Sotheby’s to Auction Steve Jobs Atari Memo (Photo Gallery)

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Sotheby’s announced on Friday that it will be auctioning off what the auction giant says is the only known surviving Steve Jobs documents from his time at Atari. The document being auctioned is a five page memo from Mr. Jobs to engineer Stephen Bristow on ways to make Atari World Cup Football, an arcade console soccer game.

Steve Jobs cofounded Apple with Steve Wozniak (and Ron Wayne) in 1976—before that, one of his jobs was at Atari working to improve playability and hardware for the company’s existing games. He also eventually talked his future business partner, Steve Wozniak, into designing the game that became known as Breakout, a huge breakout hit (pun intended) for Atari.

This document, however, is about World Cup and how to improve it. Sotheby’s released images of three of the five pages, with group shots of all five pages posted on the auction (it’s lot 56 of the Fine Books and Manuscripts auction scheduled for June 15th).

One of the most interesting things about the documents is that while it’s an Atari memo written by Atari employee Steve Jobs to Atari employee Stephen Bristow written on Atari letterhead about an Atari product, Steve Jobs put the name of his made up company, All-One Design on the cover sheet (below the Atari logo), as shown below.

Steve Jobs Memo

Steve Jobs Memo Cover Sheet
Image courtesy of Sotheby’s—click for a larger version

He also used a custom All-One Farm Design stamp on another page of the memo, a shown below. Note that the address is the address of his parent’s house in Palo Alto, the same house where Apple Computer was hatched in a garage.

Steve Jobs Memo

Steve Jobs Memo, with All-One Design Farm Stamp
Image courtesy of Sotheby’s—click for a larger version

The third page released by Sotheby’s is a hand-written addition to the memo signed by Steve Jobs, as shown below:

Steve Jobs Memo

Steve Jobs Memo, signed by Mr. Jobs
Image courtesy of Sotheby’s—click for a larger version

To get some added context, Sotheby’s also provided three images of different World Cup consoles. These games are not part of the auction, nor are the images. Sotheby’s provided them in to media outlets for context.

World Cup Football

A Sit-Down Version of World Cup Football
Image courtesy of Sotheby’s—click for a larger version

World Cup Football

World Cup Football Example 2
Image courtesy of Sotheby’s—click for a larger version

World Cup Football

World Cup Football Example 3
Image courtesy of Sotheby’s—click for a larger version

We should also note that the auction includes an Apple I computer. It appears to be just the board, without a case, and Sotheby’s expects it to go from between $120,000 and $180,000. The rest of the auction includes a variety of first edition books, fine manuscripts, letters, drawings, and other documents.

In November of 2011, Sotheby’s announced the auction of Apple’s founding contract between Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ron Wayne. The auction took place in December, and that contract fetched $1.6 million. The auction house is estimating $10,000-$15,000 for this Atari memo.

Comments

BurmaYank

“He also eventually talked his future business partner, Steve Wozniak, into designing the game that became known as Breakout, a huge breakout hit (pun intended) for Atari.”

Thanks for that bit of lore I didn’t know!

Perhaps some will find this elaboration on this story I found in Wikipedia as fascinating as I did:

Breakout, a discrete logic (non-microprocessor) game, was conceptualized by Nolan Bushnell and Steve Bristow, after the latter had “rejoined” Atari after the merge of Atari subsidiary Kee Games.
    They had an idea to turn Pong into a single player game, where the player would use a ball to deplete a wall of bricks without missing the ball on its rebound. Bushnell was certain the game would be popular, and the two partnered to produce a concept. Al Alcorn was assigned as the project manager, and began development with Cyan Engineering in 1975. The same year, Alcorn assigned Steve Jobs to design a prototype. Jobs was offered US$750, with an extra $100 each time a chip was eliminated from the prospected design. Jobs promised to complete a prototype within four days.
    Jobs noticed his friend Steve Wozniak?employee of Hewlett-Packard?was capable of producing designs with a small number of chips, and invited him to work on the hardware design with the prospect of splitting the $750 wage. Wozniak had no sketches and instead interpreted the game from its description. To save parts, he had “tricky little designs” difficult to understand for most engineers. Near the end of development, Wozniak considered moving the high score to the screen’s top, but Jobs claimed Bushnell wanted it at the bottom; Wozniak was unaware of any truth to his claims. The original deadline was met after Wozniak did not sleep for four days straight. In the end 50 chips were removed from the original design. This equated to a US$5,000 bonus, which Jobs kept secret from Wozniak, instead only paying him $375.
    Atari was unable to use Steve Wozniak’s design. By designing the board with as few chips as possible, he also cut down the amount of TTL (transistor-transistor logic) chips to 42. This made the design difficult to manufacture?it was too compact and complicated to be feasible with Atari’s manufacturing methods. However, Wozniak claims Atari could not understand the design, and speculates “maybe some engineer there was trying to make some kind of modification to it”. Atari ended up designing their own version for production, which contained about 100 TTL chips. Wozniak found the gameplay to be the same as his original creation, and could not find any differences’

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