

  • Pedro Nuno

    The colored Imacs were so cool.
    And the cube was also pretty cool.
    And the iPod.
    And….

  • bIg hIlL

    Repeatedly calling something “legendary” seems to be in the hope that, eventually, it will turn legendary. I say this because, for me, the iPod is NOT legendary.

  • bIg hIlL

    Apple IIs, Lisas, Macs, iMacs before 2010, were all underpowered, overpriced, geeky, no software available, useless for games, etc. It was only after they started making a laptop screen into a computer and calling it an all-in-one that they got on the right track.

    • alcoholicsocialclimber

      There was a ton of software for the Apple II.

      • bIg hIlL

        I am sure there was. Relatively speaking, PCs had more so were the computers of choice at the time.