Serious Apple prototype collectors usually know exactly what they are looking for as they try to build a physical timeline of each distinct device ever made. A Holy Grail artifact would be an Apple I. Fewer than 50 are said to exist.
Hap Plain wants the pieces none of us, including him, have ever seen.
He is one of a very select subculture who search the world over for Apple prototypes. Before being polished into the personal computing icons of our lives, Apple computers, iPods, iPhones and other devices start out as crude, unfinished test models so glitches and user experience hangups can be identified and worked out before hitting the market.
Grant Hutchinson has never owned an iPad. He does, however, own some 15-dozen Newton devices, a few of which he uses every day to help manage tasks, a schedule and software clients.
Why would Hutchinson cling to and even rely on a clunky obsolete digital message pad, an Apple failure so big it inspired f-bomb rage in Steve Jobs and a week’s worth of damning Doonesbury comic strips?
Hutchinson is just one of a few thousand people worldwide who collect and even use Apple’s first mobile computing device, discontinued in 1998 after a number of incarnations over a rocky five-year run.