Before becoming synonymous with fruit and turtlenecks, Steve Jobs spent a brief stint at Atari, which at the time was the largest video game company in the world. Hired by the legendary Al Alcorn – best known for creating Pong – in 1974, when he was just 18, Jobs became Atari employee number 40. Fittingly, his most infamous backstory is how he got Steve Wozniak to do all the heavy lifting to reduce Breakout chip usage, then trick Woz with the cash he received as a reward.
Jobs didn’t stay long at Atari, heading to India in search of spiritual enlightenment after six months, returning in 1975 before leaving to found Apple on January 1, 1976 (he offered Atari CEO Nolan Bushnell 1 /3 from Apple for $50,000; Bushnell declined). But it’s a notable part of his career – he was, by all accounts, a scruffy, heavily scented hippie trying to find his way, and a big tech company gave him a chance.
This is why there was considerable interest around an auction for what was supposed to be Steve Jobs’ 1973 application to join Atari (thanks iMore). The original letter was to be accompanied by an NFT of the letter – inexplicably – in RR Auction’s ‘The Steve Jobs Revolution: Engelbart, Atari, and Apple’.
The now drop-down list read:
Amazing Atari job application questionnaire completed and signed by Steve Jobs, one page, 8.5 x 11, annotated 1973 on another hand. Jobs fills in the document with his name, “Steven jobs”; address, “reed college”; phone, “none”; and major, “English lit”. In the middle section, he writes “yes” in response to ‘Driver’s license?’ and “possible but not likely” in response to ‘Access to transport?’ Regarding his skills, alongside ‘Computer’ and ‘Calculator’ he writes, “yes (design, technology)”. At the bottom he describes his ‘special skills’ as “electronic technology or design engineer. digital.-from Bay near Hewitt-Packard [sic].” In very good condition, with cross folds, general creases, light stains and some old masking tape on the top edge.
How much does an autograph cost?
The same auction that saw that lot withdrawn also sold a letter in which Jobs says he doesn’t sign autographs for a staggering $479,939. The joke is that he signs with a flourish. Which is funny, but come on: nothing is that funny.
RR Auction has now removed the item and confirmed to iMore that this is due to doubts recently raised about whether it is, in fact, Jobs’s candidacy for Atari. The authenticity of the item is not in doubt – that is, this is definitely a form filled out by Steve Jobs – but the suggestion now is that it originated from a part-time job at the Reed College psychology lab, which Jobs held in 1973. The letter is dated 1973 and Jobs joined Atari in 1974.
RR Auction Vice President Bobby Livingston confirmed that an “interested customer” discovered the information about Job’s part-time job at Reed College, where he spent his time repairing lab equipment. The problem seems to be that people just weren’t super aware that Jobs had this…job. As such, this letter’s relationship to Atari is now an open question.
This is particularly surprising in light of the fact that it was previously sold without such doubts about its provenance. The current owner bought it at Bonhams in July 2021 for $343,000 (and the NFT for $27,000), where it was sold as the Atari app and described as a piece of history “from the very moment a dreamer changed the world.” “.
When a guy has a part-time job to make some money it just doesn’t have the same ring, I suppose.
To be clear: this could still be linked to Atari. In fact, one of the additional confusions is that it comes with a letter of authenticity signed by Allan Alcorn, who hired Jobs. However, the sale has stalled for the time being while further investigations try to determine the truth.
Items like these are valued primarily for their links to history, and Jobs’ memorabilia is a highly speculative market. This is a Steve Jobs job application and as such will be of value to collectors of all kinds. But the difference between Atari and Reed College could well have costly consequences for the current owner.