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Letters-General Questions Answered  

 


Comment from E-mail:
My friend and I collect and sell older macs (512k, AppleII, etc.) Anyway, I was just wondering what kind of computer you run on today and if you are a Mac fan, still? Another thing is, I'm doing a report on the fromation of the computer, I tend to put more effort on the Apple side. So, any "special" details that wouldn't be published that you can't give out would be more than helpful. And if you can't at least I can say that I e-mailed the man who started it all.

Woz:
I use a PowerBook G3 these days and am a very loyal Mac fan.

Every computer before the Apple I looked very commercial, like something that only a technician could touch. They had cost as much as a house and had tons of switches and lights on the front, which a technician could use to toggle data into memory and examine memory. You had to add expensive cards and even more expensive machinery like a teletype just to read programs in faster off of paper tape. The first dozen or so small, inexpensive microcomputers were introduced in 1975. They all had the same commercial look that the minicomputers had 5 years earlier. They all had tons of the same sorts of slots to add cards to do anything at all. I'd built such a computer, of my own design, 5 years before. Now I'd been influenced by products that normal people used, the scientific calculators from my Hewlett Packard division where I was an engineer. A calculator was a microprocessor but it just worked with normal keys that a human could understand. So I build a microcomputer out of the cheapest parts I could get and included a keyboard for human input, and TV signals for human output. This was even before TV sets had video in. The Apple I was the first low cost computer to come looking like a typewriter. There was a small bit of assembly required (attaching a keyboard and monitor) but it wasn't a complete kid like all the other 'hobby' computers.

The Apple ][ came out very soon thereafter. It had many major advances. There were half the chips but it was twice as powerful. It had many features that had not been dreamed of by anyone else for a low cost computer, like color, graphics, bit mapped hi-res graphics, sound, paddles, switch inputs, control outputs, plastic case, efficient switching power supply for low heat, etc. It also was the first computer to ever come with a higher level language, my own BASIC, in ROM. You could turn it on and start programming in BASIC right away. It was years ahead of most of the competition. By the way, I included commands in the BASIC to match the hardware features. You cold tell it to draw lines and shapes in color graphics. That was an advantage of my doing both the software and the hardware of the machine.

As the world turned from hobby computer kits to personal computers, we had competition only from Radio Shack and Commodore. Both of their computers were dogs by comparison. The Apple ][ cost less to build than theirs due to efficient design, but we sold it for more in order to build a good company. After about a year we added a floppy drive and a disk operating system. An OS took about 8 to 12 KBytes of RAM. The Apple ][ was easily expandable to 48 KBytes onboard and had slots to boot. The Radio Shack TRS-80 and Commodore PET were stuck at 8 KB max and could never hope to have an OS. Also, they had no way to add a floppy disk controller board. We had 8 slots for such things. I came up with an incredible 5 chip controller (8 by the time it shipped) that did more than prior such boards with 50 or so chips. I wrote the low level disk OS code to read and write this floppy and I even laid out the PC beard myself.

The first spreadsheet ever, Visicalc, came out. It needed so much RAM that it could only possibly run on an Apple ][, not a PET or TRS-80. This and the floppy disk gave us a year and a half lead over the competition. It might have been less, but they tried to make their limited machines do a bit of this.

Comment from E-mail:
I just wanted to point out that you still have the rainbow Apple logo ("made on a Mac") rotating on the bottom of your homepage. I think Apple has recently "updated" their corporate identity. The logo is now a slicker, 3D-esque, unicolor Apple logo. And the company name is now just "Apple" instead of "Apple Computer Inc."

Woz:
The Apple menu is still colored.

Comment from E-mail:
What do you think of this "new and improved" Apple?

Woz:
I like it a lot in every form.

Comment from E-mail:
What do you think of OS X and Apple's new internet stuff, based on what you've seen so far? I'd really like to see the Wintel world caught by surprise (already did) and give back a chunk of the market back to Apple. You think Apple can do this? Can they become even bigger?

Woz:
I like the fact that Apple's iDisk does more than other free disk space, as long as you have MacOS 9 to use it. It mounts as a standard Macintosh volume, which is very easy to use.

I have mixed feelings about OS X. It will be a vastly superior OS but I'm not sure if the look and feel will be as likable as the MacOS yet. I can see good points about it but I'd have to use it to see how it 'feels'.

Comment from E-mail:
What do you think of guys like Michael Dell, who don't create technology and are there like a parasite repackaging Microsoft's and Intel's products?

Woz:
Manufacturing and delivery are technologies, although not what you're thinking. Saving a step is always a technology, and is worth what it saves.

Comment from E-mail:
Would you fly with Steve Jobs on his new Gulfstream V if he invites you to join him? (I don't know if you fly anymore after you plane crash)

Woz:
Of course, but it's not a desire of mine to add even a single trip to my life.


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