The buyer, a businessman and computer enthusiast, plans to open the Museum of the Information Technology Revolution in his hometown of Turin.

Share story

Yes, Italian collector Marco Boglione paid $212,000 for a 34-year-old Apple-1 computer that may or may not work, but what’s a few dollars or a couple hundred thousand, when it comes to a vision?

Well, a vision and a love affair with computers that started with an Apple II Plus when Boglione was in his 20s, and very much a geek.

“I’m a guy that has been dealing with these machines, let me say loving these machines, and really being attached to these machines, since I was a kid,” Boglione, 54, said by phone last week from Turin, Italy, where he runs a sportswear company.

“When I was in my mid-20s in the ’80s I was spending more time in front of those things than listening to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.”

Now he wants to share his love by opening a museum in his hometown. Not just any museum, but the Museum of the Information Technology Revolution.

“A museum is good,” Boglione said, “if it’s tied to a revolution.”

And he has a point. And the museum would be a nice fit in Turin, a northern Italian city that Boglione says already has a television museum, a radio museum and a museum of cinema.

“So if someone comes around this area,” Boglione said, “the first question is, ‘And the computer museum, guys, where is it?’ It’s really the missing link.”

Still, $212,000 is a lot of money to you and me — even for one of the computers that launched Apple in 1976. In fact, it’s a lot to Boglione, too.

‘Such a historical piece’

“It’s big money, for sure,” said Boglione, who’s done all right for himself. But money is not the point. “I couldn’t care less whether tomorrow a machine like this goes for more or less. I couldn’t care less,” he said. “I think it’s good in Italy that there is such a historical piece, one of the best, in good condition.”

And he sounded like such a lovely man and he was expressing such national pride that I didn’t want to point out that Italy is pretty well covered in the historical piece department. Anyway, this is a love story, remember, not a story of cold commerce. Boglione loves computers so much that over the years he’s had a hard time getting rid of them. (Sound like anyone you know?) They stacked up as he built his business, BasicNet, a company that relies heavily on technology to run a network of franchises that manufacture and distribute clothes worldwide.

Friends, knowing of his tech affection, gave Boglione their obsolete machines. He supplemented his collection using eBay. And now he has about 300 computers: Altair 8800s, Apple Lisas, an IBM 5150, Commodores, a Sinclair, an IMSAI 8080 (“It’s the one shown in the ‘Star Trek’ movie,” he explained.).

But never, until Tuesday and the auction at Christie’s of London, did he have the mother of all motherboards — the Apple-1 that Steve Wozniak designed and that Woz and Steve Jobs sold for $666.66 out of the garage at the Jobs family’s Los Altos, Calif., home.

“As the auctions go, they’re quite quick,” Boglione said. He bid by phone, watching the action from Turin by video feed.

After the sale, Boglione talked to Wozniak, who was at Christie’s for the auction. Boglione says Woz told him that he was happy for him and that it was truly a historic day. And he provided one other piece of intelligence.

“Steve Wozniak told me it’s certainly perfectly working,” Boglione says of his high-profile acquisition. “He looked at the motherboard and said there is not a reason it wouldn’t work.”

Picasso of tech genre

And after the excitement comes the glow. Boglione says he’s thought about his father, who decades ago had the chance to buy a Picasso for $100,000, but passed. He’s regretted it ever since, Boglione says.

Some might argue that Boglione’s Apple-1 is a Picasso of the tech genre. Others might disagree.

Either way, with luck, it will one day sit in a museum the way any great Picasso should.

Mike Cassidy is a columnist with the San Jose Mercury News.