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Letters-General Questions Answered  


Comment From e-mail: A bunch of my friends are now Macintosh fans. Do you use a Mac? What kind? Do you like it? Why do you use Outlook Express??? Have you met Bill Gates? I hear he isn't the nicest of people is there any truth to that? Do you read the magazine Mac Addict? Do you know anything internet based that I can do to earn a little cash? Do you like RPG games like Dungeons and Dragons Visit the best web sites in the world?

Woz: I use Macintosh computers exclusively. I mainly use a PowerBook (G3/400) but also have a G4 minitower. My family uses lots of other models, including iMacs and iBooks and even the incredible 20th anniversary Macintosh.

I do use Outlook Express. It doesn't have a lot of things that I want (like dragging email addresses into the address book) but it's clean for what it does have.

I've never met Bill Gates.

I occasionally read MacAddict. I have so little free time, that's my problem.

Sorry, I don't have any specific internet based ideas for you.

I don't have time for RPG games (beyond a bare minimum) but my boys and their friends have always gone for RPG games in particular. That's the sort of game I would get into if I had the time and was younger.

Comment From e-mail: Dear Woz:
Thank you so much for your contributions to the computer revolution which ultimately led to the G4 sitting on my desk! My first computer was an Apple IIGS and my second my G4 which I got in September. I took Video Arts for two years in high school and was amazed at how well the Power Macs at our school could edit video in a better way than our linear editors. However computers today are not as reliable as they were in the Apple II and 680x0 era - my G4 has crashed more times today than my Apple IIGS ever did (maybe Mac OS X will solve most of this) - does this bother you? Also what are your feelings about a computer made by the company you founded rivaling the performance of a Cray and do you ever think the expansion will ever slow down enough that we can finally buy a computer without a new one coming out 3 months later that's 10 times better?

Woz: The slowdown hasn't happened in 50 years. Perhaps when Moore's Law hits some roadblocks, and parallelism reaches it's limits too...

Comment From e-mail: Like you I am one to be a aim player rather than the risk taker...maybe chats why I was an Intel Officer in the Navy and now a product author and senior research scientist for Computer Security software at PentaSafe, Inc.

Woz: I, and my associates and family, consider me to be a total risk taker. I'm never afraid of doing things differently than before or even facing strong opposition. I'm a very low stress person, at least now, and I am very patient with others.

Comment From e-mail: I noticed that you have worked with the school system for quite a while. Have you heard about ResNet...Rural Education System Network...I heard they were a nonprofit operation putting T-1 service to school in out lying rural areas that could not afford it. I guess it is a good thing...the schools are then faced with paying the underpaid teachers a better salary to keep them or fund a computer lab. Do you know of any people of organizations that provide new computer equipment (favoring Apple myself) for these kind of schools?

Woz: I'm not too knowledgeable in this area, sorry.

Comment From e-mail: Regarding Apple history...I remember a friend having a Apple ][ and the two of us using peek and poke to program graphics |-]

Woz: Those are very touching things to remember! I managed to include lo-res commands in my BASIC, but not hi-res ones. Still, PEEK and POKE allowed BASIC to switch screen modes and the like.

Comment From e-mail: I remember how excited we were when his family could afford to by a second floppy drive!

Woz: Ha ha. Those were the days...

Comment From e-mail: At the current age of 41, I remember that the first language I learned was FORTRAN via a paper tape teletype at my high school connected to a time share system...I later learned BASIC on the Apple as I recall...

I learned FORTRAN even though our HS had no computer. I just learned it on paper and then my electronics teacher arranged for me to go to Sylvania once a week to program an IBM 1370. My first program was the Knight's Tour of a chessboard. Nothing came out so I assumed that I had an infinite loop. The next week I determined that my program was fine. Then I calculated that I'd find a result, by standard backtracking, in about ten to the 25th years! A good algorithm is worth more than a machine that can do a million things a second.

Woz: I'd never programmed BASIC in my life when I developed the Apple I. But I could tell that BASIC was the way to go if you wanted to be able to buy books of computer games. Plus, the Altair, with Bill Gates' BASIC, had shown that this was the popular language among the crowd interested in hobby computers. I used a manual for HP Basic (that's where I worked) to learn it and develop my interpreter architecture and syntax diagrams. The major differences between HP BASIC (that mine was modeled on) and DEC BASIC (that Microsoft's is modeled on) is in the string functions and strings. HP's strings had to have a size dimensioned whereas DEC's could grow to whatever size if I remember correctly. But the LEFT$, MID$, and RIGHT$ functions of DEC BASIC were much nicer in HP's. You could specify STRING (5,8) for characters 5 through 8 of the string, for example.

Comment From e-mail: The first Apple I had wasn't until 1989...shortly before the birth of my son Evan. The machine was a Mac SE/30 with a super large 20 MB hard drive and gobs of RAM (2 MB)...Evan was 2-3 when he started using the mouse and SuperPaint to doodle. To this day (he is now 10) he asks why Windows isn't as easy to learn as the Apple |-]

Woz: A lot of people that are used to PC's and try Macs find this out.

Comment From e-mail: How does your son use the computer?

That son is now a senior in HS and is incredibly bright (I hope that he gets into MIT but he doesn't have straight A's). He has used the computer all these years in school. Most importantly he has used 3D drawing and video editing since elementary school, and such projects always come out very impressive. 3D is the best trick for impressing friends and teachers that a kid can ever learn. Some projects and animations take 20 minutes to a few hours to create but are so astounding that people assume they took weeks.

Comment From e-mail: I was wondering are you still friends with Steve Jobs? I was also wondering... How does it feel to be famous for practically inventing the first personal computer?

Woz: I never sought any fame and I never do anything to get press attention. In fact, I hide out from the press. But I'm extremely honest and open and answer questions and speak freely and frequently so sometimes I'm in the press.

I am still friends with Steve Jobs. We're different and not that close but we both respect each other highly.

Comment From e-mail: I was just curious about what you did for Atari? I've heard that Steve Jobs had worked there and was using you for chip consolidation on the Breakout arcade game. I was curious if this is true and what all you did for Atari?

Woz: I did design Breakout for Atari, in very few chips. Steve got me to do it in 4 days which is unbelievable for hardware. We both stayed up all night for 4 nights in a row and barely finished it. While Steve wirewrapped my design and it's changes, I would go onto the factory floor and play all night, for free, the first driving arcade game, GRAN TRACK 10. I got so good that years later, when I'd moved to Scotts Valley, I found a pizza parlor with that game and a free pizza for a score over 36. I could easily do this and after two free pizzas they took the game out.

I worked at Hewlett Packard. I had designed my own version of Pong with very few chips and the Atari people saw it and offered me a job. But I loved HP too much.

Comment From e-mail: There's a rumor that Steve Jobs hosed you out of the money for the Breakout arcade game work.

Woz: I've spoken about that but it's ancient and is personal.

Comment From e-mail: Hello, I am Harish Tella. Man I'm so curious about the history of Apple and Microsoft. I saw the movie pirates of silicon valley. I know you already answered a ton of question on this but please. I beg of you. It is so interesting. I am 13 now. I am so interested in computers. I wanted to learn more about this history stuff. When I found your page and saw that you took time to answer many letters I was so happy. I could get a response from the "Woz". My role model, my idol. I have a few quick questions for you. Do steve jobs and bill gates hate each other. What about paul allen. Whats he up to these days. How did steve jobs get back to apple in 1997. Is steve really a bad person as he was portrayed as in the movie. Are there any books or web sites with more info on the history about this stuff that you can recommend. Thanks for your time. Oh yeah and remember my name because one day I hope to reach your greatness.

Woz: I don't really know what Gates' and Jobs' feelings are about each other. I think that Steve is probably a little jealous that Bill wasn't smarter but wound up with the mass market and $. Things in the movie that you might call 'bad', Steve might call 'good'.

Comment From e-mail: This year will mark the end of my sophomore year at Hume-Fogg Academic High School in Nashville, TN (www.humefogg.org--the web page is a disaster right now, that's on my agenda as well). You know, I almost wonder what it would cost to get you to do our commencement in a few years...last year's keynote was such a bore. And when I graduate in 2002, I want someone cool to be my graduation keynote. :)

Anyway, it's really cool to see our up to all kinds of good...I'd love to hear from you :) Maybe you can IM me sometime if you're ever in the mood...I'm on AOL's little IM'er and ICQ.

Woz: I'm so busy with email and personal requests and company pitches and investment pitches and idea pitches and computer updates and computer repairs and network administration and teaching that I get very little time for speeches. I give a lot but only about one for every 10 or 20 requests. I would consider a high school graduation appearance, but it would have to hit me on just the right day to accept. I never charge for such things, just air travel. But I don't really have any TN connection at all.

Comment From e-mail: I'm a student at the University of Pittsburgh, studying electrical engineering. My first semester was terrible and well I don't think I'll make it through. Tell me what I need to do to make it as an engineer. Steve in my opinion you are one of the most influential people of this millenium. You've inspired me to start a revolution of my own. Of course as of now I'm still trying to develop an idea, but someday hopefully I will leave my mark on society like you did. Thanks for the inspiration.

Woz: Engineering is not an easy major. You have to work very hard, especially at the start. Don't you have general classes the first couple of years for the most part? Do well at general subjects and get a head start on studying electronics (if that's your engineering branch) on your own to get ahead. Buy a book or two from classes that you may not be in until a junior. That only implies more work. But you are young and can do it now. Be successful while you have the energy and you won't have to worry when you're older and can't work as hard. Partying and socializing should be minimized if you want to be successful in engineering.
I can't possibly advise you on education as well as your own councilor can.


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