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Letters-General Questions Answered  


Q From e-mail:
Just wondering, Woz... Did you actually play a 2600 in the hospital after the crash? If not, why do you think the writers placed on ein there? Also, I noticed that the game on the film was nothing like any 2600 game I've ever seen-- could that be due to any refusal by Atari/Hasbro to place a real 2600 game in there?

WOZ: I have no memories of my hospital stay, but I have seen pictures of myself playing games on my Apple ][. I've never played a game on a 2600. I think that I was playing the first ever "Choplifter" game around this time.

Friends tell me that I had them sneak in pizza and milkshakes to the hospital. I can't remember the hospital food, but I'm sure it was bad and I'm sure that this is a true story.

Q From e-mail:
This question regards your interest in flying.

I wonder if you gave up flying after your accident? What drew you to take up flying and what have you learned from your flying experiences. Also what was the technical cause for your accident. I vaguely recall, from the book 'The Woz' that it was a loss of power during climb out.

I kept flying after my accident. I had no memories of the accident or pain or hospitals or anything. A type of 'forward' amnesia kept me from forming memories during the next 5 weeks. So there was no anxiety when I got in a plane again. I was just going flying for another time, that's all. The best explanation for my crash is that I didn't have enough speed for a takeoff. I wanted so badly to find out what had happened that I even underwent hypnosis, to no avail.

Q From e-mail:
I am 16 years old and I am running a small web business out of my house .Do have any good advice on starting a business I heard many stories about you such as creating the first usable computer for home use? All I can say is that you and Steve Jobs have change the world and I thank you. My company is called http://www.angelfire.com/ny2/invid/Invid design its nothing much I am still not used to creating sites. Before my business I was doing webgrapghics which I am still offering to people.Well I hope you get a laugh out of my site it is still experimental. The graphics still have problems they may be unveiwable. Send a responce onwhat can do to make it better. Your friend Andrew P

More and more I encounter young computer users like yourself trying to start a company and put their talents to good use, most often in web site design and maintenance. For many close to me I've been able to provide facilities (my office) and internet access and servers and workstations. Even if I can't see the likelihood of success, the right ones don't need brick walls.

In the days of our first computer, the Apple I, Steve Jobs and I attended PC-76 in Atlantic City. We were so young that it was my first time out of California, except for a year of college in Colorado. We met many other young people like ourselves, all trying to make something out of computers, which were their interests. I remember talking with an older, white-haired, gentleman. He was helping out some kids that were trying to start something. He had helped them use some machine tools to make cases and had helped them get a business plan and had helped them with things like tax filings, as I recall. He was retired, he just did this to help out youngsters.

I thought that he was the most amazing person, to give to some young people for no obvious or visible reason.

Q From e-mail:
Woz, I was in contact with Captain Crunch a while ago, do you have a link to his homepage? ..He mentioned you in one of our conversations. Take it easy. --Neil

WOZ: I actually host his server, on an iMac, in my 'office' home. His domain is webcrunchers.com and his email is: John Draper crunch@webcrunchers.com

Q From e-mail:
I saw John [Draper] at a 2600 meeting a few months ago. He is doing good, he was off to India the day after. he is big into raves now and meditation. he was trying to get me to go to some meditation session with him. Hes a funny guy. Even though he is alot older than us (i'm 22), it's like hanging with one of the guys :) --ryan

Thank you, even though I happened to know this one. I have helped John a lot recently. I gave him a PowerBook to use and sent him a better one in India (had to pay 45% import duty). I host his web site on an iMac in my 'office' home. I hear from him all the time.

John Draper (Captain Crunch) always had amazing stories about flaws in Ma Bell and ways to take advantage of them. Once he showed me how to tap the FBI and I did it myself, from a normal phone. That's just one of many many things. John was a little to weird and dangerous to be a close friend but I always wanted to see him every few months to catch up on interesting hacker stories. Life wouldn't be as fun without this sort of thing, even though I didn't really do it myself. I originally believed that John was an ethical hacker, only using a blue box to find flaws in the system. So I was that way, in his stead. I learned how to do all sorts of stunts with the blue box but I paid for all my own long distance calls from the dorm. That's true. I was so careful only to do what I considered right that I told my parents everything that I did with the blue boxes and other boxes. That's true also. In later years, I found that very few phone phreaks were this 'ethical' type, even John. Check out his domain: www.webcrunchers.com

Q From e-mail:
Well i've been interested in computers since my dad first bought a 386 and at the time it was the most up to date thing available. I never knew much of the history of computers (well not the time of the movie was based). I mastered the BASIC language (seems like ages ago) and have moved on to much more advanced languages.I'm sorry i do tend to drag on.But i just want to say i don't like mac programing but i love the hardware and from what i understand your the man behind it and i just want to say that I can't express in words what i think you've done for the world and inderectly for me. So thank you for your genius.I just want to ask you if you've had an active part in the designing of the new macs. and if you ever had any idea that computers, software, and the internet would ever amount to what it is now.Thank you on behalf of me and everyone at www.archaic.net (still getting out the kinks) :)

I'm glad that you appreciate the Macintosh hardware, but you're wrong to credit me in any way for it. My hardware design talents were applied to the Apple I and Apple ][ computers and related peripherals. This occured long ago. It was the basis for Apple's start and fame. The Apple ][ kicked off the personal computer recognition, and legitimazed the market. Although I was the sole logic designer and programmer and 'inventor' in this sense, the contributions of others, primarily Steve Jobs, were critical to how this computer struck the world. Without a nicely packaged product in an attractive, acceptable plastic case that said "I'm OK in your home" this product would have died like the other hobby computers for Nerds. Apple was successful not just because of a great piece of hardware but because of the right communications and the complete product (including manuals and ads and our employees and priorities) the world got the message that it was time to change a lot of things in our lives. Steve Jobs truly deserves the visionary credit here. The Macintosh came about in later years and it was truly Steve's project. There were actual hardware and software engineers that did the equivalent of what I'd done on the Apple ][ but I was not among them. At that time I'd returned to college and sponsored some huge rock concerts. (Just to set the record straight for you)

Q From e-mail:
What would be a good source for a guy like me to learn from in order to write an electronics oriented visual hardware design program for linux? And where the heck are the specs on them hardware languages?

I'm thinking of some sort of open hardware project.

One of the itches I need to scratch is namely a two way radio (stereo system/LAN compatible) that evolves out of the restrictive linear addressing scheme used these days. The other itch is to get it secured under an open patent. (whatever that means)

It bothers me FM can only carry 100 regional stations because it's limited to 88 to 108 Mhz at 200khz boundaries.

I have a design (still a bit vaporware) that allows a user to create their own radio signature. Through two carrier waves and one "scaling" component, it creates a complex carrier pattern. It then shifts the pattern into the FM radio range. Finally you modulate your message onto the carrier. It also takes the 100 station limit and pumps it up to 10^6, as long as I can prove mathematically that the carrier patterns are unique. Funny thing is, I can only get uniqueness if I go for the million station design. However, it is vapor, but hopefully not for long.

I know we have the Internet. However it seems we're not going to get better bandwidth including a true peer to peer global system unless we have phone companies put us through their satellites as soon as they feel like it. They're already scaling back modem bandwidth since they're only required to provide voice service. Besides the words "Big Satellite in the Sky" are as comforting as ... "Echelon Satellite in the Sky".

By the way, have you noticed some schools have been favoring homework on computers but still place actual learning of computers (C, ASM, COBOL) at the college level. I get slightly miffed when people tell me they learned assembly in High School.

If I had time, I'd want to meet you. You are very bright and trying to do things beyond the limits. It's fascinating. I agree with you about computer technology as belonging in all school levels, and I speak out on this at many speeches to education groups every year. The biggest problems are in the politics and bureaucracies of schools, but the major problem is lack of funds to allow changes or get more done in the same time. For example, one teacher with a handful of students can cover material many times faster than with a class of 30, and every student in the tiny class gets enough attention to guarantee success. Public schools set the level of how much we spend per student. Public schools are funded through the government. Government moneys are parcelled out according to voting strengths. But maybe only a third or less of families have kids in schools. The kids are the ones that need the schools but they don't get to vote. A family of five should have five votes. Then all of this would change and education would get more respect and there would be time for computer science.

In the meantime, why teach cursive? Why upper case? How many times have you calculated where two canoos will meet? Someday we'll sacrifice something for the sake of teaching computer science. It's important and beneficial. So is driving and so is TV but cars and TV aren't the primary educational tool of the century (this statement has a Y2K problem). Best wishes, Steve


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