Letters-General Questions Answered
something of an engineer myself, I really appreciate what you've done
technically (at Apple and elsewhere) but also how you are ethically. It's
absolutely great that you dedicate so much of your time to teaching kids
about computers! After looking around your website, I can see you also
appreciate the people who write you. Very, very cool. Perhaps one day
I might get to meet you, shake your hand, and buy you a beer out of appreciation,
but for now this little email will just have to do. Very sincerely, Jer
I chose to be very good. I never went to church but I was deeply affected by tales I heard, like of turning the other cheek. so I will be good to people that are even bad to me. I don't have to feel stress about their being bad, I just have to know that I'm good.
I was not a goodie two-shoe. I had great times in college hanging around real life. I don't think that children should be insulated from real life, even when it's bad. I found the keys to be around normal people but not have to do what they were doing. If I were to use a drug (I didn't) it should be for the right reasons, not just because others were doing it some night. So if I had, it would only at first have been alone, to know that it didn't come from social pressures.
I built and sold blue boxes. I considered what I did right. I had an inside deal that I wouldn't hide anything from my parents. This allowed me to only do things that I would tell them about, things that I considered right and good. I told them about my blue boxes. They could see the truth, that I was amazed by these devices that could make phone calls by putting tones on a telephone line, and could see that I was the 'ethical' hacker that didn't make my own calls this way. I paid for my own calls. But I got the fun of exploring what the blue box could do.
I'm lucky to have so many amazing stories in my life to tell someday, when I get to my book. You might guess that it will be very different than a computer businessman's book.
I'm often asked what my greatest achievement was. Besides having a child, I usually answer that it was in running the first Dial-a-Joke in the SF Bay Area. This was in 1972, before you could even buy an answering machine. You could only rent it from the phone company, before that monopoly was broken up. And you had no choice; you got an expensive answering machine designed for movie theaters. Laughter, even at ethnic jokes, is worth more in life than any other achievements. If two people are about to die, and one had tons of laughter in life while the other had tons of success, who do you think is more glad for the way they lived? Probably both of them, but I only see the laughter side as the winner.
It could be equally argued that our success, and our rise to the top in the earliest days, was due to the Apple ][ being expandable. The Commodore PET and Radio Shack TRS-80, which were the only other ready to go, consumer, computers, could not expand their RAM beyond the 4K or 8K that they came with. Nor did they have expansion slots capable of adding things like floppy drives. So when the world had a need for greater speed and floppy drives and operating systems and even the original spreadsheet, Visicalc, only the Apple ][ could be the platform. This put us on top at a key moment when tons of computers were starting to be sold, and we were alone with the product that small businessmen wanted.
I'd say also that having the right people and organization early on differentiated us from a lot of other small startups.
I'd say that our biggest factor for failure would have been focusing too much on outrageous profits for too long, and letting the market share slip to the early IBM clones in the early 80's. This failure hurt the world more than it hurt Apple. It's the sort of failure worth reflecting on, like reflecting on world problems in history classes to see what we might do better in the future.
a few execs wanted to prove their own brilliance in developing it. But
they even had engineering add chips to disable features. You really have
to ask yourself why things were so insane regarding this product, that
lost out early on when it was introduced with too many flaws to ever be
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