Apple Museum in Prague

Unveiling the evolution of the computer age with Steve Jobs (and Apple) in the spotlight

What do you get when you take a group of young Czech professionals and entrust them with a collection of Apple computers, mice, keyboards and other devices from a technological era that started before many of them were born? Add some authentic personal memorabilia to the mix: school yearbooks, a pair of Steve Jobs’ sneakers and his Apple jacket, plus enough media commentary (seven published Time magazine cover stories) to write a book. Ask your collaborators to stay true to Jobs’ legacy – simplicity, secrecy and staying one step ahead of the competition. Find space in a historical building in downtown Prague and give them six months to create their concept.

That’s what the Pop Art Center in Prague recently did. To see the results – you have to visit the Apple Museum, which opened on December 17, 2015 in the heart of Prague’s downtown tourist district.

Inside the museum an original Apple I – a monitor, a motherboard, a tape cassette recorder interface and an Operations Manual – are behind a glass case in the front room. Apple I was the first computer that IT guru Stephen G. Wozniak and his classmate and business partner, Steve Jobs, introduced to the public in 1976 under the auspices of their new enterprise Apple Computer Co. Their logo had a drawing of Newton and an apple on it, and the fledging company developed a computer that was a puzzle even for IT geniuses to assemble.

Nearby, displayed in its own glass case, is the microchip used in the first Apple I computers. At the time, it was the first affordable microchip on the market; now it is one of the most valuable items in the collection. Visitors can see a trajectory of Apple innovations from the years 1976 to 2012 outlined on the wall.

Follow the museum path (with a mobile tour app available in nine languages) to get the full impact of Apple’s contribution to the modern tech age. See the progression to Apple II, the introduction of the Lisa and Macintosh families, Newton and the PowerBook. Almost every Apple product from the years 1976-2012 is on display, including a few limited editions, like a gold 20th Anniversary Macintosh or a Beatles limited edition iPod. See signed documents like the original Apple company agreement or a poster Pixar shareholders received with their stock certificate. Learn about Jobs’ Next era, and why he returned to Apple. Finish your tour with a glimpse of the colorful age ushered in by iPods, iPhones and iPads.

When I spoke with Lukáš Hrudička, an architect involved in the collaboration, he said, “Rather than simply display a collection of artifacts, we really wanted to make a story of the real evolution of the computer in a way the average person could understand.”

“Take the OS (operating system) views, everyone thinks that it was always like that, but in the museum, you can see the big jump from the old DOS to color graphics and pixels to an interface you can really use. You can see how hard it was to make a computer that just pops up from the box and you can use it. There is the first graphic tablet on display created as an interface to Apple II in 1982. At the time, it was just an input device, not a product itself, but now you can see it was kind of like a predecessor to the first iPad. ”

The collaborators are careful to keep the names of the private collector(s) a secret, just as they believe Jobs would have wanted. I did learn that all the pieces were acquired by the Pop Art Center and vetted to ensure authenticity. Although Lukáš was already an Apple fan, he said during the collaboration the team found Apple components he had never heard of before, such as screens that were on the shelves for only one-half a year.

Once they checked to ensure that all their pieces were authentic and in working order, the hardest part of the project was giving the exhibition a clean, streamlined look. Attention was paid to every detail, including spray painting the exhibition walls white in 2x2 meter sections so that there would not be a single brush stroke. With painstaking care, the team installed two-flat screen monitors perfectly flush with the wall.

For the mice and keyboard installations, they spent a day experimenting with different mounting techniques. In the final version, each mouse is displayed on its own pedestal and enclosed in a separate glass box in the wall. If the installation needs to be repaired or cleaned, they’ll have to break the glass. The exhibition colors are simple; white walls are off-set by the flashy colors of the more modern devices or black and white posters with famous faces from Apple’s “Think Different” campaign. Read quotes from Jobs’ fans (and detractors). After you finish, enjoy a snack at the onsite café offering “Steven’s Food” (vegan fare).

The exhibition ends with the year 2012 because those are the last products that Jobs personally had his hand in creating. “For now, we chose to put the most important products in the company’s evolution in the spotlight rather than displaying a lot of similar products. We are waiting to see what happens in the future,” Lukáš says.

As of today, there is still no public Apple Museum endorsed or affiliated with the Silicon Valley corporate giant. Jobs rejected plans for a public museum in 1997 when he returned to the company and donated his own collection of Apple history back to Stanford University. With public interest keen to see behind the walls of a corporation and into the life of an individual that revolutionized the modern computer age, momentum is ripe for the Prague Apple Museum’s success. Although a few other Apple museums exist around the world, the collaborators behind the Prague Apple Museum believe that none of the other museums offers as complex or complete collection of Apple products as visitors can see in Prague.

Visit Prague’s Apple Museum to see an exhibition space that takes Apple’s “Think Different” concept to a new level. Enrich your knowledge of the not-so-distant computer past and show your children that there was indeed computer life before iPads or iPhones.

Apple Museum Prague
Location: Husova 156, Prague 1 (between Charles Bridge and Wenceslas Square)
Open: Daily 10:00 – 10:00
Cost: Adult 11 Euro, Student 8 Euro, Child 5 Euro (proceeds donated to charity)

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