For a guy who cashed out his 10 percent stake in Apple for $2,300 in 1976, Ron Wayne is as unruffled and cool as a Zen monk.
“I’ve got no regrets, absolutely none,” Wayne, who co-founded the computer behemoth with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, tells PEOPLE. “I’m certainly not going to waste my tomorrows worried about my yesterdays. It’s a wasteful use of energy and productivity.”
Now 80, the man who could have been a billionaire finds himself a bit strapped for cash these days and is auctioning off his archives on Dec. 11 from those early days at the company. He hopes the auction will net between $30,000 and $50,000 – seemingly small potatoes for a man who once owned a chunk of a business now valued at over $700 billion.
“This will definitely ease my retirement,” says Wayne, who lives in unincoporated Pahrump, Nevada, and supplements his Social Security income by selling rare stamps and coins. “This will make the rest of my retired life much more comfortable.”
Wayne first met the ambitious, 20-something-year-old Jobs while the two worked at the Silicon Valley computer gaming company Atari in the early 1970s. Jobs looked up to Wayne, a level-headed product development engineer two decades his senior who had a failed slot machine startup under his belt.
“At one point before starting Apple, Steve came to me to say he could get his hands on $50,000, saying, ‘Why don’t we go into the slot machine business?’ ” Wayne recalls. “I simply told him that would be an excellent way to lose $50,000.”
Not long afterwards, Jobs came to him with another idea – this time involving a unique personal computer that his buddy Steve Wozniak had designed. Within months, Wayne had created the first Apple logo and user manual for the Apple-1 and unused designs for the Apple II, along with typing up the contracts that essentially created the company that was being run out Jobs’s parents’ garage.
But within a week of signing the paperwork on April 1, 1976, Wayne realized he couldn’t stomach the potential financial risk – and headaches – involved with another startup and walked away with $2,300 for his troubles.
“Those kids were not only intellectual giants, they were whirlwinds and it was like having a tiger by the tail,” Wayne syas. “If I’d stayed with Apple, I would’ve wound up the richest man in the cemetery.”
Wayne last saw the iconic Jobs in 2001, when he flew him out to the Bay Area for an Apple product launch.
“He was a very dynamic individual, very focused,” Wayne says. “When he had a direction he wanted to go, you never wanted to be between him and it or you would end up with footsteps on your forehead.”
Looking back on it all, Wayne – who has never owned an Apple product – does begrudgingly admit to having one regret in connection with his formative role in one of the planet’s highest-valued companies. Several years ago, he sold his original 1976 contract – signed by both Steves and himself – to an autograph dealer for $500.
“That was the same contract that sold at an auction 18 months ago for $1.3 million – that I regret,” he says, laughing and pausing for a moment to collect his thoughts. “You know, I’ve never been very successful at business. I’ve never been rich. But I’ve never been hungry either. And I can say this: I created something with my own hands that actually sold for $1 million.”