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Letters-General Questions Answered  

 

 


Q From e-mail:
Dear Mr. Wozniak,
I've been reading through your comments on the movie, and I find them very interesting. You seem to be very much like your character in the movie, and you seem like a truly generous and kind human being. But I get the impression in your comments that you don't appreciate the contribution of people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. It is true you designed some incredible stuff and are an engineering genuis. But I can't help thinking that your wonderful equipment would have never caught on outside of the Homebrew computer club if it hadn't been for the work of others. IBM and HP and Xerox were portrayed as idiots in the movie, because they couldn't see the value of your and other's work. But at the time, people thought of computers in very different ways than they do now. The value of what you were doing was not obvious to even the brightest business minds at the most successful computer companies.

Steve Jobs helped make people see the potential of the personal computer. Bill Gates did too, but he also helped people see the potential of the personal computer for making money. I'm know that a lot of bad has come of that, but a lot of brilliant, hard-working people have added their efforts to the industry becuase they could make money there, and I think that is a good thing most of the time.

I wish the movie would have showed the importance of Mr. Jobs and Mr. Gates contribution to the world of personal computing, rather than just playing up their volatile personalities. You work with school children teaching computers now, but don't you think that without men like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, computers would not be in schools? They would only be in research universities and big companies.

WOZ:
I don't mind Steve Jobs and Bill Gates getting all the credit for the computer revolution. I do deserve credit for being the inventor and engineer that launched Apple.

Why would the latter imply to you that I want credit for the revolution? Maybe you associate the two things the way many others do, despite your written denials. Maybe people just want an inventor to be the symbol. Maybe many see in the story that if I'd been a hard or scheming or narcistic sort of person, I'd be running these companies today. I'm just a past engineer who wants to be a normal person too.

Q From e-mail:
"Apple ][ was the first to have BASIC in ROM, the first to have DRAMs,expandable hugely on the motherboard, the first to have so few chips, the first to be completely built,the first with a plastic case, the first with color graphics, the first with hi-res, the first with sound, the first with paddles for games, the first to include built-in casette interface, the first to have color and game commands in the BASIC, etc"

I thought that the Processor Tech SOL had the first with a built in cassette (CUTS or CUTER) and was available completely built before the A/2.

WOZ:
By 'built-in' I meant on the motherboard. Still, I could be wrong on any individual points due to not remembering everything but there's no chance that nitpicking disrupts the steps that the Apple ][ took. For example, lots of companies had small microcomputers, some selling just a few. Individuals also had their own. In many cases the 'firsts' of the Apple ][ had been done, just not included with a complete computer or at a reasonable price. You could buy a color graphics 2-board add-on from Chromemco for your Altaire but it had more chips on it than the entire Apple ][. You could get a floppy disk controller add-on from North Star but Apple's appeared with 8 chips. You could find hi-res color graphics at universities and research sites, running on VAX's the size of mainframes, but such things weren't affordable. It's like the GUI at Xerox. Apple made it affordable in the Macintosh.

Even the Altair was sold in a completely built version, but it, and the SOL, were not primarily marketed this way. It was a more expensive option. The SOL didn't come close to the Apple ][ in the sense of completely built consumer products, only in the sense of a hobby product for technical folks. But it was the clear step in the right direction between the Apple I and the Apple ][. And the people behind it were seeing the Apple I (and it's schematics) and the Apple ][ week by week as they evolved, right at the Homebrew Computer Club. Clearly they were influenced in the right direction and I applaud them for catchin on earlier than most.

For those that don't know, the SOL computer, from Processor Technology Corporation in Berkely or some nearby city, was the hottest selling computer in this technical phase but was gone shortly after the Apple ][ appeared. They didn't design a more advanced computer to compete once computers shifted from hobby computers to personal computers.

Even Commodore came by our garage and saw the Apple ][ before they developed their cheap PET. Like the SOL, the PET wasn't good enough and overlooked or undershot the good features of the Apple ][.

Q From e-mail:
Anyway tell Woz that he's been one of the most unique legends in computer history, someone that never changed or was corrupted by fame and forture. It's too bad those that ran Apple did not have the same kind of character.

WOZ:
How many of us pledge not to change or be corrupted by fame and fortune when we are young and ideal. Which is better the young person, or the changed, older person? I had a strong commitment not to change and have been very successful at it. I'm glad that you can see that.

I can lose all my money or get no credit for inventing the personal computer that started things or many more things. But never should my ethics and moralities and principals challenged in a way to make it seem that I sold out or acted out of less honesty or just looked after my own interests or was selfish.

Everybody much choose for themselves. These qualities are right for me. But I don't ever talk or imply that they are the only proper qualities for others. We all have to decide. I'm just one example for this way.

Q From e-mail:
Mr. Wozniak I watched the movie last night and must say that it very much intrigued by how fast the computer explosion took off. I am curious about one thing though that has no reference to the movie. Being that you are one of the founding engineers of the up to date computers, what is your take on the Y2K issue and do you feel it has much bearing on the future? You do not have to post this if you do not wish and a personal reply would be fine. Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to answer this.

WOZ:
I don't much worry about the Y2K problem. There are a lot of things you can worry about and worrying doesn't bring about the peace of mind that not worrying does. We can count on any problems getting corrected. I think that it exists because it's more important to get a product to market than to take the time to think out every last detail.

The cases where odd things happen will be fodder for all worriers to justify their worrying even more. When others worry I'll just smile and remember the worst effects of the Y2K problem being in all the anxiety of such people. They aren't wrong for worrying. They're just not me.

Q From e-mail:
Do you still have any involvement with Jobs, Apple or any of the other people involved since the beginning? Do you feel strongly about the company's success?

WOZ:
I have minor involvement with Steve Jobs. I count him as a friend and he has always been very kind and patient with me, unlike things you might have heard about his dealings with others. I call or email him occasionally (I don't want to be a nuisance). I love and follow Apple but I'm not cut out for the business rat race. I can help by early testing of new products in the field, which I do unofficially. I feel great about Apple's recovery but it's still a rocky road. I can't tell if we have a lot of new customers or a lot of old customers. I don't think that the revenues have gone up significantly. I love the iMac. I love the fewer product choices. As long as Apple is strong it is in position to be the big winner when computing directions shift again.

Q From e-mail:
Hi Woz: Went through half of your comments about Pirates Movie. Still reading and am very happy at your responses. I had great admiration for Apple from reading about them. I grew up in India and we had very little access to Apple machines, and once I had written to CEO (Gil A) when he had requested opinions after becoming CEO to expand operations in India and make Apple popular in India where one fifth of world population lives! In spite of not playing around with Apple, I have great regard to you and have followed all articles on you in magazines.

One question to you: Do you think your genius is born or cultivated? And what is your advise to budding software/hardware geeks? And, I will be one of the first to buy your autobiography when it hits the stores. I saw a response where you told it will be in line with Feynman's essays. I had relished all Feynman's books.

WOZ:
Like Forrest Gump said, I think my (former?) genius is a little of both. My father was a very bright and respected engineer and I wanted to be one too. I was the best student at flash cards in 3rd grade. But, then again, I had practiced with my mom. I was thought of as a math and science genius by my 4th and 5th grade teacher. But my dad helped me with science fair projects and the like. If I'd watched TV a little more, maybe I wouldn't have developed in this way. I was tops in math and science in my schools and had many 800's on college entrance exams. But I was antisocial and didn't do social things with most of the 'normal' kids and therefore had more time to study and learn computers. I designed a lot of computers, but I didn't have a car in high school.

In psychology we studied extensive research into such a question and the answer there was strongly "both." Intellegence, as we measure it, is both hereditary and learned.

Q From e-mail:
I'm curious about a few things I hope you can answer I was wondering when "The History of Apple" directed by Tom Hanks for HBO is going to start filming if it hasn't already and if they are going to contact you for your input.

Also what games did you make for Atari that works with the 2600. One more thing, I think you should write a biography if you haven't already to set all this controversy strait, now would be a great time to do it and it would be a wonderful read seeing that you are such a kind and honest earthling. Thank you for co-creating my experience in this time of Now

WOZ:
I know nothing of the HBO program. I knew nothing of the "Pirates" program either, up until it was done. Neither contacted me. I didn't expect to have a major part in either.

If I don't get through my email I'll regret "Pirates." I've always made a point of being reachable, with listed phone numbers and the like, even long before the internet became common. I answer almost all my mail and I tell the truth and don't hold back or shade it much at all. This is truthfully one main reason that I avoid the press and questions. Every time I speak, there's a chance that I'll say something that I shouldn't, only because I speak the truth. I guess it's a personal flaw.

I made no 2600 games. I made a Pong game for myself that Atari liked and considered for the first home video game because it was done with so few chips. I also designed Breakout for Atari. Both of these were in the days of hardware games. I later wrote Breakout in BASIC for the Apple ][, adding commands to my BASIC to make this possible. I told Steve, almost shaking, that I'd come to discover that games were going to be forever changed now that they could be done in software. In 20 minutes I could go through as many variations in a game as would take a full time year in hardware. But this experience was long before the Atari 2600.

Thanks for the vote of confidence in my autobiography. I've had a contract for a couple of years but haven't found the time yet. It won't be what you'd expect, I can assure you.

 


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