Sebastian Buehler is the founder of Karlsruhe, Germany based Vintage Apple Store museum. We had the honor of interviewing him about his beginnings, collection, and plans for his vintage Apple computer museum.
V95: How did you first become interested in collecting vintage Apple computers, and what inspired you to start this collection?
Sebastian: Apple is the biggest Company in the world and I have been using an iPhone/iPod for as long as I can remember. Because I am always curious in life I started to ask myself many years ago, what’s the story behind this little device influencing my life but also billions of other people around the World. During my research I found out that the very first Apple Computer, the Apple 1, was sold at an auction for over $900.000 and I remember just thinking‚ "WOW’’. This is how I started to dig in the rabbit hole of searching and collecting vintage Apple computers.
V95: Can you share with us the story of your very first vintage Apple computer acquisition? What model was it, and where did you find it?
Sebastian: The very first vintage Apple computer I found was on a small online platform in Austria. I remember as a young Kid I didn’t had a lot of money, so I was searching for something I could afford. It was around a 6 hours drive from my hometown in Karlsruhe, Germany and it took a lot of afford to convince my Father to come with me because I didn’t want to go alone. But since I have the best Dad I can wish for he finally agreed to drive with me to Austria and I was able to purchase my first vintage Apple computer. It was a broken, Apple Lisa 2 from 1984 in the worst condition ever. But it was the best feeling ever to own a piece of Apple History from 1984.
V95: Building a museum is a significant endeavor. Could you tell us about the vision and mission of your vintage Apple computer museum in Karlshure?
Sebastian: When I started I could have never imagined to achieve what I have now. Building a museum was never a plan I had. It all started with one computer. Then another one, and piece by piece I grew a collection. I am very fortunate to have become friends with the Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. I learned a lot from him, about how he likes to teach kids, educate kids, and do something for the future of humanity. With him being my role model I started to develop this dream to build a museum, so I could also show and educate kids about the history of this amazing brand.
One thing I try to do is to bring the kids visiting my museum some joy. Let them play games on an original Apple ][ Computer from 1978. That’s one thing I leaned from WOZ, the fastest way to learn is by having fun.
V95: What are some of the rarest or most unique vintage Apple computers or accessories in your collection, and how did you come across them?
Sebastian: I have a few things I am very proud of owning. A few of them are from Steve Wozniak himself. He has a funny story, where he prints his own 2-dollar bills. This story went viral on the internet, and he was so kind to gift me some of them. I also like to give them to kids visiting my museum which makes them very happy. I also have his personal metal business card which is very cool.
Another very rare item is one of the earliest Apple computers ever made. An Apple ][ from 1977. I got this from a good friend in Texas, named Ronald. He actually owned one of the first Apple stores in Texas in 1980 and is just an awesome guy. I was visiting Steve Wozniak at a speech in Poland together with my mother who also supports my museum very much. That’s where Steve gifted me the 2 dollar notes and his business card. We had a drink and he told me stories for over 2 hours which was one of the best times I've had in a long time.
V95: Collecting can be an addictive hobby. How do you balance the desire to acquire new pieces for your collection with your available space and budget?
Sebastian: Collecting vintage Apple computers is a very expensive hobby. I work hard every day to be able to afford new things. I don’t really spend a lot of money outside of my Apple hobby, so I can save a lot from my main job.
Also I became addicted to learning how to repair old computers. I've taught myself to be able to repair almost every computer. This helps a lot since buying non working Computers is much cheaper then buying fully functional items. I tend to buy broken ones and repair and restore them myself and post this process on my Instagram @vintageapplestore.
V95: Vintage Apple computers have a rich history. Are there any particular stories or anecdotes related to a specific item in your collection that stand out to you?
Sebastian: Oh yes, the original Apple ][ is not only one of my favorite computers but also the one with arguably the most history. Completely designed and made by Steve Wozniak the Apple ][ was the income of Apple for the first 10 years of the company. Without this successful computer Apple would have not been able to survive and wouldn’t be the most valuable company in the world today. Steve Wozniak was so far ahead of its time by inventing this high technology computer that it led to the most successful IPO in 1980 since Ford. On one day Apple made more millionaires than any other company has made up to this point. Together with the marketing skills of Steve Jobs, the Apple ][ was one of the most successful computers of the 80’s.
V95: Can you describe the process of restoring and preserving these vintage computers to ensure they're in working condition for your museum visitors?
Sebastian: A big issue with old Computers are always batteries and capacitors. In 1980 nobody has thought the lifetime of a computer would exceed over 44 years. So naturally with time those components tend to give up. By restoring and repairing computers I always change the batteries and capacitors with new ones to ensure the longevity of those items until they need to replaced again in about 10 years.
V95: What do you hope visitors to your museum will take away from their experience, and how do you plan to educate them about the history of Apple technology?
Sebastian: My main focus in my museum is to educate Kids and adults while having fun. For a lot of older people in my museum it is like a time capsule. They travel back in time and remember themselves as kids playing on those specific computers. On the other hand young kids experience vintage games and their quirks and features for the first time and do something they never did before. The only thing I want them to take away from a visit in my museum is a big smile. Because smiles and happiness are one of the most important things in life.
V95: Are there any upcoming exhibits, events, or special displays at your museum that you'd like to share or highlight?
Sebastian: I don’t plan to do a lot of exhibits because I am very busy with my day job and travel a lot of weeks during the year. I also travel a lot to find new and exiting vintage Apple computers I want to add to my collection. And in the limited free time I have I try to organize with partner schools to make playful events with mostly 5th - 8th graders at my museum.
V95: Beyond your vintage Apple computer collection, do you have any other plans or projects related to technology history, or is there a particular era of tech history that fascinates you the most?
Sebastian: There is a lot of fascinating technology history I am interested in. For example I was visiting the president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, together with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in Belgrade. They had a museum about Nikola Tesla which was very interesting to visit. Nikola Tesla is one of the few inventors, together with Steve Wozniak, who changed the world. Those are the people who fascinate me and make me exited for the Future.