Never judge a book by its cover, or so the old adage goes. In Silicon Valley back in the 70s a certain printer might have done well in adapting that rule of thumb to read, “Never judge an entrepreneur’s potential by the first book he asks you to print.” Stanford University’s Silicon Valley Archives has unearthed a note written back in June of ’76 from Mike Rose, who ran a small ad agency in the valley, to his partner. The subject of the correspondence? A 21 year-old named Steve Jobs was looking for someone to print the manual for his fledgling company’s first product: The Apple I computer.

This joker (attached) is going to be calling you … They are 2 guys — they build kits — operate out of a garage. Sounds flakey. Watch it!

Rose didn’t exactly see the opportunity that may have been in front of him to get in on the ground floor with Apple in exchange for a routine print job. But who could blame him? The Valley of the 70s was not like the Valley of today, and the prospect of two kids building computer kits in a garage being able to pay their printing bills was no doubt a dubious one. Nowadays it’s, of course, commonplace – even if everybody’s building software and not actual computer hardware.

The note, which Rose donated to the Archives in 1988, mentions that Jobs wanted the job done “for nothing.” Jobs apparently decided Rose’s bid on the work was too pricey, and went with another firm. 35 years later Apple became the largest corporation in the world by market cap.

[via Bloomberg]