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Comment From e-mail: Dear Woz, I came upon your homepage accidentally through MacWeek's link to an exclusive interview of you by MacInstruct. I had forgotten how much the Apple ][e played a part in my growing up as a child.

But first I have a confession: my first computer, an Apple ][e was actually an illegal imitation which my father bought in Hong Kong between 1985 or 86. My family was living in Ghana, West Africa then (we immigrated to Canada in the early mid 1990s and my family has been in Ghana since the early 1970s). Growing up in West Africa, computers were much more and oddity than they are in the U.S. at that time. The computer my father bought was the third or fourth in the Chinese community in Ghana. My father thought that it was time that my sister and I got experience with a computer. But all we did with it was play games on it. And there was no way to buy more software for the Apple ][e when we were in Ghana since there were no computer stores. The only way we got to try out new software was by asking our relatives in Hong Kong to ship stuff over. But that didn't happen often because parcels often got stolen so we didn't try that route. I ended up learning to programme in Basic with the help of computer books which we also bought from Hong Kong.

Thinking back now, it was really amazing that I had a computer at all, considering the lack of advanced technology and support systems for computers in Ghana! And not to mention that electricity (and water) was not reliable throughout the 80s in Ghana. We often went for 3 days without electricity! The funny thing too is that we didn't have a television set until 1986 and it was after our first computer!

When my family immigrated to Canada in 1993, we donated our old illegally imitated Apple ][e to SOS Village of Ghana. I don't know how they're using the Apple ][e though. SOS, as you might know, is an Austrian organisation for orphaned children. They have SOS villages (as they are called) throughout the World, but I think more in other continents than in North America.

Well, as for me, I went to boarding high school in the U.S. in 1989 (at the tender age of 13) and that was when I first got a Macintosh SE/30, my second computer. I was so dumbstruck at the technology available in U.S. schools and in awe that my school had computers! After my SE/30 (and no, it wasn't an imitation one), I got a Centris650 in university. Later when I went to graduate school, I got a second-hand PowerBook 540c which I've now upgraded to a PowerBook G3/400mhz. Each time I upgraded, my parents get to use the computer I left behind. Now they're using the 540c for email :)

Hope you enjoyed this story.


Woz: I enjoyed your story very much. I got images of your transition between cultures with varying computer usage. Not many of us can say that we got a computer before a television. That deserves an award. I do hope that your experiences improved you as a person.

Comment From e-mail: Hello Steve Wozniak. It is a great pleasure to write to you since I am currently doing a research paper on you, for my computer class. Our topic is to write a biography on a person who has made an impact on technology and the information I have found on you has made me feel that I have made a wise choice. If you would kindly answer a question that I have for my paper I would greatly appreciate it. --What created your interest in technology? Is this the item you had in mind, or was it something different you were looking for? I hope to hear from you when you get the chance!! Ellie

Woz: Well, my father was an engineer and took me into his work when I was very young, perhaps 6. I saw parts and I saw him assemble things and I saw him use an oscilloscope and I thought that was good.

Around 7 my father got me a crystal radio kit and I built my first project.

Around 8 or 9 I got some electronics kits for Christmas and learned to wire switches and lights and buzzers and things together. Around this time I loved to read the Tom Swift Jr. book series that was sold in grocery stores alongside Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. Tom Swift was an engineer who could build solutions to problems and he owned his own company with his father.

My 3rd grade science fair project was a flashlight, wired out of a battery and a light. My 4th grade project was an electrolosis tester. You'd dip two electrodes in a liquid and a light would glow, a little or a lot. By 5th grade my father was teaching me about atoms and chemicals. I built a very large construction of an atom with painted shells and orbits for every possible electron (up to Uranium). There were 92 lights and 92 switches. Each switch corresponded to one element, and lit the appropriate lights. I believe that I learned about diodes for part of this--as you move up the atomic scale some electron shells turn off and others turn on so double pole-double throw switches alone weren't enough.

In 5th grade I read a book that said anyone could become a ham radio operator. I got the materials and joined a class and learned morse code and some theory and some rules and got my ham license in 6th grade. This year I learned a lot about transistors and diodes as logic devices. My father gave me some military articles that no student would ever find that described logic gates and the algebra involved with them. It became my life passion to be good at this. In 6th grade I built a tic-tac toe playing computer based on logic gates. It was a 3' x 4' piece of plywood with hundreds of nails pounded in. I'd solder the transistors, diodes and resistors to the nails. It was very impressive, but didn't quite get finished in time.

By 8th grade I built a binary adder/subtractor that won a special Air Force award for the best electronics project in the SF Bay Area Science Fair. I was only in 8th grade and up to 12th grade were competing for this award. That award won me my first airplane flight ever.

I think you can get an idea of how I started. My dad was most influential, but didn't push me toward electronics. The Tom Swift books were probably the next most important factor.

Comment From e-mail: It seems that you and Jobs were sort of a Lennon and McCartney...your styles are opposite, yet synergistic....callus drive and imagination (Jobs) and down to earth innovation and engineering (Woz)..(together quite a waltz was played out)..need I say more!... and might this be true from your perspective? Anyway...do you and Jobs ever see each other or talk on the phone? If so what do you talk about ??? .....do you understand how important your name in history will be.????.. or does it get lost in your everyday life????

Woz: I love that analogy and have heard it before. But to me the Beatles seemed much more important. I can't explain why. I definitely don't think that your personality comparison is accurate, we are not like Lennon and McCartney I don't think. We talk occasionally and have mutual respect. We talk about current Apple products and about the past, but only lightly. I have a natural shyness and don't want any acknowledgement. But another side of me hides nothing and is totally honest, and I won't deny direct questions. It is fair to see me as a one time great engineer and programmer.

Comment From e-mail (regarding above): Steve: thanks for the fast reply (I didn't expect any at all for that matter..I guess I don't know you very well ...eh?)...I was in college and grad school on and off at uc berkeley between 1975 and 1987...and man...your machines changed everything in my world....thanks....live long and prosper (excuse the treky talk). regards, paul c.


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