Apple is 28 years old today.

The company first incorporated April 1 1976. Though urban myth claims two original company founders – Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the letters of incorporation reveal a third founder, then Atari engineer Ron Wayne.

Wayne is described in Michael Malone's book, 'Infinite Loop' as a "classic eccentric Silicon Valley bachelor who combined cranky survivalism with a belief in the transcendental power of engineering."

Jobs enlisted Wayne (offering a 10 per cent share of the company) in a partially successful attempt to convince Wozniak to quit HP, where he then worked, and to go it alone. While Jobs stressed the money they could make, and the greater glory Wozniak would receive among fellow engineers by introducing his own computer; Wayne told Wozniak that very few engineers had ever made it alone – they always needed a good business mind on side.

Wozniak told Malone: "Steve was the one who thought we could make money. I was the one who designed the computer. I was the one who had attended the HomeBrew (a computer enthusiasts club) meetings and I had written the software, but Steve is the one who had the idea we could sell the schematics. Steve was the hustler, the entrepreneurial type."

Wozniak agreed not to use what he had learned building the computer at HP, but insisted he remain at that company as he was happy there.

Once the company papers were signed, the three partners had to decide on a name, eventually plumping for Apple Computer.

Apple of their eye

Three myths have evolved over the choice of the name: that Jobs was inspired by a casual job he once had picking apples; that the name grew out of a brainstorming session at Wozniak's flat; and that Jobs championed the choice because he was a big Beatles fan.

The difficult decision for a company name went through until the eleventh hour: on the day the name had to be given to US regulators, Jobs said: "Come up with a better name than Apple by 5pm, or that's it", Malone claims.

The three partners debuted the first Apple computer, the Apple 1 in late April at the HomeBrew Computer Club. The first 50 Apple 1s were built in Jobs' parents' spare bedroom (at 11161 Crist Drive in Los Altos, the house number changed to 2066 when the land was annexed from the county to the city in late 1983). That consignement of Apple 1s were sold to Paul Jay Terrell's Byte Shop for $500 each. The partners had to take out loans in order to meet the Byte Shop order. Just a few months later Apple moved upscale – in to Jobs' parents' garage.


So what happened to Wayne? Owen Linzmayer's book, 'Apple Confidential' offers some information.

When Jobs enlisted Wayne, he thought: "Either I was going to be bankrupt or the richest man in the cemetery". He chose to keep his day job at Atari (where he met Jobs), but worked nights on the original Apple logo and documentation for the Apple 1.

The need to take out loans to meet the Byte Shop order worried Wayne. He was unsure if Byte Shop would pay up, and as a partner he had unlimited personal liability for any company debts. As he had folded his own company just four years earlier, he didn't want the financial risk.

On April 12, he renounced his ten per cent interest for just $800."I had already learned what gave me indigestion," he told Linzmayer. "If Apple had failed, I would have had bruises on top of bruises. Steve Jobs was an absolute whirlwind and I had lost the energy you need to ride whirlwinds."

He remained involved in the business, and received a further payment when Mike Markkula came out of retirement to get involved in the start-up, investing $92,000 of his own. Wayne was paid the money when Wozniak, Jobs and Markkula filed again for the incorporation of Apple Computer on January 3, 1977. The original partnership was acquired by the new company for $5,308.96, and Wayne received a third the amount to avoid future legal complications.

Does Wayne regret giving up his involvement with Apple? Not according to Linzmayer, who wrote: "Amazingly enough, 20 years later Wayne convincingly stated: 'I have never had the slightest pangs of regret, because I made the best decision with the information available to me at the time. My contribution was not so great that I felt I had been diddled with in any way.'"

Wayne remained at Atari until 1978, though Jobs frequently tried to recruit him for Apple. He moved to Lawrence Livermore Labs in 1978, after which he opened a stamps, coins and collectibles store in Milpitas, which he closed in 1982. He now works for Thor Electronics as chief engineer from his Tucson home.