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Archives detail Apple origins

Company donated wealth of material to Stanford facility

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Curator Henry Lowood shows an old Apple 1 operational manual at Stanford University’s Green Library.

PALO ALTO, Calf. - In the interview, Steve Wozniak and the late Steve Jobs recall a seminal moment in Silicon Valley history: how they named their upstart computer company some 35 years ago.

“I remember driving down Highway 85,’’ Wozniak says. “We’re on the freeway, and Steve mentions, ‘I’ve got a name: Apple Computer.’ We kept thinking of other alternatives to that name, and we couldn’t think of anything better.’’

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Adds Jobs: “And also remember that I worked at Atari, and it got us ahead of Atari in the phonebook.’’

The interview, recorded for an in-house video for company employees in the mid-1980s, was among a storehouse of materials Apple had been collecting for a company museum. But in 1997, soon after Jobs returned to the company, Apple officials contacted Stanford University and offered to donate the collection to the school’s Silicon Valley Archives.

Within a few days, Stanford curators were at Apple headquarters in nearby Cupertino, packing two moving trucks full of documents, books, software, videotapes, and marketing materials that now make up the core of Stanford’s Apple Collection.

The collection, the largest assembly of Apple historical materials, can help historians, entrepreneurs, and policy makers understand how a start-up launched in a Silicon Valley garage became a global technology giant.

“Through this one collection you can trace out the evolution of the personal computer,’’ said Stanford historian Leslie Berlin. “These sorts of documents are as close as you get to the unmediated story of what really happened.’’

The collection is stored in hundreds of boxes taking up more than 600 feet of shelf space at Stanford’s off-campus storage facility. The Associated Press visited the climate-controlled warehouse on the outskirts of the San Francisco Bay area but agreed not to disclose its location.

Interest in Apple and its founder has grown dramatically since Jobs died in October at age 56, just weeks after he stepped down as chief executive and handed the reins to Tim Cook. Jobs’s death sparked an international outpouring and marked the end of an era for Apple and Silicon Valley.

“Apple as a company is in a very, very select group,’’ said Stanford curator Henry Lowood. “It survived through multiple generations of technology. To the credit of Steve Jobs, it meant reinventing the company at several points.’’

Apple scrapped its own plans for a corporate museum after Jobs returned and began restructuring the financially struggling company, Lowood said.

Jobs’s return, more than a decade after he was forced out of the company he cofounded, marked the beginning of one of the great comebacks in business history. It led to a long string of blockbuster products - including the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad - that have made Apple one of the world’s most profitable brands.

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