30 years later, Aspen Time Tube containing Steve Jobs mouse is unearthed

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

A crowd of onlookers gathers for the ceremonial burying of the Aspen Time Tube on June 23, 1983. Among its contents was a mouse from a Lisa computer provided by Steve Jobs. The tube was unearthed this week by a crew from the television show "Diggers," which runs on the National Geographic Channel.
Contributed photo |

For years, the location of the Aspen Time Tube was a mystery to many. Pretty soon, its whereabouts will be known to millions.

A crew from the National Geographic Channel’s “Diggers” program unearthed the time capsule Thursday and opened it Friday. A “Diggers” episode detailing the find will air in early January, according to a news release issued Friday.

In June 2010, The Aspen Times reported that while the capsule was located somewhere on the grounds of the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Music Festival and School, no one was sure of its precise location. That’s because much had changed at the area that’s home to the Aspen Institute, Music Festival, Aspen Meadows and the Aspen Center for Physics.

In 1983, the Institute owned the property where the capsule was buried. The Music Festival now owns that same spot. Harris Concert Hall, designed by Basalt architect Harry Teague, was erected in 1983. The Benedict Music Tent, also a Teague creation, was built in 2000. As such, some markers for the Aspen Time Tube were removed, Teague previously told the Times.

But this week, an excavation team led by “Diggers” archeologist Michael Durkin and Teague, who also was part of the group that buried the capsule in 1983, was able to find the time tube. They accomplished the mission using the original survey coordinates and “good, old-fashioned math,” the news release says.

As The Aspen Times in reported 1983, the capsule was stuffed with a mix of relics from the time — an eight-track recording by the Moody Blues, a Sears Roebuck catalog, a June 1983 copy of Vogue Magazine, a six-pack of beer, a Rubik’s Cube, a muffin and the late Aspen genius Nick DeWolf’s secret plans for the dancing fountain he designed for the Mill Street mall, among other things.

But one of the prize catches is the mouse from one Steve Jobs’ biggest commercial flops — the Apple Lisa personal computer. Jobs was in Aspen when the capsule was buried into the ground on June 23, 1983, as part of the now-defunct International Design Conference in Aspen, where the theme was “The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be.”

A recording of Jobs’ speech in Aspen went viral that October, and his words appeared prophetic, as he hinted at a future with computer tablets, a concept that Apple, the company he founded, pioneered with its launch of the iPad and subsequent editions.

“We will find a way to put (a computer) in a shoebox and sell it for $2,500, and finally, we’ll find a way to put it in a book,” Jobs told the Aspen audience just six months before the debut of the Macintosh, which would change the landscape of personal computing permanently.

Now the capsule’s contents will be turned over the Aspen Historical Society.

Teague said the Lisa mouse is a significant find.

“When we buried the capsule, … it was scheduled to be unearthed in 20 years,” Teague said. “ We had no idea it would be 30 before we would finally get around to digging it up.

“I’m sure it’s loaded with things of cultural and historic import, but the mouse from one of his new Apple Lisa computers that Steve Jobs threw in at the last minute has to be one of the more iconic items.”