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Letters-General Questions Answered  

 


Comment from E-mail:
I saw today that you were listed in the millennium top 100 in Silicon Valley Magazine, that's cool. In my 10th grade history class we watched a copy of the A&E top 100 people of the millennium, I saw many people on there who help revolutionize the world, but I noticed you were not on there. It made me think a little, why would the guy who invented the printing press be the number 1, most important person of the last millennium, but the guy who played a major, if not most important, role in the personal computer revaluation was not on at all. This got me a little mad because here they had Bill Gates on, a man who no doubt also played a role in the pc revolution, but really just bought his DOS os off of some guy, and basically just designed a programming language for a computer with a bunch of lights, and switches, which I find very uninteresting. Don't get me wrong I don't want to downplay his importance, but to have him on and not you, that seems to me a bit absurd. So when our teacher gave us the opportunity to do a report on who we thought to be the most important person was for this millennium, I did my report on you because I figured I find interest in computers more than anything else, and this would not be so if it were not for you.

Woz:
Your thinking is right on. Today computers are the BIG thing and the business is always front page news. So the current leaders of the companies are the focus of the media attention. They don't always remember to go back and see who did the programming and used the soldering iron and made it really possible in the early days. The businessmen are remembered more than the engineer. But one magazine had me, the engineer, in the most 25 important of all time.

FIve Question Interview from E-mail:
1) In the last five years the internet has changed drastically how things are done in the consumer, entertainment and communications markets. In your opinion, is internet more important as a consumer or social phenomenon?

Woz:
I'd lump other categories, including 'consumer' under 'social'. But you probably mean is it more important as a social meeting and interacting place or as a purchasing medium. That's like asking whether TV's are more important than cars. They are both very important and can't be compared as they are not either-or things. The internet is drastically changing the ways that we do things forever and I can't compare buying to interacting with people.

If in the future you have to 'pay' (different rates for different portals) in order to socialize then I might say that the social side is under the consumer.

Comment from E-mail:
2) Traditional communications media are slowly migrating and adapting to a new reality of digital content via internet and fast connections (broadband, MMDS, etc). How do you think this change will effectively happen? What role is your company playing, and how is it contributing to this change process?

Woz:
In the near term the broadband solutions (cable modems, DSL) won't reach everyone the way phone lines do. So the change will happen very rapidly, as we can already see, due to it costing little and achieving very high economic advantages. But that change will only reach a certain percentage of the homes. Cable companies and ADSL lines won't reach places that have far away homes, or tiny neighborhoods. I've had 4 homes and by chance alone none of them had cable, even if it was a requirement for the developer to run it. Also, none had a chance of ADSL due to distance from a central office.

Companies like Apple Computer are creating a better and better experience for those who have broadband internet access. Also they are putting more and more essential software and upgrades on the web. The more one uses the web, the greater the need for broadband.

Comment from E-mail:
3) As a rule, most people don't understand how profound will be the changes in their lives due to the digital world around them; from banking accounts to classrooms, through videogames and online shopping. What part of people's daily life do you think will undergo more changes in the next few years?

Woz:
There will be tradeoffs between how much of your own data (photos for example) that you keep locally and how much on unseen servers 'out there'. There will be tradeoffs between how much we want to do things the 'old fashioned' way, visiting malls for example, and how much the new way where we don't have to physically move much. It's hard to predict to what extent people will want to go to school versus learning at home. It's like guessing statistics of personalities and the like. This is much easier to do after the fact. The thing that is very obvious is that a lot of people will choose to live primarily on their computer terminal. They never had the option in the past.

To what extent will today's physical newspapers and magazines disappear. I think that they are doomed. You don't buy a newspaper, you buy the access to stories. Many people today can't see that youngsters adapt as well to the screen as to paper, and get the information just fine. The adults don't adapt well. We all grew up with paper. Books and libraries are still a big nut to crack. I hope that the day arrives when we can read all books online, for a price perhaps. Such changes are in some ways like movies. Theaters are alive and doing quite well despite the more convenient tapes and cable. They've held out a long time without offering us the chance to see top movies at home as soon as they are out. This results in no way to easily test whether theaters would largely disappear if not as unique.

Comment from E-mail:
4) Is there a project you're personally involved in right now that you'd like to highlight due to its innovation or importance for the next few years?

Woz:
No.

Comment from E-mail:
5) Due to technological changes, what's your vision or dream about the future of humankind, 50 years from now?

Woz:
I presume that they will still be as involved with rapid change as we are now. Even when computers stop expanding rapidly due to Moore's Law, bandwidth will still be growing wildly. I wonder what will happen if you can have entire movies on a postage stamp sized device. Will everyone have a CD with every movie ever made or some such thing? What will the media be like?

One thing that you can say is that there won't be many around that saw the 'before' only those seeing the 'during' of this greatest of all communications revolutions. Things that seem to strange to predict now will be very commonplace.

When I was active in Apple in it's starting days, I could generally predict the next year ahead, because we were working on it. But if I ever predicted 2 years out, I was very wrong. Unexpected advances or different approaches that could not have been predicted always came about. So I don't like predicting specific things about the future. Some generalizations don't even take much intelligence. When they come true, which is virtually guaranteed, the people who were first noted for saying them are seen as inhumanly bright with their foresight. But that's not exactly the right view.


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