Q From e-mail:
Do you write the html on your page by hand,(which I've done but don't
anymore) or do you use a program, or does someone else do you page for
you? another question what is your favorite joke/prank you've done on
First, an apology. I don't create these particular pages myself.
I'm not sitting back and hiring others to do technical things for me.
Only volunteers help with web pages, and nothing else is done by others
here. The web pages are just a low priority among the hundreds of things
I've got going on. I have multiple T1 lines to my ISP, going to different
sites and different portions. I program routers at these sites to divey
up my networks with the proper TCP/IP segments and to do other things.
I route IP zones to other routers that I provide, and originally programmed,
for freinds to have firewalls on their own servers. I let lots of friends
install servers. I also set up lots of virtual domains and their web and
ftp servers right on the same machine as woz.org. The machine in my office
is used this way too but one friend administers most of that one. I have
10BaseT switched hubs distributing a LAN throughout my 'office' home,
hubs which I set up for my SNMP admin programs to observe. I have special
hubs that allow for LocalTalk and for Apple's MacIP internet protocol.
I deal with the companies providing the equipment and T1 lines. I run
several radio links to schools and libraries at 4 Mb per second, faster
than T1. I provide them with internet service too. I set up many domains
like woz.org and deal with them. I set up all the DNS servers (except
that one, unuson.com, is handled by a friend) and email servers and web
servers and ftp servers. I have a couple dozen Macs that I take care of
and keep running at home (6 kids) and office. So you can see why my own
web page might get low priority. Especially when so many count on me for
the other things. I'm sure that I forgot a great many, too. Like my home
which has fiber and 10/100BaseT and LocalTalk and telephone lines and
TV antenna and DSS lines distributed to about 60 outlets each from the
I have taught web page development. I believed in using SimpleText in
the early days of HTML. I plan to teach it this way again. At least the
HTML should be written this way, in my opinion, for a while to understand
when it is good and when it is bad. Then it's OK to let a program assist
you, a program that you can judge yourself.
Al Luckow, does the woz.org pages at this time. He's as busy as I am this
week, creating pages for all my replies.
I'm too exhausted to get into pranks now.
If I ever don't have time to answer your email, at least I read it. I'm
totally swamped in it, especially now.
Q From e-mail:
Steve, I have followed the discussion of "Pirates" closely over the past
week, and noticed a part of Computer history being omitted. There is no
mention anywhere of the role played by Sam and Jack Tramiel while at Atari.
I have owned an Atari computer of one kind or another for over 15 years;
only within the past year did I break down and buy a Windows-based machine.
I recall some
pretty wild stories about the Tramiel brothers in the early 80's. Did
they really swap companies (trade Commodore for Atari)? Why did the Tramiel
Operating System for the Atari/ST look so much like the Mac OS? Since
you were there at that time, perhaps you could regale us with a few stories
I can't tell much about what you ask, but Jack Tramiel did turn down buying
the Apple ][ from us.
Q From e-mail:
Hi Woz, I had read all your comments that have posted on the web. And
also I have watched the movie. But one thing that is missing from the
movie is about how and when you get started with building such a great
invention called PC or more precisely Apple. I am very fond to find out
more about when and how did you get such a great idea of creating PC?
BTW, when did you get started to toy around with silicon chip? Thanks
for the great invention. It literally changes our lives! I am sure your
story will be told one day. Have you ever thinking about writing a biography
of your life? I think it's very important for the coming generation to
know more about you--the creator of Personal Computer for ease of use!
Thanks Woz! --Lai
In 2nd through 4th grade I got switch and light electronic kits. I also
excelled at math. I built electronic science fair projects. By 5th grade
my father started teaching me Ohms law and more about electronic calculations.
In 5th grade, my scienc fair project was still switches and lights but
it was big. The switches had an immense amount of logical thinking applied.
There was a switch for each of the 92 non-transuranic elements. Throw
the switch and lights in all the various shells and orbits would light
to show the electron levels for that element. The logic was in the fact
that as you moved upwards in the periodic table, sometimes orbits would
disappear from before, it wasn't an arithmetic sequence.
In 5th grade I read the book "SOS At Midnight" about young ham radio operators
and some kidnappers. I decided to get a ham radio license and I began
studying for it. I had to learn a bit of radio theory and recognize and
analyze some common tube based circuits. My father was an electrical engineer
and helped ma a lot here. I got my ham radio license in 6th grade.
My father worked at Lockheed on military projects that I never knew much
about. But he had one journal with some articles on the state of the art
of computers in the 50's. I got intrigued with articles on CRT tubes being
used as memories, and other such things. This was in the era of vacuum
One article was on logic and a thing called "Boolean Algebra." I found
this to be a very short and simple topic. I fell in love with the ability
to think in terms of gates and to draw them as such or write them as mathematical
formulas. I loved learning how to change AND gates into OR gates with
Tic-tac-toe can be played by pure logic. You can play every possible game
on paper. My dad and I did. You can then make up sets of rules for each
decision. For example, if square 1 is "X" AND square 2 is "O" and square
7 is "X", the right move for "O" might be square 4. It's logical. Well,
I wrote down hundreds of logic equations for every possible game. My dad
got hundreds of transistors from a local transistor company in the early
days of Silicon Valley, before it was even called that. I nailed tons
of nails into a 3' by 4' piece of plywood and soldered transistors, diodes,
and resistors to make my logic equations into circuits. My father taught
me how the components worked to make gates. This is where I learned about
transistors and diodes. I nearly got this machine finished but not quite.
By eighth grade, I was able to builde a neater and smaller logical device.
I learned how a set of logic gates, connected the right way, could make
a 1-bit adder. A bit is the smallest unit of counting. It can only be
zero or one. So a 1-bit adder can add 0 and 1 and come up with 1. Or it
can add 1 and 1 and come up with 0 and a carry (like adding 1 to 9 in
decimal arithmetic). I learned how several of these 1-bit adders could
be connected, one after another, to make a larger adder. Would you care
for 3 bits (numbers up to 7)? or 10 bits (numbers up to 1023)? Or would
you care for more?
I saw the logic diagrams for both a 1-bit adder and a 1-bit subtractor
in that old journal I described previously, the same one I'd seen around
5th or 6th grade. I noticed that they were similar. This is the difference
between someone who is 'destined' for logic and one who merely sees and
understands it. I not only saw that they were similar, but I was able
to use boolean algebra to add a couple of gates that would make the 1-bit
adder become a 1-bit subtractor if a switch were thrown. So now I'd created
my own 1-bit adder/subtractor!
The first one of these adder/subtracters that I built had a problem. My
transistor logic gates didn't always work right as a meter showed. I'd
used a basic component, a diode as my basic 'AND' gate but I'd used resistors
as my 'OR' gate because resistors were cheaper. Resistors mixed two voltages.
If they were both positive, the output was positive. If they were both
negative, the output was negative. But if only one was positive, the output
voltage was halfway, which my transistor considered positive. I finally
deduced that my problem had to do with this. I think it let the wrong
voltage leak back to my switches, or it might have been that the half-voltage
wouldn't work well when put into the next OR gate. So I corrected the
circuit by using diodes instead of resistors.
I constructed a science fair project with 10 of these 1-bit adder/subtractors.
It had 10 swiches for one addend, and 10 more for the other addend (or
minuend/subtrahend). It had one switch for add/subtract. And it had 10
lights for the result. This adder/subtractor won lots of prizes. In the
San Francisco Bay Area Science Fair, the Air Force awarded me their prize
for the top electronics project in the fair, even though I was only in
eighth grade and judged with up to 12th graders.
The next year I went to the Bay Area Science Fair just to look. I saw
a project and picked up a description. It would perform a logic calculation
or operation as directed by some switches, and then advance a stepping
motor to the next set of switches for the next operation, and so on. It
could also rotate the motor back to a prior set of switches. It finally
clicked to me as to what a program was, and how a computer worked, the
stage beyond an adder/subtractor. This was a big learning step for me.
You probably notice that my education was long and haphazard. I learned
it all on my own, mostly by accident.
In high school we didn't have a computer. Our high school had a fine electronics
course and teacher. That teacher saw that I was too advanced in electronics
and was playing too many pranks. He arranged for me to go to Sylvania
Corp. in Sunnyvale once a week to program a computer, whatever a computer
was. I got introduced to the IBM 1170 (I think) which was like a 16-bit
minicomputer executing instructions every millionth of a second or so.
I got a Fortran programming manual.
The next week I returned with my first program. It was the Knight's Tour
from chess, where a knight chesspiece has to jump around the board, in
legitimate knight's moves, and hit every square exactly once, no more
and no less. Well, my program just ran and ran and nothing happened. The
solution didn't print. I rewrote the program the next week so that I could
toggle a switch and print out what my program was doing. Using this version
I found that my program was doing exactly the right thing, trying all
possible combinations of knight's moves. But I was able to see that it
might take 10 to the 25th years to solve this problem.
Looking back, there are some problems that can't be solved by raw computer
speed, only by clever Algorithms, methods and approaches that programmers
use. Even with a modern computer doing 1 billion calculations per second,
1000 times faster than the one I used, it would take 10 to the 22nd years
to solve this problem. That's on the order of how long the universe has
While programming this IBM 1170, I encountered my first computer manual,
entitled "The Small Computer Handbook". It described the Digital Equipment
PDP-8 computer. It became my first 'bible'. I eventually started designing
logic circuits for all the things this computer was. I started designing
a real computer. I had logic gates in my past experience, and in catalogs
of chips that my father got for me. I now also had a complete computer
description. I only had to figure out how to make one out of the other.
I worked and made design after design of this and many other minicomputers
that I got manuals for. It became the passion of my life, to design these
things. I designed them over and over, looking for better chips and combinations,
always looking for a smaller, cleaner, simpler design. After all, I didn't
do this openly. I didn't do it with friends or my dad or teachers. Nobody
knew I did it. Nobody gave me recognition. I didn't get a grade or a salary
or a title or awards. I JUST did it, the way Forrest Gump JUST ran. The
only rewards were in my internal sense of accomplishment.
Since there was no grade for a certain quality of design, my only goal
was always to outdo my previous designs. This led to my learning many
many tricks and unusual designs to cut down the number of parts for my
'record'. I was doing this in high school but nobody knew it. Also, I
could never dream of being able to buy the parts to build any of my designs.
Around 1968 or 1969, Data General was formed and had the Nova minicomputer.
Their brochure, seeking financial credibility, even showed an unusual
computer instruction set, something you'd never see today. I saw that
it was very very different than that of other computers. One day I sat
down to design a trial Nova computer on paper. The architecture of this
computer led directly to chips in my chip catalog, without a lot of connecting
chips to get things right. My computer design took about half as many
chips as all the others. But it was just as good a computer.
This accidental encounter really shaped my thinking about design forever.
I saw now that the architecture of a design could be thought out, not
in a white room, but taking into account which types of chips existed
with which functions and connections, and result in as good a product
with half the chips. There are many options where either way will work
fine. So don't just pick one and take credit. Think about which one requires
fewer chips. This was a big learning step for me, since I already wanted
to minimize chips for my internal goal.
Soon thereafter, I visited a very acknowledged chip designer at Fairchild.
I forget his name but he was known for a set of synchronous chips like
the 74161 adder and 74166 shift register. I showed him that one of my
designs took fewer chips using Signetics chips instead of my design using
Fairchild chips. But he pointed out to me that the Fairchild chips were
smaller and that the total number of interconnections and connections
to make were much greater with the Signetics chips. I was totally convinced
that my low chip count goal was wrong, that I should think in terms of
the fewest chip pins or the smallest board space. I held true to this
goal up to and including my Apple designs, which were before everything
got put on a single chip where the user can't judge the quality of the
design within the chip.