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Letters-General Questions Answered  

 

 

Comment from E-mail:
In your recent interview with The Mac Show Live, regarding the anniversary of the IBM PC, you stated that "every computer is a Macintosh". What is Apple's role in the anniversary of the PC? This was about one product. I certainly wasn't seeing the anniversary of the PC as the anniversaries of revolutionary home computing. I just don't understand how you see every PC as a Macintosh. The modern Intel based personal calmer represents a lot of innovation completely separate from Apple's work (And some derivative, yes). The Macintosh contributed to the revolution, but that statement is ridiculous. Macs are a far cry from perfect, and not the ideal for many people, computer designers included.
As a whole the interview was very inspiring, and I'm glad to have heard it.?

Woz:
Actually, the comment about every PC being a Macintosh was very accurate.
I'm not sure where you were, but the PC - Macintosh differences until 1991-1993 were like night and day. The PC was command line based and the Macintosh had a GUI, with windows, menus, buttons, mouses, etc. PC users decried the GUI as a toy, not a serious computing platform. The PC had greater market share, but didn't stay on this separate platform path. The transition to a GUI, and eventually to one close to a Macintosh, was a far greater step than refinements since. Some of these are just simple alternatives, which can't be over-valued due to increasing the complexity of having less consistency in how things are done. Others of these are more akin to rearranging the furniture. The great change was in becoming a modern GUI machine. In that sense, virtually every machine is a 'Macintosh' now.
I do agree with your comments about Macintosh being far from perfect. They are even further than they once were from it. Also, PC's did indeed innovate, and sometimes in very good ways. So did the Macintosh. So would any machine have. I'm not claiming otherwise in this regard.

Comment from E-mail:
My name is Pete Maddux-I'm a special ed social studies teacher at a Lincoln, Nebraska H.S. I have a question about CD-Roms that I try to buy for my classes. I am frustrated because many of my classes have students with a very wide-range of abilities. I am finding that CD-Roms are either made for the general education classroom or are at a very low level. Do you know of anybody that produces CD-Roms in which the teacher can either use the text provided or override the text and write in information tailored to the specific needs of their students?
Woz:
I never thought about this and I don't know if it exists.
If not, it's a good idea for the future.
If teachers could get involved in this way (and writing their own test questions too) then computers in the classroom would be closer to what we intended 20 years ago. By providing a tool for the teacher to provide content easily, the teacher is more motivated and feels like a master of the software, rather than a slave. The basic curriculum would still be supplied so that the teacher would only have to enhance it where appropriate.

Comment from E-mail:
I am a 16 year old student from the south east of england and I've been
chose to find out some stuff about u. May you send me some information on
how you became successful. many thanks,

Woz:
I started working on science fair projects involving electronics when I was quite young. My father was an electrical engineer. I got my first ham radio license when I was 10 years old, in 6th grade. By then I had learned about logic and gates from articles that I stumbled on in my home. I built a tic-tac-toe playing machine with transistors and diodes and resistors, nailed into a 3-foot by 4-foot piece of plywood. By 8th grade I built an adder/subtractor with transistors and diodes. By 9th grade I learned how computers work by doing simple things, one after another. I learned this from a science fair project that I saw, not from any friend or from any book. i was totally self taught in this area all my life.
In high school I started designing computers. I found ways to get computer manuals that described the inner structure of computers. I had chip manuals from my father. We lived in Santa Clara Valley, now called Silicon Valley, and my father had major contacts in the local transistor, and later chip, companies.
I could never get the parts to build one of my computer designs. My father didn't know what I did. I did it totally alone. My teachers and friends did not know that I designed computers. I got in the habit of watching for new chips every few months and trying to redo my computer designs using fewer and fewer chips. I developed a lot of 'tricks' to save chips. I was competing with myself, trying to use fewer chips than I had ever used before. I came up with so many tricks, competing with myself, that I had a talent in this area. I knew that someday I wanted to own a 4K minicomputer. If it cost as much as a house, I'd live in an apartment. That's what I told my dad.
After 3 years of college I got a job as an engineer designing calculators for Hewlett Packard. I lost my contact with computers, and didn't see the growth of microprocessors, from the first 4-bit one. But I kept busy with electronics projects of my own. I designed some of the first hotel movie systems, home pinball games, early VCR circuits, arcade games (including Breakout for Atari). One day I saw a friend using a teletype to access computers all over the country, using the forerunner of the internet, known as the ARPAnet. So I built a home terminal to use my TV, the only free output device I had. I had no spare money to speak of.
A friend came by and told me of a meeting for people that had terminals and things. I thought that it was a great chance to show off my clever terminal design. This meeting of the HomeBrew Computer Club, the first such club in the world, was actually to discuss microprocessors. There was a low-cost kit that you could buy called the Altair 8800. I was embarrassed because I knew nothing of this. But I took home a microprocessor data sheet and discovered that they were very similar to minicomputers. This was a world that I had been very good in, back in school days.
I couldn't afford an Intel microprocessor, but a company introduced one for $20. I bought it and built my first computer, using my own terminal for input and output. It was the first time anyone used a normal typewriter style keyboard instead of technical front panels full of switches and lights. But I saw that this was actually cheaper and used a ton fewer chips. The $60 keyboard was my most expensive purchase.
I started getting a following at the computer club, but I was too shy to talk. I would only show off things and answer questions. I passed out schematics and helped people build their own. Steve Jobs suggested making a PC board for $20 and selling it for $40 to help people overcome the time problem of constructing their own computers. I agreed, and we formed Apple.
I could tell that the BASIC language was the key to people getting use out of these new computers. I'd never programmed in BASIC, but I decided to write my own version of it. I'd never had courses in writing languages, but I'd thought a lot about it over the years. So I studied a BASIC manual and wrote my language. This took much more of my time that even designing the computer.
Right away I started trying to add color to this Apple I computer, based on ideas that had popped into my head while working at Atari late one night. I started condensing parts. I always looked for ways to use fewer chips. The Apple ][ turned out 10 times as good and half as many chips in the end. It was the first low cost computer ever to offer color, paddles, sound, BASIC in ROM (working when you turned it on), dynami RAMs (low cost), graphics, hi-res graphics, graphic commands in BASIC, and much more.
That product moved into first place. It was the first computer that you could use right out of the box, without constructing it or following complicated technical steps to do things. Soon thereafter Commodore and Radio Shack had computers for sale too. But the Apple ][ was hugely expandable and the others weren't. A year later the first spreadsheet program got written. It had to be done for the Apple ][ because only ours had enough RAM. We also developed the floppy disk (I did this one) and our competitors didn't have enough RAM for an OS, or slots to expand their computers in this way. So we took over the world and became very successful.



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