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Letters-General Questions Answered  

 

 

Q From e-mail:
Thanks for the web page. It's great to have this kind of access to one of the pioneers. Does Steve Jobs or Bill Gates do this ? What advances in technology do you think are needed to take computers to the next level ? What changes would you like to see ?

WOZ:
Hey, I just love computers as I have my whole life. So I kept getting into more and more things over the years. I wound up setting up LocalTalk networks and then ethernet networks in my homes long before most people. I got into the internet fairly early too, for just a personal computer user. I learned step by step, with a lot of mistakes that helped me learn better, what pieces of equipment you needed and what connections and what setups and what speeds and all that. So I administer my own network. I specify the equipment to get and I do almost all of the programming, of routers, hubs, servers, etc. I just stay almost totally Macintosh.

Over the years, I've set up internet domains for myself and friends. I host a lot of web sites and let others have servers at my locations. I even have the equipment of a small ISP, where 23 dial-ups reach me, for both digital and analog modems. I set up the DNS servers that any internet domain needs, and also the email servers, all running on Macs. I have the web servers on Macs too. I've used many types and numbers of Macs for this. It goes up and down. One year I had 10 powerful Macs working as one server to solve a game for people that's in a lot of newspapers, ScrabbleGram. I'd done all the web pages and cgi's (interactivity) and the game software (AppleScript plus C) myself for that one.

The woz.org site doesn't have a single webmaster. It's more like a conglomeration of people, so it's only occassionally worked on. I don't have time to do this myself, only to use a bit of it when I need to. I think that there are 4 different people that get email on it when you click various contact links. I just set up this link yesterday. One hour later I checked and the very first email was SPAM. Now I know one way to get on SPAM lists. Before I'd never had an email address with a link to it on my web page, so I'm pretty free from SPAM. But not now!

As I administered a network that spanned my homes and friends' homes and public ad private schools and libraries in my town, using T1's and RF links, I got bogged down. Frequently things would fail and, whether it was my equipment or the ISP above me, I was the middle man letting a lot of people down. I lost my life to this for a year and finally got staff hired to administer part of the WAN for the public schools. Finally, the problems became very rare. I'm in a city with very bad phone service and very bad T1 service too.

If my son wants to be a pimp when he grows up, that's fine with me. I hope he's a good one and enjoys it and doesn't get caught. I'll support him in this. But if he wants to be a network administrator, he's out of the house and not part of my family. I tell this joke a lot. Once, a teacher told me that she tells the same one but for a 'teacher'.

Q From e-mail:
If you knew then what you know now, what would you have changed? I know the typical answer is either "nothing, I have no regrets" or "no use trying to figure out what I would change since its impossible".. But it has to be something - like "I wish i wore clean underwear in my plane crash" (Speaking of which - the movie doesnt go far into it - what happened? the movie made it seem like there were quite a few people in the plane with you, but nothing was mentioned other than your memory problems)

WOZ:
First, the easy stuff.

My fiance, Candice Carson Clark, was in the plane with me. We were flying to San Diego to have a ring designed by a relative of hers. Also in the plane were her brother and his girlfriend.

Candi later became my wife and we had three wonderful children that I'm very thankful for. We are not currently married but share the children 50/50.

My answer about what I would have changed has always been "nothing." Perhaps someday I'll change and be a different person, but I've remained pretty much the same person my whole life. I knew and had reasons for all the things I did at each step, and my reasoning was sound on the days I made decisions, in life or in designs. If I were thinking soundly on any other day, even today, and the environment was the same as it was then, then I believe enough in myself and my approaches to things that I'd make the same decisions now. Sorry.

Frequently people ask "wouldn't you have made the Apple video memory sequential instead of mixed up" and my answer is always that I did the right best thing. It's not the fact that it saved two chips that I support such things, but rather the fact that when I simplified the circuitry it led to simplified programs that had to do the same calculation. it's easier for a human to multiply by 40 than to perform some odd logic, but it's easier and faster for the program to perform the logic in this case.

If I still always convince myself if this one, I can't imagine any design flaws or decisions that I'd go back on. Of course I wish I hadn't made a few errors (bugs) but what human doesn't, and how can you say you wouldn't make them again? It's not deliberate.

Q From e-mail:
I was aware of most of the conflicts between Microsoft & APPLE, but the little details really interested me although because it was a movie they probably were tainted. Just wondering r u still in close contact with Steve Jobs and what is/was he really like. I wonder how different everything would be if he wouldn't have trusted Bill, maybe it wouldn't have stopped him but it might have slowed him down. The movie really changed my thoughts, for a long time windows and IBM were tops w/ me. Now I'm switching over to apple computers. I just recently purchased a Macintosh Classic. For hacin' parts (Macs r great to hac with sssshhhhh) Man did I miss my calling, maybe if I was born in your era I would have been a big contender. Now all the glory is gone everyone has a computer which is a triumph for u I guess. I'm nothing but a hacker a pain in the neck I bet u don't like hackers. Don't worry nothing bad just annoyances. I saw PICS of a G3 in an apple II case once in someone's files crazy uh. Man what a load sorry for the long e-mail. If u could respond to this e-mail it would really be nice, but who am I kidding you're very busy I'm sure.

WOZ:
You are correct, I'm very busy. I'd be so even if I didn't have 16 hours a day of email to answer.

As for your point about Steve Jobs showing and giving Bill Gates the early Macintosh, consider this. A computer isn't worth a lot to most people until they have software that does something for them. Microsoft had the resources to create application software. That was their business. At this time, that software was worth a lot less than computers at the bank. So we needed some apps to be written by Microsoft. They had to be shown and given the Macintosh to do this.

We did all realize by this time that the difference in computers, the thing that made some more special, was the software. Macintoshes and PC's had similarly capable hardware. But the Macintosh had the special OS and apps that worked that way. That was the reason why people bought Macintoshes. But, even though we openly said this, we ran Apple as a hardware company, because that's where the big revenues were. We were a software company pretending we were a hardware company.

We built factories and ordered parts and hired sales teams and set up distribution and sold our products. We had to handle surplusses that weren't sellable as well. We put out a huge investment. Let's say that the annual profits were $1B. Pretend that we spent $4B and brought in $5B. Not bad for a computer company. But you can look back and see that these profits were all due to people wanting the Mac OS. The way that screen looked and worked, with you instead of against you. You could just look and see how to do things, rather than remember it all (this was back a ways in time!). The only way people could buy this OS was to buy our hardware. So it was easy on paper to tell a convincing story that we were a great hardware company. And our $5B revenues put us well up on the Fortune 500 list of companies. It guaranteed Apple very high respect in big business circles.

But what if we'd just sold the OS to anybody who wanted to make hardware to run it. What if we'd even given up our hardware business. Let's say we licensed our OS. Assume that we'd have brought in the $1B it was worth (you could argue less but you could also argue more) every year. We'd only be a $1B company instead of a $5B company. Not as worthy, right? I'd like to suggest that this would have been better for our shareholders. The company wouldn't have had to take the huge investment risk, wouldn't have to set up factories that might be disposed of when things turned on us, wouldn't have had to melt down tons of unsellable hardware, wouldn't have been caught with lots of unused parts, wouldn't have had to hire and manage so many employees. We just could have sat back with a good programming team and collected on the Macintosh OS. We'd have been more like Microsoft. But this wouldn't have made us as big a company as selling hardware.

It seems that if we'd looked ahead at the importance of software, we'd have seen the mistake in this.

 


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