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Letters-General Questions Answered  

 

 

Comment from E-mail:
Yesterday, I watched your biography on A&E TV. Very impressive and depressing at the same time. Impressive because of your accomplishments. Inventing the PC and promoting concerts that's amazing. Depressing to see that you were kind of left out and used by Steve Jobs (at least that was my impression after watching a movie and your biography) and to think that was it.

I believe there is more to come. Invention wise. You changed the world like not many others, so whats next. My suggestion is to make apple computer more interesting for PC user. Like making it possible to use PC software? (There is more available and it's cheaper) What about using the Mac system usable on a PC for testing purposes.

Here is the catch:I would like you to check out our [motorcycle] web site and let me know what you think about it.

I know that you get tons of e mails and you are busy like everyone else but I would appreciate your comments or an advice.

Woz:
No time for advice. I'm getting overrun with this stuff. Sorry.

It's hard to explain the concept of my being overrun by Steve Jobs. I'd say that I did design some incredible machines that may have been a needed step to kicking off this new market, as Mike Markkula said in the biography. But someone like Steve Jobs was needed to turn that product into a corporate success and to change the world and get them accepting it. So we both had important roles. My role was much more short lived but I put everything into it and could have done no better. I would never have wanted the attention and responsibility for more than my own work, which is what Steve Jobs has. I had certain strong personal ethics that would have rendered me a poor businessman, regardless of how much training I could have come by.

Your web site is quite exciting. If I were younger and freer I'd want to join up. I did commute for years on my motorcycle to Apple, and the feeling of a bike is the most fun thing ever in my life. It was much more fun than flying planes. It was like skiing to work every day, riding in the open air. I never wore strongly protective clothing but I was cautious and never went down while riding once I got my license. I always hoped that I'd give up riding before crashing and after a decade I did just that, although I always take the motorcycle test to keep my license valid.

Comment from E-mail:
I couldn't love a machine as much as the passion that was put into building it. I bet you had more fun building that middle finger than you ever did making calculators. Or at least I would like to think you did. That is all I wanted to communicate to you. from one designer to another, or from one human being to another. Passion is a good thing.
Woz:
You're right. Steve Jobs and Allen Baum and myself made it. The graduation was Steve Jobs' and it was at our high school. We spent 4 nights in a row working out a scheme that wound up with two ramps guiding 2 skates over the edge of a 2-story building right where half of the graduates exited after graduating. The skates pulled the sheet over. Tennis shoes and other things kept the sheet from blowing away. The skates were weighted down. Everything, including the tennis shoes, was tied together so that it couldn't hit anyone on the head below. 40 lb. Fishing line held the skates at the top of the 2 ramps and ran down the side of the building.

The next morning the sign was down. Steve and I determined that the line had been cut at about waist height. It hadn't torn. The next year, at Berkeley, I ran into one of the seniors working on another senior prank the last night that we got our sign working. He said that Steve Jobs had told them what we were doing up on the roof and had even shown them where the fishing line was. So they cut it themselves for fun. Too bad, it would have been funny.

We tried another very ambitious graduation prank there the next year but that's another story.

When you die, I think that your ration of laughs to frowns is the most important thing to judge.

Comment from E-mail:
Sorry to add to the likely incredible spate of email you are likely getting after the Biography special, but I just really didin't think I could NOT drop you a line, even if it is getting awfully late here. I just thought I should take the opportunity to thank you, and to ask your advice. You can ignore the rest of the message from here on if you want to, and I will not be (too) :hurt, since its not your job to be an advice columnist.

First of all, thanks for the Apple II and all its progeny. Its had a major impact on my life. In 1978, I was eight years old when my dad introduced me to the first Apple II that the University of Saskatchewan ever bought. He was (and is) a prof in Educational Technology at the U of S, so I always got to play with the newest and coolest technologies when I was young. I've been an Apple person ever since (I'm writing this from my G4 400 at home). I'm a user support person at the U of S now, supporting Mac users in the Health Sciences at our university. So, I make a comfortable living off those ideas you had so long ago (in computer years, of course). But, you know (and you prabably do, from what they said about you in the Biography special), its more than that, more than just a way to make a living. Its (to me at least) a philosophy, a dream almost. Apple was always the company that helped people do things, to solve problems and to do it in a way that was friendly and understandable and different from the conventional. I have always tried to keep to that philosophy in my work life, and I think I have been relatively successful over the past 12 years.

That dream is threatened for me now, as it has been for some time. The writing is on the wall at my institution as far as I can tell. Macs are on the way out at the U of S, to be replaced in due time by (what else,) a Microsoft-dominated solution. Some small, rational part of my brain tells me that this is no big deal, they are only computers, I have skills that are applicable no matter what computer platform or group of people I am working with. But there is another part of me, deeply ingrained, that hates to see the dream die at my institution. I hate to see people say "Oh, we are getting rid of our Macs because everybody else has PCs, and we need to be compatible. It's too much work to keep the Macs." I hate to see the machines that I have always associated with "nice guys" (like yourself) be replaced by machines powered by a company that seems to win by forcing everyone to conform to its standards and crushing anyone that does not conform. The two companies were started by people with dreams, but from my point of view they are vastly different dreams.

My question for you (oh wise one :>) is, since you are the original dreamer who started us all down this path, what should I do? Should I listen to that rational part of my brain? If I had already, I would not be writing this email. Should I give up the fight? That is essentially what it has become, a fight for survival of the Macintosh, both in my local situation and on a global scale. It isn't supposed to be a fight, I suspect you are thinking, and you never intended for it to be [and its not really your responsibility, and why the heck do people email you and ask you these kind of questions anyway? :>]. But I am really kinda stumped here, and I am hoping you have maybe faced this type of question before in your personal life.

And maybe you could do me a really big favor. If you still have any contact with the other Steve, and let him know that there are people out here in this kind of situation (more than one in this town at least). Ask him what he is going to do for all the people like me that have subscribed to what is essentially (as I see it) your dream (Besides telling us all that we need serious psychiatric help :>. That's that little rational part of my brain butting in again!). He needs to be very careful, because the next year or so is going to make or break Apple(even if people have been saying that from 1982 on, this time it may really be true), and there is only so long that us "Mac Faithful" can remain that way (By the way, moving to fee for incident service on the Apple help line may make financial good sense, but it is suicide for Apple's rapport with its users, particularly when in many cases when people like me call the support personnel at Apple learn new things as well).

If you have read this far, thanks for listening, and I am really glad to know that a nice guy can once in a while finish first. Maybe there's hope for me yet! :>

Woz:
I understand your anxiety and frustrations and sadness because I live them every day of my life. I have the same fears as you.

There was a time, perhaps between 1984 and 1993, when the Macintosh alone stood for a new humanistic world of computers. The Macintosh dreams included concepts like software that was so clear that you could intuitively figure out what to do. If you made mistakes, the computer gently told you what you'd done and guessed what you wanted to do and told you how to do it or offered to do it for you. Error messages were understandable and complete. Everything was plug and play and nothing went wrong. The GUI world needs little explanation.

The PC world in this time frame lived with less human concepts of computing and claimed that their way was correct and better for serious work. The Macintosh approaches for normal people (humans) made it too weak a machine for real work. We Macintosh users knew how much baloney this was and we held onto our good and correct dreams for humanity.

Now all computers have a GUI. But they all fail in the areas of what I call the Macintosh dreams. Software is crap wherever you look. Layouts aren't standard enough to follow. Messages are incomprehensible. Dialogs and menus lead you to wrong choices and unintended errors. Software crashes too much. It loses data. Files get corrupted. Checkboxes are used when radio buttons are called for. Operations become deactivated at particular times for no reason, other than that you might have hit some key in a particular hundredth of a second.

Both Microsoft and Apple are monopolies. Mostly, dedicated Macintosh users buy Macintoshes and they won't likely buy a PC. The number of Macintoshes sold does not depend on how much quality is in the software. The dreams are nearly dead. With no incentive to create intuitive and modeless software, like Control Panels for instance, that actually work, why should any company try to make them better for humans to use? The emphasis is always on some new product and the broken and non-working crap that's around just sits forever. I'm amazed at how many times I see software that takes steps backwards from great things that were done more correctly and humanly before.

Technology and the money of big corporations has become much more important than human beings. That was not the original intent of personal computers. They were to put more power in the individual's hand. As we store our data and apps on the internet, our computing world becomes a big corporate entity that makes individuals less and less important in the process. The era of truly personal computers is fading in many ways. The computer platform we use is becoming less and less important. This may be a boon to Apple, but there are many forces working against it, all for the sake of money. Apple has to be very different than all the others in terms of what it's products symbolize to buyers. Right now, it's the "think different" campaign. Some of us will make sacrifices to be included in that category.

A lot has been lost. Apple is not the only example.



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