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Letters-General Questions Answered  

 

 

Comment from E-mail:
just wanted to drop you a line! I video taped the movie "Pirates of Silicon Valley" and I watch it all of the time. If this movie is historically correct, I thought that you were the best and smartest person in the computer industry. I have never owned an Apple I or an Apple II but I would like to own one and learn how to use one. I am a computer "guru", and I love old computers. If there is anything that the movie "pirates of silicons valley" left out that was important please tell me! I also was wondering if you were still friends with Steve Jobs? Thanks a lot, I really appreciate your time.

Woz:
I'm glad that you liked the movie. I'm also glad that people saw a good role for an engineer in a popular movie. There aren't many pure engineers that get recognized like businessmen do.

Comment from E-mail:
I read that Sculley was brought to Apple by Steve Jobs. He said Sculley was good, everything that was nice about him. Then in 1995 or 1996 they had a quarrel then they asked Apple employees whether they chose to stand by Jobs or Sculley. They chose Sculley. But why? Then after that, Jobs resigned and came back to be an interim CEO in 1998. Didn't Jobs feel angry that even his employees of a company he founded didn't want him to be their CEO...? And lastly, what happened to Sculley? Where's he now?

Woz:
John Sculley was brought to Apple by Steve Jobs. Steve was in power this way, as he was with John full time and mentoring him on the business and strategies to follow. But eventually John was eventually affected by other opinions within Apple and no longer always agreed with Steve. I don't know anything of their specific disputes, but it was a bit like Steve vs. the rest of the company as much as John. When John was treating Steve on ocassion as a secondary, as a somewhat negative factor within Apple, Steve was distraught. He tried to talk the board into ousting John for pursuing the wrong courses and not understanding the business, the market or the technology. John had to confront Steve on this and the executives backed him. Steve took this hard and left Apple to pursue his work. I felt that Steve could have worked on future things right inside of Apple, but I wasn't close enough to know all the facts here. I suspect that Steve would have had to swallow too much pride to stay on. And he probably felt so confident it himself that he started Next to make a revolutionary product and turn the tables on Apple.

Well, I do a lot of surmising here. Steve always made sense to me when he spoke. I wish that he'd included me in some of this stuff because the two of us might have added up to a more dramatic statement. Perhaps Steve felt or knew that I'd be far from on his side. I do have to admit to liking John Sculley, but I didn't hang around him. Steve's actions didn't make as much sense to me as his words though. We all have things that we do that may not have been so noble at one time that can still be judged in a positive way later.

Comment from E-mail:
How would you describe the future for the G4?

Woz:
Having great processing power is not that important. I'm glad that Apple keeps moving ahead in the processor technology that it uses. But even if you have a 50% speed advantage, that's only equivalent to a certain number of months according to Moore's Law. Or consider other techniques to make up 50% speed: caches, multiple processors, larger programs, etc. These boil down to a small cost equivalence that isn't enough to make someone choose one platform over another.

I'm so used to processor improvements every computer release that I wonder how long it will be until the G4 is replaced by the G5, etc.

Comment from E-mail:
I feel quite disapointed to see that Woz is not working for Apple. You watched the progress of the Mac all those years. You made the Mac! I m just asking if that was IT? I cant really believe that. You could offer so much to the Mac Concept (dont know of course if you already do). Or is it just that you dont feel like it?

Woz:
I didn't have any real participation in the Macintosh making, other than having started the company that made it. There were a number of people at Apple that saw this technology as the future and Steve Jobs was the main person that made it happen in Apple and happen well in the Macintosh. I did buy into the LISA/Macintosh dreams and they still drive my conscious thinking about what is good and bad in computers more than any other thing. I'm much more religious about this than the company seems to be.

Comment from E-mail:
Hi Woz, is me again when you said that you looked in books that almost nobody could have known about, what yo meant?. And you built the first universal remote control?!?! I didn't know that, whats your company's name?. Anyway the reason I asked for your electronics background is because I really like the diodes, resistors, and stuff but its difficult to find any good book here where I live (Asuncin, Paraguay), and if I get one is probably all in english and really hard to follow (like the "Hackers" book I bought from Amazon). And one last question, about the blue boxes did you get like a basic circuit or you also built it entirely?, at what age you made your first phreaking. Thanks. Really.

Woz:
Around 1960-1964 there were no computer books to speak of. There were no computer magazines. My father worked at Lockheed, a military contractor. He had some engineering journals with articles about computer projects that had been done for the military. Nobody but engineers could even have had such a journal.

My company was CL9 and we built the CORE universal remote control. This was before the simple idea of preprogramming all the codes used by the common companies was done. My device looked at the IR signal and analyzed it and recreated it. It also had to determine if certain codes needed to be emitted more than once to work. My device had 16 user buttons and a few more control buttons. They were all large and finger sized. You could put the CORE into one of 16 keyboards, so you really had 256 total keys to use. Any key could have a sequence of any of the other keys and any IR codes that you read in. So a single key could turn on the TV, then turn on the VCR, then select channel 4, etc. More than that, the 'sequence' attached to a key could access all the control buttons. The lessor used control buttons were covered by a slider to keep things looking simpler. This remote control kept it's own time and could emit IR signals at certain times. You could hit "AT-5-PM-6" (4 buttons total) to execute button 6 at 5 PM. Even the buttons that programmed the main user buttons could be included in a program. Thus button 1 could reprogram button 2, etc. This allowed a simple level of programming without normal program loops. You could program the remote control to skip daylight savings time with a sequence like "AT-2-AM-Set-Hour up" (5 buttons). I was able to create a program that would keep daylight savings time going up and down on the right days forever, including leap years, but it was quite an effort and required a lot of keys to hold current states.

Also, you could connect a terminal to the remote control, with a serial link that we made, and could bring up a lot of debugging aids similar to those on the Apple ][. The 8 bit microprocessor was like an advanced 6502. So you could enter programs in machine code and even operate the LCD display and keyboard. I'm sort of sorry that I didn't take this capable machine further.

It's now marketed by
Robert Retzlaff
Celadon
Work: 415-472-2393 Work Address 50 Mitchell Blvd. San Rafael, CA USA

As for the blue box, I knew the frequencies needed. I knew that some tone generators would tend to drift with temperature and voltage. So I built a crystal oscillator clock circuit using a 1 MHz crystal. I chose this crystal after printing all the multiples of the needed tone frequencies from a computer program that I ran at school (Berkeley). I then examined all the multiples and found that every tone had a multiple near enough to 1 MHz to use that frequency and divide it down. I created diode arrays so that the button you pressed applied the proper starting code to some counters. I'd then count these counters down at 1 MHz. When they reached 0, the end of the count down, they would trigger a counter reload and the sequence would repeat. I'd toggle the speaker signal at each repeat. Actually, I may have let them count down to all 1's in binary as the chips tended to have that output already decoded for me. As another advance, I had the current that flowed from the counter chips through the diodes and the activated switch, to a common switch node, applied to a darlington transistor amplifier (two NPN transistors, whose amplifications were multiplied, to generate the ground power to the chips of the blue box. This was quite tricky but it worked. Before the ground was applied, the chips only had +5 volts, and from that voltage could supply the current through the diodes and into the transistor pair. It was probably the best optimization of parts that I ever did in my life and was unusually clever as a design. it would consume virtually no power for months but turn on with any button depression. I used a small keyboard similar to a touch tone phone, which was available then. This was 1970.

I used the same chips and counter techniques for the horizontal and vertical video timing signal generation of the Apple I and Apple ][ computers, but without the diode and transistor power switch.


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