So first, who am I?
My name is Corey Cohen and I guess you can call me a Computer Historian with a specialty in Apple, especially the Apple-1.
Currently I’m the go to guy for many Museums, Auction houses and owners of rare technology like the Apple-1 for authentication, restoration and repair around the world.
Before I get to how that all happened, I’m sure you have questions how I got to this point.So how did a 40's guy from Long Island who lives in Jersey get into all this stuff...
Well since there has been an Apple II, I have been what they call an Apple "snob". While my dad owned a computer, it wasn't what you'd call a PC, it was an IBM System 32 used for his business and it was about the size of two kitchen tables on top of each other if I remember correctly.My first exposure to an actual computer came at summer camp, specifically a place called Watonka. Camp Watonka is still around and back then you got to use a TRS-80, unless you could write a bubble sort in basic, then you got to use an Apple II. This being the 70's Radio Shack had all their "Comic Books" to try to convince kids that the TRS-80 (aka trash-80) was cool, but we knew better. The Apple was the machine to have. Hook it up to a color TV set and you could play games just like the Atari VCS console that Sears sold. I wrote quite a few games back for the Apple II then and even managed to sell some though the local computer store. I also built my own modem so that I could dial into the school mini computer (I plead the 5th on the details)
Well over the course of the next few years we had a few computers and arcade machines such as the Atari, Sinclair, TI, Albert (Apple Compatible), my family always gravitated towards the Apple II, that is until the Mac came out. Once the Mac arrived my sister got one and I pleaded for a new Apple and got an Apple IIc, really the Apple II that Steve Jobs wanted to produce, An Apple II without slots. I used the Apple IIc for organizing music and some basic word processing since by then I stopped programming games and things.
"Organizing music?", The Apple IIc wound up being used mostly with a Midi interface to hook up to my Fairlight CMI and DX7 synths. The Fairlight had a terrible MIDI interface (and 8" floppies). I did most of my sequencing and scoring on the IIc. I was a vocalist and actor back then and was expecting to be in that business for most of my life, but that is another story too long to be told here :-(
In College I eventually settled down on electrical engineering and bought an MAC IIfx with 128mb of RAM, this was 1989!!!! I used this for Music and RenderMan (3d graphics software) and worked after school at EggHead Software and playing in rock bands.
My first job out of school is hard to explain to millennials who take technology for granted but it was teaching email at Colgate-Palmolive in NYC which was just putting Macintosh computers on people’s desks. Prior to getting Macs, they were sending memos using real people in the mail room and envelopes where you wrote your note-memo, slipped it into an envelope and wrote the name of the person whom it was intended and a few hours later is appeared at their desk. Today we take for granted we can have near real time conversations over email, IM or twitter.
I left my job teaching email and moved on to become a Network Engineer at a company that produced software to reconcile bank transfers and met my wife.
Eventually I got married, moved and left using Apple computers behind for a few years. You see my wife was a PC person. I purchased my first PC.How did I move back to Apple… Well thanks a bad refund policy at the Bang and Olufsen franchise store in NYC. I purchased a remote IR receiver for my Bang and Olufsen home theater, since I had a Plasma TV it didn’t work right due to interference from the Plasma TV. This was not an inexpensive item. This was back before Bang and Olufsen made consumer products for the masses through their partnership program so a simple IR sensor was hundreds of dollars and they would only give me store credit which I used to buy the first iPod that supported windows. This led me to slowly get back into Apple products and have never looked back....
From MacBooks, iMacs, iPhones, Apple TV to iPads. My home is became an Apple Home.
So the next question...
Why did I start with the vintage Apple Computer stuff for my Mid-Life crisis?
Exercise and StarTrek....
Well that's easy to explain. I have pretty much had a Porsche automobile since I have been driving, so no sports car for the mid-life crisis, I am a certified diver, driven race cars, played in rock bands and all that crazy stuff...
So what's a guy to do to feel young....
Try to get back his body from his 20's. When I worked at Hewlett Packard I gained over 50lbs in a single year from stress and travel, so after leaving to my current employer, a couple of years before my 40th I started exercising. I actually got a trainer. Well working out is fun but painful. I typically worked with a trainer 5 or 6 days a week, but on the 7th day, I did Cardio. Cardio isn't fun, so after a while I started bringing first a DVD player then later my iphone with movies, then my iPad with NetFlix streaming.
Quick aside… When not traveling, I now do Olympic style lifting and cross-fit, so I have gained some of that 50lbs back, but not the same 50lbs. I still try to get my weekly cardio in so I can watch stuff on my iPhone.
Back to NetFlix and how it got me into vintage computers...
NetFlix, the greatest gift to someone wanting to relive their past... Until they had streaming you could just get DVDs delivered to your home. With streaming, you can't always get the newest movies, but old TV shows you can't beat it. So I started by watching old Dr Who "Movies" and moved on to watching the new series of Doctor Who. I had seen one or two episodes of the new Doctor on SciFi, but never got into it. Now I was a captive audience at 6mph. Well I got hooked and ran out of episodes. One day, I tried watching StarTrek the next Generation. It was too campy, too weird, so I put on the original series "Trouble With Tribbles".
"Trouble With Tribbles", a campy but fun episode. Then I moved on to "City on the Edge of Forever". This brought back memories of reruns on channel 11, WPIX in NY. I started thinking about when I used to watch the original series and remembered playing a StarTrek game on my Cousin Wayne's Commodore Pet. Wayne and his dad were Ham Radio guys and really loved StarTrek, so computers were an early addition to their home. I started "Googling" the StarTrek game. I started reading the history of the game and thinking too bad I didn’t have a Pet, Apple II or really any old computers anymore. Even my Tandy 100 "Laptop" was sold on eBay a few years before. I tried some emulators to play the game, but really nothing satisfied my craving for "the old days". Finally I came across Vince Briel's Replica-1 which could play a version of StarTrek with that classic Ascii Graphics look and feel. As I researched more I found the "Mimeo" by Mike Willegal and AppleFritter. I had a choice to make build a Replica-1, find a real Apple-1, or build a Mimeo. Since I am OCD, I knew that the Replica-1 would drive nuts not being accurate, though I still want to build one. I knew from google it would be very hard and expensive to find an Apple-1 for sale, so the Mimeo was the way to go. This started my path on leveraging some of my other hobbies and OCD to create the most accurate Apple-1 Mimeo that I could build but still be able to use it.
So how did this leverage into me becoming a computer historian and restoration expert. At the time the Apple-1 community was very small. It consisted of early Apple employees, owners of original systems and a handful of people who had built reproductions. One of these original Apple-1 owners was currently auctioning off his machine in NYC and he lived in Texas. It was the morning of the press event and the machine which worked a few days before when he shipped it to them was no longer displaying video. He gave me a call and asked how quickly I could get to NYC. A few hours later I determined it to be a chip-socket combination that needed a little TLC. This introduced me to the Auction house crowd and started my journey to be the guy the auction houses called when they needed work done on an Apple-1. This also began my journey to becoming an Apple historian. I love history and have spent a lot of time talking to owners and people involved in the early Apple story and how it evolved into one of the largest companies in the world.
In 2014, I was profiled in the NY Times print edition for the work I performed on the Ricketts Apple-1 which was my 4th Apple-1 that year alone to bring back to life and restore. With an artifact that can be worth nearly a million dollars this isn’t a trivial task due to the danger of real damage to the artifact. By comparison when restoring something like an PDP-1 or Cray you can take care to repair and restore sections at a time. With the Apple-1 it’s a single board and if a mistake is made or the wrong component fails it can be catastrophic.
So what am I up to today…
My vintage technology collection and restoration hobby has expanded to MITS Altair, Scelbi and Processor Technology. I have also gotten more into the history of all this technology to become one of the historians and experts of Apple history.
Currently I have a day job as a Sr. Director in Product Management at a one of the 10 largest computer software companies in the world. I am also on the Board of Directors for The Vintage Computer Federation (VCF), a federal 501c3 educational charity which hosts major vintage computer festivals and shows around the world including VCF East and West. VCF has a Brick and Mortar museum located in New Jersey at the Infoage Science Center that was donated to them by MARCH, Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists when they dissolved.