Apple ][

Does Steve Jobs know how to code?

in
Question from E-mail

I'm a comp sci major (unfortunately not engineering) and a child development minor, so I am a really big fan of everything that you've been doing and am interested in doing similar things some day. I have a few questions that I would love to hear your responses to: - Does Steve Jobs know how to code? Is he an engineer (i.e. did he know what the heck you were doing when you were building the Apple?)

Woz

Steve didn't ever code. He wasn't an engineer and he didn't do any original design, but he was technical enough to alter and change and add to other designs. I did all of the Apple I and Apple ][ myself, including the feature choices. I did all of the BASIC myself (it's in handwriting as I couldn't afford an assembler). The only person who helped write some of the Apple ][ code was Allen Baum, who helped with the 'monitor' program.

It was 1975-1977..

in
Question from E-mail

Thanks for creating the Apple Computer. I spent most of the late 1970's waiting in line to use machines like the Wang 2200, IBM 5100, and Univac 90/60. The Apple ][ made a real difference -- the lines got shorter and the programs got better! Now I had time to kill, so I got a chance to really explore the hardware and software you designed. That Apple ][ was a neat machine with all kinds of "goodies" hidden inside. Students didn't get much documentation beyond a simple "How to..." and a guide to Integer BASIC. Finding your Monitor, Mini-Assembler, and "Sweet 16" hidden inside the ROM's was a real discovery -- More fun than "Adventure" or "Star Trek." Later on I realized that the REAL value of the Apple ][ was the potential for discovery within the machine itself. As I learned more about computer hardware and software, I started to understand some of the real "Hacks" inside that box: how to generate the video signal; how the video access refreshed the DRAMs; how the disk drives worked; even "mundane" parts like the power supply and peripheral slots revealed genious after careful study.

The Apple ][ was somewhere between a parable and a joke -- when you finally understood it, you smiled in the knowledge you knew something special. The Apple ][ was the only machine that made me smile.

Woz

I'm baffled by the amount of email saying the same things you say. Also, in my travels I continually run into individuals that learned so much about the guts of the hardware and software. I had learned about hardware and software very much the same way, finding manuals and schematics and listings for minicomputers and studying them and dissecting them and eventually looking for better ways. So I very much wanted the Apple ][ to include enough documentation for people to learn this way, as had I. It was very lucky that we were so small at first that we did this. It was an 'open' approach. Now, you could never imagine even Apple being this open about what's inside the box.

A lot of other things changed in this way too. When I developed the Apple computers, TV's came with schematics. Many radios did too. Now, everything is inside a chip. There was only a short period in history that such openness could have overlapped hugely successful computers, the same short window where only a few people could develop such products. It was 1975-1977. Then the window closed.

Bell & Howell and Mac ][

in
Question from E-mail

I have here in my office, running, the very Apple ][ mentioned above! It is rather unusual, and I've never seen another like it, or been able to find out more about it. It's all black, and the label reads, "Made exclusively for Bell & Howell by Apple Computer Inc." Tags on the back bear the following: Model No. A2S1016B Serial No. A2S3-005203 Apple Computer Inc., Cupertino, California It contains a memory expansion card, an async serial card, a Disk ][ Interface and a card bearing the Microsoft logo. I was wondering about the relationship between Bell & Howell and Apple. I've never seen any mention of it, and never seen another machine like this one. I thought Bell and Howell made that old 8mm movie projector my dad would never let us touch! :) What were they doing in the computer biz? If you are too busy to answer individual messages, then just let my thank-you stand. Your machine, your ideas, have touched the lives of more people than I believe it is impossible to imagine. That's just simply incredible.

Woz

In very early Apple ][ days, Bell & Howell saw it as a good supplement to their school product line that included projectors and such tools. As you say, theirs were made in a black case, but were otherwise identical to the other Apple ]['s. It was a pretty impressive machine. Many may never have seen one. But, Bell & Howell already had respect in the school sales arena. The had salespeople that would be trusted by buyers. So this product was easier for them to sell into many schools. They just had to size up the market and earn money for selling. Thank you, too.

Remember the ZX80

in
Comment from E-mail

I do have a question for you...Do you remember a Brit by the name of Sir Clive Sinclair. If so, what is your take on Sinclair computers. I always thought of "Uncle Clive" as a British version of you. Unfortunately, he didn't have a Steve Jobs to brilliantly market his products. (Just to spur memories, the ZX80 (a Z80A microprocessor-based, membrane-keyboard, 1K RAM computer, black, about 5" by 5" by 1") and the QL (released about 6 mos. after the Mac (had a Motorola 68008 processor, 128K RAM and to microcassette drives built in). As I remember it, it was the first computer to significantly improve upon your BASIC, only 10 years later...

Woz

Sinclaire kept coming out with very inexpensive, great, products. Many of them I bought. I think that he did have some marketing, if not the longest life products. I even bought a ZX80, and later the Timex version.

My own BASIC was the hardest task of developing the Apple I and ][ computers. I'd never studied compiler/interpreter writing and had only practiced my ideas on paper before. I'd read some good books on the subject. I'd never programmed in BASIC before the Apple I. I just sniffed the air and decided that the games that would drive personal computers were written in BASIC. I picked up a manual at Hewlett Packard and used their variant of BASIC as my model. Either they had good substring syntax or I evolved my own based on theirs, but I much preferred it to the DEC style that Microsoft went with, using LEFT$ and MID$ and RIGHT$ functions. I laid out my syntax charts and made a decision to take floating point out so that I could finish slightly sooner and have the first BASIC for the 6502 processor ever. I mainly wanted it to be able to play games. Then I knew it was good enough for whatever else. I also wanted to program solutions to my Hewlett Packard engineering problems. That's where I worked as an engineer designing calculators.

I could go on. The BASIC turned out extremely modular, so I could easily add something by adding some syntax descriptions in near-text form, and write routines for the new functions or ops that were needed. The language didn't have to be rewritten.

Some thoughts about Steve Jobs

in
Question from Mark B.

I was just browsing through your website and I just thought I'd offer my two cents and ask you a question regarding Pirates of Silicon Valley.

The main character in the movie seems to be Steve Jobs, described by the director in an interview as a complex Shakespearean character. While this maybe true, I found your character equally compelling, and ironically, an opposite in many respects to Steve Jobs in desires and ambitions. After reading your comments and seeing the movie, I came away with a greater sense of the history at Apple, and your your significant role, to create revolutionary rather than evolutionary products. It was interesting for me to see that, although computers can perform many of the same functions, Apple's early focus on creativity (both at Apple and in there users) remains as compelling today as it was back then. Kudos to you for defining the essence of Apple early on.

I guess, if I could ask one question: Why was Steve Jobs so cruel, especially with regards to his own child? The director eluded to his adoption and the search for his mother but no evidence for a link was ever given. Is this one of those things that only Steve Jobs knows the answer to? Did you ever get any insight to the source of this behavior? I have to believe this is beyond the simple desire to have people perform at 110% for 90 hrs/wk.

Thanks again for creating and defining a tool millions of people can use to learn, express, and communicate ideas.

Sincerely, Mark B.

Woz

First, you are accurately observant. I look back at the importance of making computers quite unlike any that had ever been done and can see how great that was. The Apple I was the first low cost computer to come with an alphanumeric keyboard standard. I just couldn't see the waste and effort to build some general techie product that needed a lot more junk to start typing. And until you type, nothing is worth much. I'd been through the other computer paradigm my whole life before. Also, our calculators at HP had meaningful (to humans) keyboards when turned on. I also made the Apple I display on the cheapest device possible, your own home TV. I also wrote the BASIC for it. I only left out floating point after thinking hard in order to have the first BASIC for a 6502 and maybe get a little fame in my club. The 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. It was the third ever to look like a typewriter (the Apple I was the first). I'm especially that I helped the concept of computers are for games develop so early.

Steve and I are very different. Mainly, I want to be an engineer and make neat things for my own fun, forever. I told Steve and Mike Markkula that I wouldn't expand Apple into a real company because I had to quit HP (I'd designed all the Apple stuff moonlighting for a year!). I loved HP. But I finally realized that I could do it and not have to run it. From the start, Steve wanted to run a company and learn the ways to. Otherwise, what was his contribution? He didn't design any of it.

Steve's management style has left a lot of bad impressions. I never saw it personally and it was different than I would have expected from knowing him. I don't think that he was ever cruel to his daughter, at least as far as the movie. He may have indirectly been cruel to the mother. Well, here's my take on that. All the people that lived in the Cupertino house with the two of them agreed that it was Steve's child for sure. I'm assuming he didn't like her idea to have the baby. But he wasn't in control. I think that's why he said "I don't know" about why he was being this way. He couldn't pinpoint the fact that he was being told by someone else what was going to happen. Does this make sense. It's my theory. Taking that into account, it's understandable. He had strong feelings to fight this baby thing and it came out the way it came out, maybe not exactly intentionally.

I don't get a lot of insight into Steve's behavior. A lot of it, or what infuences it, is more secret than in people like myself. But he always seems to be thinking well and just wanting to do things that make sense most of the time. Sometimes Steve doesn't listen fully but he tries to.

Apple I Clone

in
Comment from E-mail

Hi, I am 14 years old. My friend and I want to build an Apple 1 clone, for fun and to advance our skills. Any help that you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

Woz

Noble idea. They didn't show it but I gave out schematics to my Apple I at the Homebrew Computer Club before Steve Jobs suggested starting a company. I'd gladly approve you being able to make a cheap one, but don't know how it would be possible today. If it were possible, the Apple ][ is the way to go, I assure you.

Wouldn't you have made a great CEO?

in
Question 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.