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Letters-General Questions Answered  

 

 

Q From e-mail: Why didn't you go back to Apple after they fired Steve Jobs? Shouldn't you have gotten most of the credit since you created most of the things? Wouldn't you have made a great CEO?

WOZ: I didn't totally quit. I always kept a small employment status at Apple. I should ALWAYS be a part of it. But I'm non-political and could not run a company or manage people well. Its not my thing.

Thanks for your confidence. I know that I'd have done things differently, but I wouldn't want to say that things would have turned out better. It's a hard question.

Many feel that I, the sole inventor and engineer of some incredible products and software and even our Apple ][ BASIC, that kicked this whole revolution off, deserves the most credit. Well, I'm happy that people and books generally accept me as a good engineer. I don't need the political credit. That seems to go with whoever is currently "in office" and that part is not for me.

Q From e-mail: I just saw "Pirates of Silicon Valley" on TNT. I have enjoyed using computers for several years, but I was unaware of all the things that took place between Micorsoft and Apple. I just wanted to tell you that if the movie was accurate, I admire you more than Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. You are incredibly talented and you kept everything in perspective. Keep up the good work.

WOZ: The personalities and incidents are accurate in the sense that they all occured but they are often with the wrong parties (Bill Fernandez, Apple employee #4, was with me and the computer that burned up in 1970) and at the wrong dates (when John Sculley joined, he had to redirect attention from the Apple III, not the Mac, to the Apple ][ ) and places (Homebrew Computer Club was at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center).

I did give a lot of stock to employees that were with us from the beginning, etc. I also designed 2 computers (the Apple I being the first typewriter model with a keyboard ever and the Apple II being too spectacular to detail :o) ), a mini OS, app software, my own BASIC, lots of interfaces (cassette, printer, serial, modem, floppy) and more. Heck, in the movie Ed Roberts had the Altair computer KIT and Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote the BASIC. That's the last real design any of the other principals did. The part about me being the only true engineer wasn't played out much.

Q From e-mail: I just saw where the first Apple I (they claim) is going on the auction block and is projected to demand in excess of $40K. Wow, pretty cool, huh? Your thoughts on that?

WOZ: I wanted to give the first Apple I, on a PC board, to Liza LO*OP of the LO*OP Center in Cotati, California. I took Steve [Jobs] up there and she showed us how she rolled a PDP-11 around to elementary schools and told the students how a computer was just a collection of programs written by people and didn't have a mind of it's own. 4th through 6th graders. I admired this and wanted to give her the first one. Jobs actually made me buy it, if you can believe that, for $300. I did and gave it to Liza. The one being advertised must be number 2.

Q From e-mail: I just had to laugh at the part in the movie where someone called Dial-A-Joke. I remember calling that number to hear the joke of the day. Was it really you who did this?

WOZ: Experimenting with blue boxes to make calls anywhere in the world while at Berkely in 1971-1972, I encountered a few Dial-a-Jokes in the world. I never used the blue box to save money on phone calls, I was an ethical hacker.

So while working as an engineer at Hewlett Packard, designing scientific calculators, I started the first Dial-a-Joke in the San Francisco Bay Area. This was before you could buy answering machines or even telephones. I had to rent a very expensive machine made for theaters, and eventually had to quit because I couldn't afford it. I got so many calls that I had to keep changing the number. Anyone with a similar number would get 100 calls a day. The best known numbers that I had were (408) 255-6666 and (408) 575-1625. I operated Dial-a-Joke out of my Cupertino apartment, where I did a lot of the Apple designing (I designed every bit and wrote all the code including BASIC myself). I used a thick Eastern accent, like Russian, and used the name Stanley Zebrezuskinitsky when I took live calls.

Q From e-mail: Hi Mr. Woz, I just wanted to say that I just saw Pirates of Silicon Valley and was amazed at what went on way back when. I commend you for remaining the same person you've always been rather than turning into a money hungry, stuck up person like so many others do. It's so interesting to me that you made the computer that made Apple even possible, but it was Steve Job's that seemed to take all the credit.

Was the scene with the man being interviewed really true? Did Steve Job's actually demean a potential employee?? I have to say, that they portrayed him as a real jerk who was very demeaning to his employees if they did not perform to his liking. And actually, Bill Gates was no better. They were and maybe still are hungry for the power. The other thing that I found interesting and didn't realize was that Microsoft now owns part of Apple. Steve Jobs is definitely a brilliant business man but after seeing what Bill Gates has done I'd have to say that he's even more savvy! Anyway, those were just a few thoughts I had. I was just really impressed with your character and how you've remained the same person that you were when you created that first computer. I hope you don't mind my two cents. : - )

WOZ: It's funny, but even with all the things that aren't said outright, a great number of people, like yourself, saw a lot of things in that movie that are totally true. The personalities were very accurately portrayed.

I designed the computers just to do it and show the world that it could be done and help them happen. Later Steve Jobs suggested starting a company to make money from it. I'd been giving out schematics for free at the Homebrew Computer Club. That's what I believed in. It was hard for me to even start the company when it looked like there might be real money in it.

I often wonder why I remained the person I always wanted to be, from late high school on. I wanted to be an engineer and then a 5th grade teacher and I wanted a computer someday and I wanted to be nice to people and I wanted to tell and make jokes and I wanted a family and home. It couldn't have come truer for me.


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