This wasn’t your average eBay auction. The venerable auction house Christie’s International PLC recently put on the block a collection of documents that follow the evolution of computing from the 1600s to the 1970s.
The sale of “The Origins of Cyberspace: A Library on the History of Computing, Networking & Telecommunications,” consisted of 255 lots, contained 1,141 items and was expected to sell for more than US$2 million, the auction house said.
Items such as the original Arpanet documents written by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn (estimated value $2,000 to $3,000), or the deposition of Alexander Graham Bell in the suit brought by the U.S. to annul the Bell patents (estimated value $1,000 to $1,500) were auctioned by Christie’s in New York on Feb. 23.
Owner Jeremy Norman sold off computing books, documents and even children’s games, which he began collecting in 1971. Also on sale were documents on the first general-purpose programmable computer, on the first stored-program electronic computers, on the founding of the world’s first electronic computer company and on the earliest programs written for electronic computers. Norman also parted with his life’s work, “The Origins of Cyberspace Library.”
On the low end of the scale, officials expected an estimated $400 to $600 for the original copies of two papers delivered by J. C. R. Licklider, whose work initiated the sequence of events leading to Arpanet, at the 1963 NATO symposium’s session on “Man-computer communication.”
At the high end, you could be expected to plunk down $50,000 to $70,000 for the business plan for the world’s first computer company, written by J. Presper Eckert and John W. Mauchly.
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