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Letters-General Questions Answered  


Q From e-mail:
I use six-hour video tapes to record long radio programs; the problem was, without a video signal the audio tended to glitch (this is a not uncommon problem I'm told). So I needed a video source. I immediately thought of doing a simple display on the computer -- program title and an elapsed-time clock -- but hey! Macs and PCs don't do NTSC video without an expensive peripheral card! Rats!

At which point I turned to the Apple II I thought I had put away for good* and whipped up a lores graphics character generator. Problem solved.

This is a surprising and amusing story. The best ones are often the true ones.

I, myself, use a PowerBook. Recent PowerBook models, including the one I'm using right now, have NTSC out (U.S. version). Look how many marketing folks have to make presentations. Some are probably still done on TV's. Also, TV's are very popular for the teacher to present in classrooms, costing much less than computer quality monitors (which are smaller physically) and projectors.

Q From e-mail:
On a side note: I've become reacquainted recently with my IIe, and after working with PCs for several years, both hardware and software, I'm learning to appreciate some of the small but significant things that made the Apple II such a simple and flexible machine.

Some appreciate quantity (of menu commands, for example) but others, like yourself, appreciate quality. In today's computers, the sales game tends to favor quantity too often. Many miss the quality difference (of the Macintosh, for one thing) when they just read comparison charts and feature lists and think that's the important measure. Good for you.

Q From e-mail:
My name is Peter Jaramillo and I am a Computer teacher at an elementary school in Santa Rosa Ca, I have been trained as a PC specialist and software around the Wintel environment, I never touched an Apple until I got the job in January, well it turns out that I had a lot of studying to do! I bought some great books on Mac computers, the school has iMacs in the classroom. I dont have any money to buy an iMac and they have been nice enough to let me borrow one during Easter vacation, since summer vacation is here, I would very much like to have an iMac of my very own to learn as much as I can about the MAC OS. I would be very happy if you can donate me an iMac, if you cant I will understand. I am still youre fan!

Apple got a lot of respect in the education market and one major reason was a program long ago in which we gave a computer to every public school in California. Actually, the state passed a law that year that made this very inexpensive for us, so you can thank the taxpayers even more. But I, individually, have given so many computers to schools around the country that I can't keep doing it forever. It's like I'll run out, see? So, I'm glad that you want the iMac and I'm glad that you want to learn, but I'm not able to give you one.

You have to ask for such things sometimes, and it can pay off, so don't feel like not asking others. I remember once when Steve Jobs needed some money and he called Bill Hewlett (or Dave Packard) directly and asked for it. He didn't get the money, but they found a summer job for him.

Q From e-mail:
My question to you is: Do you regret the demise of the II line in the same way that many of its enthusiasts did (and do)? Was the IIGS a promise of more great things to come, with built in command line interface, backwards compatibility, ease of use and a great OS, or simply a compromise "bridge" that was made in a half hearted attempt to appease the large number of II users? I still remember the bitter disappointment when the IIGSx (10mhz, 640x480 video - yohoo!) never came out.

Your question has more than a single answer. I don't regret the fact that the Apple ][ was demised. Even I switched for good reasons. I do regret the fact that because there was superior technology, Apple gave up on the Apple ][ support too fast and drastically. It's strong sales should have been supported and gradually switched to products like the Apple ///, the LISA, and the Macintosh. For the last 3 years that the Apple ][ was the best selling personal computer in the world, Apple had almost totally withdrawn from it.

I think that this might have been personally motivated. Everyone wants to claim credit for this marvelous invention and the most notable company formation of recent times. The best way is to invent another marvelous computer that overshadows the first. None of the people running Apple had really conceived or invented or designed the Apple ][. Naturally, they needed another good one to demonstrate their own prowess. In the case of the Apple /// and the Macintosh, those in charge didn't want to support the Apple ][ much because it was strong competition with their own products. The LISA team really didn't bring much conflict to bear, at least not that I perceived directly.

A lot of the problem in Apple bringing such satisfying products to market is that the personal computer market exploded, and products have to be rushed to market without the psychological research and product corrections to make them really nice and easy, the way it was supposed to be. I still believe in the LISA dreams of the software being so obvious to use that it was hard to make a mistake and that mistakes were clearly explained. These dreams, of a computer being so helpful to people, were carried over to the Macintosh. But time has proven that we didn't do a very good job of appeasing the users. In my opinion, Windows did much worse, but to be fair it might be because there are so many more companies and companies making products for PC's, with correspondingly more conflicts and artifacts that are impossible to handle properly. The Macintosh has the advantage of fewer options and therefore fewer conflicts. In these terms, you can see why the Apple ][ was so satisfying, it had very little that could mess you up.

Q From e-mail:
Contrary to what Steve believes, you are the heartbeat and soul of Apple. With greatest thanks.

Thank you. It's been said that Apple and Macintosh carry different weights and feelings and associations. I agree with your observation. Although it's not spelled out, you can't always put such feelings into the right words. I'm surprised that people can see that there was a time that we stood for the average person more than for our own company's growth and size and revenues.

It's funny but there are a good number of people in Apple right now that still have these same sorts of feelings, about the soul of the company being important. It's much harder to associate the soul of Microsoft with anyone. It's hard to imagine the soul of Microsoft, right?

Q From e-mail:
I just wanted to write you this letter to say thank you. I'm 23 years old and have used Apple computers for ever, except for a little time with the commodore 64 and 128, and the atari, because they had cool games. Oh yeh I also used a computer called a laser it was a Apple clone of some type I think. I joke with people sometimes about how happy I was when we got our new Mac at my house and it had 2Mb of RAM and a 20 Mb hard drive and I thought what am I going to do with all this space, and know it is all about Gig and more. I design websites and I do editing for local tv commercials and corporate videos, for a company that me and my dad own together (he owns more cause he is my dad). I basically would like to tell you thanks for making the Apple I and the Apple II they were great computers and you will be glad to know I still have a working Apple IIe and have over 20 old Apple and Mac computers in storage basically for posterity and to never forget where i came from so to speak. Now I use a G3 266 for editing and I have a iMac, a 6300, a 6500,a LC 580 and a Powerbook 5300cs still going strong at my office. Wow is that iMac G3 fast compared to my LC 580 and my 6300 but I still love the slow ones, but what's slow really compared to my Mac classic storage now that's slow. I don't know if you will read this whole letter, but if you do thanks for everything you done.
P.S. I don't know how hard core a Mac user I am but I've only used one microsoft program in my life and that was because I had to in my computer lab in college, but I always go back to the best computers ever made my Apple's. Thank you for your time Matthew.

I can write a few people back, but not everybody. So far I've managed to read all my email but it gets very tough at times. I have other things that I used to do, like sleep and eat.

On a personal note, you'll go further and be more motivated because of your reason, your bias against Microsoft. A lot of people can't say exactly why they feel this way. Maybe it's just because Microsoft was overly successful selling junk, while Apple would only sell good stuff. Microsoft has learned that you don't have to make something good to sell it.

Q From e-mail:
Woz, you changed my life.
I have a number of motor, cognitive, and learning disorders.
Growing up, I wanted to be an astronomer, physicist, or automotive engineer.
Long before I was old enough to go to college I realized I could not go into a technical field. My handwriting was so bad *I* couldn't even read it. And worse, though I became proficient with a slipstick, I seemed to be unable to find the correct place to put the decimal point.
The truth was, I couldn't even make it through college. I enrolled in, and flunked out of SF State at 17.
I realized I was a loser.
I ended up traveling all over the country working as an iron worker or a trucker.
I missed things about school. I really missed the fun of figuring out things more complex than how to avoid death, dismemberment, or truck scales. I also missed helping people.
By the time I was 39 I landed a job as a bid estimator. I was up against my old problem again--my inadequate math and handwriting abilities (the skills were there, I just couldn't execute!).
It was 1989. I decided I needed a computer. I had to decide which computer to buy. I had to learn how to use the thing and make it work for me within weeks. I asked an elementary school teacher friend of mine for advice. He said buy an Apple ][.
I bought a 5 or 6 year old used ][e for $500. I learned AppleWorks. I started using Quicken.
I realized that this computer thing changes everything. With my "new" computer, my "old problem" was geography (it was gone).
At 40 I went back to college.
I earned a BS in accounting (OK, chalk one up to lowered expectations here). I passed the CPA exam.
Now, at age 49 I am a senior analyst (I figure out complex stuff!) in a public employee's retirement system (I get to help people). These are all very good things for me and my family.
Woz, your role in my life is clear. I guarantee none of these good things would have happened if someone had not designed a cheap computer with a keyboard and a monitor in the 1970's (If you had waited until the 1980's, how could I have found a 6 year old used computer in 1989 for $500 as good as the ][e?).
Even if I had chosen an IBM XT instead of a ][e for my first computer and had actually been able to get some results out of it within a few weeks, you would still be responsible.

This is the best such story that I've ever heard. I have seen and taught and hired (for my teaching) many learning disabled people that can do amazing things with the computers. Also, the one year that the teachers of the local 5th grade class told me the students were mentally behind and slow, was the most outstanding year for my computer instruction. I'm not just saying this, many many other teachers have seen the same thing with computers in schools.

I have to say that it was just luck that I saw a low cost computer in the keyboard-display paradigm. It was more of building a computer into a TV terminal than of including a TV Terminal in a computer, based on what I'd built just before the Apple I. To be honest, the rest of the world might have figured this out in a lot less time than you're suggesting. But my motivations were to make a usable product for the simplest user at the lowest cost, and that included you. I had to think of what I wanted for myself and keep my head vacant of what a computer was and looked like and how you made it usable. I did that and went for it in the Apple I. The Apple ][ was merely the chance to add to that concept with some great features and good engineering, at very low cost. It was still aimed at normal people, whereas computers before it were primarily targeted at business clients with lots of money.

Again, your story is so good that it makes my eyes water. I hope that many hear it.


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