I am a huge Apple fan, favoring the old Apple //e. I'd really like
to own an Apple computer, but due to the cost, I can't. Why do Apple's
cost $3,400 or more, when I can pick up an IBM for around $400???
We just give you more for the buck than PC clones, that's all.
My name is Michael C. Barnes. I read the first Popular Electronics
Magazines about personal computers while I was in the Army. I never thought
that this would lead to a career. It just looked like something that would
be really cool. I used my GI Bill and signed up for a Digital Industrial
Electronics Course and a CREI Microprocessor Technology course. I was
consumed by my hobby.
I think that it was 1978 or so, I saw the Apple computer at the first
Computer show that I went to in Washington, D.C. Almost every booth had
an Apple or some CPM machine. At that time, I was astonished by the graphics.
I remember thinking that they looked like cartoons.
I was reading articles that had your name and Steve Job's name. I felt
that I was left behind. I even felt that I was an under achiever because
you guys were building an industry and I was simply serving my country.
When I got out of the Army, I went into Government but left because I
simply felt the call of computers.
I was out trying to find a way to make money in computers about 1980.
At that time, the only computers were Atari, Apple, and a bunch of CPM
machines. I worked in a store that sold audio, video and computers. At
this time, everyone in the industry was doing it as a hobby. I think everyone
was simply having fun.
I finally got into the industry professionally working for Burroughs.
The person that hired me now runs all of the Americas for Sun. He told
me that when he me me, he instantly realized that the indsustry was changing
and there was a new generation of computers emerging. He said he never
heard anyone talk about computers the way I did and hired me simply because
he felt that not hiring me would cause him to fall behind.
Four years later, I was at Sun Microsystems. All this time, I felt that
I was in the shadow of people like you. I never believed I could make
it rich or make a name for myself simply working for someone else.
Over the years, the industry has changed. By simply working for Sun and
buying their stock, I became a millionare. I wound up in Thailand. I started
my own company based on a loudspeaker design I came up with. I am now
creating amplifiers and audio equipment -- as a hobby. I get more recognition
for this than anything I have ever done.
At 46, I am finally at piece. I think that I did okay and that I don't
need to feel that I didn't meet my potential. My family is secure. I love
my work. I have invented something.
Thank you for setting the bar high. I believe that my modest success is
in due part to the early success that pioneers like you had. I think you
made it easy for late comers such as myself.
Your story probably means much more to many more people than my own. We,
and the way we started Apple, were the rare exception, and not what people
should be taught to expect. But your story is more real and an example
of just plain wanting to be in the industry and making sound decisions
that did well for you. The best thing is that you say you are at peace.
Not everyone could do what we did with Apple, but everyone should see
themselves capable of your sort of success.
for sharing this fine story with me.
Just saying thanks for the concerts that you held at Glen Helen Park
in Devore. Really were enjoyable. Wishing you al the best, Frank Guidi
I'm glad that almost as many people email me to say how they enjoyed the
US Festivals as email me with thanks for starting Apple.
I have emailed you before, and i got so excited that a major player
in the computer world awnsered me. So here goes my question. My friend
and I want to make our own computer soft ware, We bought an old computer
and scraped it, and made a new computer, but we want to make our own operarting
system, You said you made basic for the Apple 1 and II. What did you us
to make it? what type of soft ware, if any would we need to make it with,
and is there any hard ware we might need?
I don't know if these comments will apply, but here they are.
school I fell in love with minicomputers, which were basically small computers
equivalent to the microprocessors once they came out. Well, I could never
afford a minicomputer but I looked at the programming instructions for
machine language and tried to write my own short routines. In college
I started trying to figure out how compilers, like Fortran, were written.
I knew that the compiler program had to read a line at a time and figure
it out and convert it to code that the computer could run. So I started
writing a routine in assembly language (machine language) that would analyze
a line for correctness. But I never could afford a computer to try it
on, nor an assembler to type it into. It was just a personal program that
nobody else knew about.
After I'd designed a computer, before Apple was even conceived, I decided
to write a BASIC for real. I'd never studied how to do this, but I had
self trained myself a bit back in college as I described above. I'd never
used BASIC but I knew that this was the popular language for games and
that was too important to ignore. The first thing I did was get a BASIC
manual at Hewlett Packard, where I was working. I read it and made notes
and pretty much learned what commands it had. Of course this was Hewlett
Packard BASIC. It differed from the Digital Equipment BASIC, that Bill
Gates' first BASIC was based on, mostly in some string manipulation. This
later turned out to be the greatest difference between my BASIC and theirs.
I was tired of MID$, LEFT$, RIGHT$ type functions so I preferred the HP
BASIC better (A$(5,7) meant the 5th through 7th characters of A$).
I'd never formally educated myself in the area of compilers and interpreters
(compilers translate a program to machine code to run rapidly later, interpreters
scan the program and figure it out as it's being run, which results in
much slower execution--BASIC is an interpreted language). But I knew how
Syntax charts defined the structure and words of a programming language,
as you find these in programming manuals. I decided to write down a full
Syntax description of my BASIC to begin. I'd never done such a thing,
but it wasn't hard and was modeled after others that I could find.
I next decided that I'd actually put this syntax list into memory as part
of my BASIC interpreter. It was stored character by character. I figured
that I'd just scan the input line, after the user hit Return, character
by character, tracing a path through the syntax table and backing and
retrying things. If the line made it through the Syntax table then it
was good, otherwise it was in error.
The unexplainable part is how I came up with the way my BASIC would actually
do what it was supposed to. As BASIC elements were found in the Syntax
Table, I generated tokens (codes) for these elements. For example, a left
parenthesis might generate token #87. But in another usage, a left parenthesis
might generate token #115. It depended on where it was encountered in
my Syntax table in memory, the one I was traversing character by character
and matching the input line. In an inefficient effort to make my BASIC
very tiny and save every possible byte (even the minimal amount of memory
for a computer language was very expensive in 1975) I actually counted
how many BASIC symbols the 'matched' one was from the start of the syntax
table, and used that count as it's token value.
After this step, I generated a line that didn't have to go through the
Syntax evaluator again. The Syntax evaluator could be very tiny and run
slowly, as it only ran once per line, which took only a fraction of a
second for a typical line. When the program ran, it was already half in
shape for speed.
Now comes a less explainable part. I had read and heard some things about
compilers but I still don't know to this day if what I did was good or
bad. As a line executed in a running program, it consisted of numbers
(precompiled into constants I think) and variable names and grammar elements
like a plus sign token or a left parenthesis token. When, during execution,
the BASIC encountered a 'noun' (number or variable) it was pushed onto
a noun stack, ready for retrieval. This was like our HP calculators where
When the BASIC encountered a 'verb' (a token that called for an operation)
it would be evaluated in comparison to a verb stack. This was the way
of reading a human-written expression from left to right, but doing the
operations in a different order (2+3*4 does the multiplication first in
most computer languages, even though the plus sign appears first). For
each token I assigned 2 priorities. One was the priority to push preceding
tokens off the stack for execution. For example, 3 + 7 * 5 would push
3 on the noun stack, + on the verb stack, then 7 on the noun stack (where
it's ready to be the first element removed from this first-in last-out
stack). When the * is encountered, it had a higher execution priority
than + so it didn't pull the 7 and 3 off and add them yet. Instead it
pushed the * onto the verb stack and then the 5 onto the noun stack. The
end of line was a token with priority to push everything off.
So at this time the * is the 'topmost' token on the verb stack. It comes
off and runs a prewritten multiply routine that pulls two items off the
noun stack, adds them, and pushes the result back on that noun stack.
Any token that causes others to be executed immediately off the verb stack
would keep looking at token priorities until it's own priority was such
that it would merely be pushed onto the verb stack and await later execution.
Parentheses bring another factor into play. A left parenthesis is always
pushed onto the top of a verb stack, hiding the execution priority of
the preceding operator token until a right parenthesis, with extremely
high execution priority, causes all tokens to be executed until the left
parenthesis is encountered. At that time the right parenthesis has found
it's mate and stops forcing ops (tokens) to execute. This is a sort of
exception to the concept of a single priority. In addition, the left parenthesis
forces no ops off the verb stack, acting as though it has extremely high
priority. But no ops force it off, until the right parenthesis, as though
it had an extremely low execution priority. So I actually had two priorities
for each token, a 'push' tendency and a 'pull' tendency. A verb (token)
would only push other verbs off the verb stack and execute them if it's
push priority was greater than their pull priority.
I have no idea where these sorts of ideas came from. They just came to
me as I needed an elegant solution.
A table held bites with 2 one of zixteen priorities for each token that
might be in the interpreted BASIC program. Another table held an address
pointer for each token, that pointed to the routine to run when that token
was forced to execute. So for each of the dozens of tokens, I had to only
write a short routine. This kept the program less complicated and easier
to add new commands to.
I couldn't afford an assembler. I wrote the entire program on paper, assigning
memory addresses for each program instruction. When I shortened a routine,
it was too much trouble to re-write (by hand) a few K-Bytes of code just
to shrink the space. So there were many cases of short empty spaces in
my BASIC. When a routine needed to expand, I'd usually jump to a patch
area where it's latter part was. None of this would have happened if I
could have afforded an assembler, which would have packed things properly.