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Where is the missing NeXT optical drive?

I was talking with Robert Cailliau this morning about our project to restore the first website. He mentioned an interesting anecdote that could possibly lead us to an earlier version of the first website, but it’s a long shot.

In 1997 Tim Berners-Lee’s NeXT machine was shipped out to Santa Clara in California for the sixth World Wide Web Conference.

When the NeXT was returned by mail (via Stanford, I believe), the machine’s optical read-write drive was missing. This drive contained a 1990 version of the first website.

The NeXT had a removable drive module that looked like this.

It’s a long shot, but does anyone have any ideas on how we might trace such a thing? Would the NeXT’s serial number lead us to a matching drive number range? Is anyone using this thing as a paperweight?

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