Mac design legend helps teen build ultimate Apple museum

Mac design legend helps teen build ultimate Apple museum


cult 2.0
Former Apple design chief Jerry Manock is helping Alex Jason turn his extensive Apple computer collection into the Maine Technology Musuem.
Photo: Bill Jason

Cult of Mac 2.0 bug Apple famously wants no part in a museum dedicated to its revolutionary products. However, one key contributor to Apple’s early years feels differently — and is helping a Maine teenager elevate his basement computer collection into a thriving technology museum.

Jerry Manock, Apple’s first design guru, will serve on the board of directors for the future Maine Technology Museum, which will house the collection of 15-year-old Alex Jason, who has established what many serious collectors say is one of the best Apple collections anywhere.

Alex’s Apple Orchard was featured by Cult of Mac this spring, in a story that went viral and captured the attention of tech journalists from India to New York. Alex’s collection began when he traded a minibike and a snowblower to a guy on Craigslist trying to unload an iMac G5.

Fresh cut lawns and a well-manicured collection

In just five years, the collection grew to include every major computing product produced by Apple, including an Apple I, along with rare prototypes — all purchased with money made mowing lawns in his neighborhood. An old Carnegie Library was donated to Alex and his father, Bill, and they have raised $50,000 so far to convert it to a public museum.

Maine Tech Museum
Future home of the Maine Technology Museum.
Photo: Bill Jason

The Jasons will soon launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to open the nonprofit museum.

Manock, of course, knows a thing or two about what’s in the collection. Steve Jobs hired Manock and Terry Oyama to design the housing for the Apple II, Apple’s first mass-produced computer. That machine the brand on the map.

Manock then went on to become Apple’s corporate manager of product design from 1979 through 1984 and the iconic Macintosh. He also led the teams who designed the Apple III, the Lisa office computer, and the Disk II and III.

Acknowledging the past

“I appreciate that Apple appears to be focused on the ‘now’ and the ‘future,’ but am saddened that they are not equally acknowledging their past,” Manock told Cult of Mac in an email interview. “The ‘Orchard’ collection was even more extensive than I had imagined and included posters, owner’s manuals, prototypes and, in fact, some very rare items. Alex not only collected but seemed completely capable of repairing non-functioning units … even more impressive!”

Manock now lives in nearby Vermont and learned of Alex’s collection when he attended the Macintosh 30th Anniversary Celebration in Cupertino in 2014. A member of his original team gave Manock a link to Alex’s website. He was amazed to see items, like the Apple Joystick, he had forgotten about.

He wrote to Alex, saying he has a daughter who lives with her family in Maine, and requested to visit on a future trip. When he finally visited, he brought a box full of Apple computers Manock had in his attic. When he learned of the father-and-son plans to create a museum, he quickly accepted a seat on the board of directors, which also includes inventor Chuck Colby (at one time, the vendor sanctioned by Apple to manufacture Macintosh-compatible portables), a state senator and Alex’s mom and dad.

“When he first came up, he was telling all these amazing stories while pointing to something and asking, ‘Do you know why this plastic is different on this one?'” Alex said of Manock. “This guy was there when they put the Apple II in a case — my head was blowing up.”

Bill Jason remains in awe of what his son has accomplished and is grateful to Manock’s support of the museum.

“He has really taken Alex under his wing and encouraged (his) pursuit for technology,” Bill Jason said. “This is one of Apple’s earliest legends.”

Manock said he wanted to create an internal reference museum while at Apple, but that a lot of early mockups of the Apple II, Apple III and Lisa were inadvertently thrown away. While in Cupertino for the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh, he and Oyama had arranged to meet with current design chief Jony Ive to discuss “roots and design philosophy.” Ive canceled with no explanation a day before the meeting.

“So, for me, Alex’s Apple Orchard fills this invaluable niche,” Manock said. “(I) certainly (can) contribute my version of Apple historical events; we all know that there are many perspectives of what actually happened.”

Now, the hard part

Manock also brings with him a wealth of contacts. Already, he has helped Alex secure some work from a hologram artist.

While Apple products will certainly be a big draw, the museum will feature other technology exhibits, including a wing for virtual reality. Many exhibits will feature interactive learning that meets STEM guidelines — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Maine Tech Museum
Alex Jason’s vintage Apple collection will migrate from his basement to the halls of this former library.

The Maine Technology Museum will be located on the campus of the Good Will-Hinckley school and will become a resource for its student body, which is made up of troubled and disadvantaged youth.

The Jasons hope the museum opens within the next two years. It needs a minimum of $1.5 million to open, which would include renovations, displays, tech infrastructure and security, Bill Jason said.