WINSLOW — When Alex Jason was 10 years old, he wanted an iMac. Armed with a mini bike he bought with money earned from mowing neighbors’ lawns and a snowblower his grandmother had given him, he went to Craigslist.

Before long, Alex found an iMac G5 for sale in Sanford for $200 or a fair trade. Using his father’s name, he struck a deal, agreeing to trade the bike and snowblower for the used computer.

“He just said, ‘Mom, can I ask you something?'” Alex’s mother, Kathy Jason, recalled of her son, who was hesitant to tell his parents that he had used his father’s name to acquire the computer and waited until the last minute. “‘I thought, ‘Oh no, is everything okay? What happened?'”

It was Mother’s Day 2011. Alex and his dad, Bill Jason, drove roughly two hours one-way to get the iMac in Sanford. “We walked upstairs and the iMac was there and it was great,” Alex said. “On the way home, my dad was like, ‘Wow, you got a really good deal. That thing is really nice.’ And then I thought, I can get these computers for cheap, and use them and enjoy them and find all the software and play around with it.”

Four years later, Alex’s collection of Apple computer technology has grown to include more than 250 gadgets which he has curated museum-style in the basement of the family home.

The eighth-grader’s collection includes rare pieces of Apple technology — the first prototype of a mouse, known as the Cursor III; a version of the Lisa computer, named after Steve Jobs’ daughter; and a 20th anniversary Mac released in 1997 with a leather-wrapped keyboard and Bose surround sound. There are several versions of the first laptops invented — the Powerbook 100, which is considered the first modern laptop, and the Powerbook 170 LPGA, a special multi-colored release by Apple for the women’s golf tournament in Japan.


He has the Macintosh 512k, the second Mac released, and the Macintosh 128k, the original Mac.

There’s also Apple memorabilia, such as the giant multi-colored Apple logo that came from the first Apple store in New Hampshire — Alex and his dad went on another road trip to bring it back home — and the original Wozpak guide to computers. Everything is laid out on tables that extend throughout multiple rooms in the basement with elegant black curtains concealing extended parts of the collection underneath.

At the entrance to the basement museum are several six-foot tall posters advertising Mac products that Alex says came from eBay and before that from the sides of city buses. The posters, like most of the other items in Alex’s collection, would most likely have been thrown out if it weren’t for Alex and a handful of others around the world who are interested in preserving Apple history.

The company, founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976, developed and sold some of the first personal computers and today is the world’s second-largest information technology company.

“There’s a lot of different collecting related to Apple going on at this point,” said Henry Lowood, curator for the history of science and technology collections at the Stanford University Library. The library has the largest collection of Apple products and history in the U.S. “Obviously it’s a very important company for the history of the Silicon Valley and for the history of computing.”

People have been collecting Apple products for years, starting with the release of the Apple II in the mid-1970s, and interest in the company has grown as the company has become more mainstream and more successful. Widespread interest in Apple accelerated even more with the recent death of Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, Lowood said.


In the 1990s, the company took steps toward starting a museum preserving Apple history, but the project was stopped during a period of financial struggle, and most of their historical records were donated to Stanford in 1998. The money saved from putting a stop to the project helped, at least in part, to save the company, Lowood said. Apple declined to comment for this story, but Lowood said that while it is likely they save some historical records today, the company in general has maintained a future-oriented philosophy.

“I think if you look around at some of Steve Jobs public statements, when he was around, he basically said as much, including referring to the gifts that he gave to Stanford as, ‘That was history, so we gave those materials to Stanford. We’re looking forward,'” Lowood said.

There are maybe 100 serious collectors of Apple products worldwide and maybe only a dozen in the United States, according to Lowood and Dag Spicer, a senior curator at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. Spicer said he couldn’t say whether Alex’s collection is one of the largest private collections in the U.S., as the family believes it to be, but “it is a well-curated collection of Apple milestone products that would be the envy of many museums.”

The museum in California has more than 3,000 pieces of Apple technology in its collection, most of which came from donations.

“It’s mostly what you would call random people,” Spicer said. “Almost everything here is donated. We’ve made maybe three or four purchases I can think of, and I’ve been here for 20 years. Mostly people are just concerned about having the fruits of their passion preserved, and they know they won’t be able to do it themselves.”

Computer collecting can be an expensive hobby, but monetary value is not the only thing that determines a good collection. Having a variety of products and a vision for the story that they tell are just as important, if not more, both experts said.


“Often, it can be just as interesting to have a specialization in something that’s maybe not what everyone else collects, but it’s about a certain piece of the history or culture of the company,” Lowood said. “For most people, it’s a question of some kind of nostalgia or some kind of reminiscence of their own experience with Apple.”

For Alex Jason, that special piece of Apple history is Steve Jobs’ time at the company. The collection started with the iMac G5 — Alex’s first Apple computer — and grew from there. Alex has always had an engineering mind, his mother says, and his first obsession was with John Deere tractors, which still make up most of the green and yellow decor in his bedroom.

“If you have a passion for something, you just naturally want to learn and do more of it. And that’s what he’s been doing,” Kathy Jason said.

Alex’s Apples also serve a function. They’re part of an interest he has in repairing and building computers and blending different softwares and technology. In his room he uses a 2006 server, a 2013 iMac and a 2015 computer that he built himself.

After the iMac G5, Alex decided he needed a new computer because the one from Craigslist was too outdated to use with more modern software, and he was starting to become interested in photography and video editing. With his parents’ help, he bought a refurbished iMac from Apple, but when the computer arrived on Christmas morning 2012, the CD drive didn’t work.

He returned the computer and bought another one, but it had a dead pixel in the middle of the screen. “I called Apple and said, ‘Is this normal for it to die?’ and they said ‘No, it’s a quality issue.’ I thought I was done with iMac. I’ve had enough.”


Next was a Macbook Pro that had a screw issue and that one was also returned. He says his series of mishaps with some of Apple’s newer technology is what started him on a track of trying to explore the past.

Alex started collecting randomly with six vintage computers he bought in Bangor and a collection of over 100 items that he bought from Re-Books in Waterville, but over time he has started to focus the collection on Jobs’ time at Apple. “The most important part are items from when Steve Jobs was there, because that’s what really made Apple,” Alex said. In 1985, Jobs left Apple to start NeXT, a computer development company, and to take over the computer animation company Pixar, before returning to Apple in 1996.

Alex’s favorite part of the collection includes the original iMac, of which he has over a dozen computers, and which was introduced by Jobs when he returned to the company.

“I’ve seen this now, and I now know why he’s important. It’s really been clear since he passed away,” Alex said. “When Steve Jobs was there, he had a vision and he knew what he wanted.”

In the Jason household, which also includes Alex’s 10-year-old sister, Lindsay, and dog, Zoe, Apple collecting has grown into a family hobby. An account manager at MaineGeneral Medical Center, Bill Jason’s primary hobby was mountain biking before his son started showing an interest in Apple. “I said, ‘Maybe you should take a look at what I’m into,'” Alex said, “and now he has one bike, and it’s just for practicing around, and he has his own computers. He has kind of gotten into the collecting with me.”

Both father and son agree that there is a need to preserve old computers and hope — maybe one day — to start their own museum. To that end, they are looking for more Apple artifacts, and have created an email account at [email protected].


“It’s an important part of history,” Alex said. “If people can’t see, touch and use them, they won’t learn the history of what computers were like.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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