Recycling center searches for woman who tossed Apple computer worth $200K

MILPITAS, Calif. (KTVU) - The search is on to find the woman who unknowingly trashed a vintage Apple computer at a South Bay recycling center.

The computer netted $200,000. Most people would try to pocket all that money for themselves.

However, the company wants to share the money with the woman who donated it, saying honesty is the best policy.

Never in Clean Bay Area recycling center's history have they come across this kind of find.

Lying among a warehouse full of unwanted and obsolete computer parts was a collectible - a piece of tech history.

"It doesn't look like something real," said Victor Gichun of Clean Bay Area. "I think it's fake. I think somebody (had) fun in their garage to pretend they were Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak."

Gichun wasn't impressed when he came across what looked like a wooden contraption.

He said, back in April, a woman in her 60's dropped it off saying her husband recently died and she was cleaning out her garage. She didn't want a tax receipt. She told Gichun there was nothing of value.

It turns out she had an Apple 1 computer. It's Apple's first product, one of 200 first-generation desktop computers ever made.

"It was sold recently, an item like that for $200,000" said Gichun. "I said ‘no way, you kidding me. It's impossible.'"

"The Apple 1 is part of the early PC movement," said Marc Weber of Computer History Museum.

A curator at Mountain View's Computer History Museum suspects the woman's husband may have been a hobbyist or an engineer who worked in electronics.

At the museum an Apple 1 computer is on display.

To date, the most an Apple 1 computer has ever fetched is $671,000 at an auction in Germany."

A private collector gave the recycling center $200,000 in cash. The company's policy is to give half the money back to the donator so a $100,000 dollar check is waiting for that woman.

Just as rare as the find, some would say their willingness to share the money is rare.

"You need to be honest with clients," said Gichun. "Because if you start doing that sooner or later people stop trusting you."

The company now plans to invest some of their share at a start-up that believes in its mission of clean technology.