Tech | November 10, 2017 10:00 am

Apple’s School Donations Still Paying Off, Decades Later

Steve Jobs' savvy move has created generations of customers while looking like a hero.

Steve Jobs Donated 9,000 Apple Computers to California School In A Tax and Marketing Coup
(Heritage Auctions)

Back in 1978, Apple signed on to an initiative called the Minnesota Education Computing Consortium, which installed 5,000 computers in schools across Minnesota. Steve Jobs saw a bigger opportunity: to install Apple computers in schools all across the country. But they needed financial help to make such a large donation, Timeline writes, and despite some setbacks, in 1982, the California legislature passed a lucrative 25 percent tax credit to companies that donated computers to public and private schools.

Jobs called Apple’s push the “Kids Can’t Wait” program, and in Jan. 1983, he offered every elementary and high school in California with at least 100 students its own Apple IIe computer, along with 64k bytes of memory, a monitor, a floppy disk drive, coupons for software, and a manual for a programming language program. In total, Apple was on the hook for over an estimated $21 million worth of donated computer and gear, but because of the retail tax credit and only a $5.2 million gross cost, Apple would only pay a mere $1 million to introduce its product to millions of children.

Apple’s only requirement was that an educator from each location participate in a brief training course. Nearly 100 percent of California schools took the offer, and administrators started pulling kids out of class for an hour to learn programming. They, in turn, would teach other kids. But also, as Apple predicted, the schools bought more equipment to round out the computer labs, and parents bought computers for the home. Ten years later, Apple had hooked an entire generation so much so, that even the old equipment remained in demand.

The IRS now allows tax write-offs for donating computers to qualifying non-profit organizations and school districts. And Apple, according to Timeline, still manages to avoid billions in taxes every year, all while marketing itself to its next customers.