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Pay dirt! Steve Jobs' 30-year-old mouse found in time capsule

After digging inside the Aspen Time Tube, archaeologists find the treasure they were looking for: the mouse Steve Jobs used before the time capsule was buried in 1983.

Daniel Terdiman Former Senior Writer / News
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
3 min read
Steve Jobs' lost Lisa mouse, which had been buried inside a time capsule in an Aspen, Colo., field for the last 30 years. Mike Durkin

Pay dirt!

After waiting decades to see the inside of the long-buried "Steve Jobs Time Capsule," archaeologists who dug it up last week had to wait a few more days to find the treasure they sought -- Steve Jobs' 30-year-old mouse. And find it they did.

In 1983, at the end of the International Design Conference in Aspen, Colo., organizers put a time capsule, known officially as the Aspen Time Tube, into an Apsen field. Many at the conference contributed items, but there's no doubt that the Lisa mouse the late Apple co-founder had used during his presentation at the conference was the bounty everyone remembered and wanted to see once it was dug up. As a result, the Aspen Time Tube became known as the "Steve Jobs Time Capsule."

Lost for 30 years, the 'Steve Jobs Time Capsule' reappears (pictures)

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The original plan was to dig it up in 2000, but along the way, the exact location escaped those who went looking for it. Organizers knew about where it was buried, but they didn't know the exact spot, largely because a significant re-landscaping of the area where it was hidden obscured the precise location. So for 30 years, the Steve Jobs Time Capsule lay buried in that Aspen field, unavailable to historians eager to see what was inside.

But the wait is finally over. Not long ago, the National Geographic Channel show "Diggers," got involved, and with their help, and that of those involved in its original burial, the Aspen Time Tube was found last week. On Thursday, the show's crew, with help from a local Aspen excavation crew, discovered the time capsule and dug it up.

But Jobs' mouse wasn't easily found inside. Rather, it was hidden amidst hundreds, or even thousands of other artifacts last seen in 1983. So the "Diggers" team had to wait a few days before reaching their goal.

'Diggers' archaeologist Mike Durkin holds up the Jobs mouse. Mike Durkin

Judging by photographs of the mouse provided exclusively to CNET, it's in fine shape. Unfortunately, Jobs didn't also bury the computer itself, so it wasn't immediately clear if the mouse still works. Still, it's quite a find, and one that carries with it a fair amount of historical significance, especially to those interested in the history of Apple, or the computer industry.

Of course, there were plenty of other interesting finds inside the time capsule. Perhaps the most notable was a video disc, created by MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte with a 3D mapping of Aspen that was the first computer-driven tour of the town. In addition, there was a script from an episode of NBC's "Hill Street Blues;" a 1983 Sears Roebuck catalog; two Rubik's Cubes; a Kodak Instamatic camera (no word on whether it contained any usable photos); a rotary telephone; and VHS tapes of the design conference and the time capsule burial ceremony.

Then, of course, there was also the suds. As Harry Teague, who was the president of the conference, recalled, he put a six-pack in the time capsule because "the guys that dig this up will be sweaty and appreciate a six-pack."

The six cans of Ballantine beer were in fine shape. No word on whether the "Diggers" crew cracked any of them open.