Apple I

I owe you my career in IT

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Comment from E-mail

I'm just writing you this little blurb to thank you for creating Apple by making the Apple I and II. I remember getting to the 2nd high school I had to go to because I risked dropping out of the first and seeing the Apple II for the first time. This was 1985. All the students were busy learning stuff and playing games, I immediately fell in love. With the Apple II but also with Apple and its products (and I'm sure part of this was your hand) had this touch of love put in them that put them apart from the rest. Anyway, to make a long story short, I owe you my career in IT and not dropping out of school. So you vision was (and still is) the best one of them all, empowering kids by creating good and simple yet sophisticated computers that will intrigue and stimulate them.

Woz

You couldn't have a better story. I especially like the, obviously true, reference to almost dropping out. Believe me, as a father of six bright kids, I've been too close to this one many times.

Blue Box

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Question from E-mail

How did you make the blue box? Do you still own one? Also.. Do you have the Apple I still or any screen shots of it and programs? If so send me some. Thanks, Andy age:12

Woz

I read an article in Esquire Magazine. It was about the October edition in 1971. The article was entitled "Secrets of the Blue Box--fiction" by Ron Rosenblum. Halfway through the article I had to call my best friend, Steve Jobs, and read parts of this long article to him. It was about secret engineers that had special equipment in vans that could tap into phone cables and redirect the phone networks of the world. The article had blind phone phreaks like Joe Engessia Jr. of Nashville, and the hero of them all, Captain Crunch. It was a science fiction world but was told in a very real way. Too real a way. I stopped and told Steve that it sounded real, not like fiction. They gave too many engineering details and talked on too real a way to have been made up. They even gave out some of the frequencies that the blue box used to take control of the international phone network.

 

The next day was Sunday. Steve and I drove to SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, the same place the Homebrew Computer Club would meet 4 years later) because they always left a door or two unlocked and nobody thought anything about a couple of strangers reading books and magazines in their technical library. Finally we found a book that had the exact same frequencies that had been mentioned in the Esquire article. Now we had the complete list. 

We went back to Steve's house and built two, somewhat unstable, multivabrator oscillators. We could see the instability on a frequency counter, but we were in a hurry. We would set one oscillator to 700 Hz and the other to 900 Hz (for a "1") and record it on a tape recorder. Then we'd adjust the oscillators and record the next digit, and so on. But it wasn't good enough to make a call as in the article. So we tried one oscillator at a time. It still wasn't good enough. I was off to Berkeley the next day so it would be some weeks before I designed a digital blue box that never missed a note. The key to debugging it was a guy in the dorm, Mike Joseph, that had perfect pitch. If it didn't work, he'd tell me what notes he heard. If one of them was a C-sharp and was supposed to be an A, I could look up the C-sharp frequency and find out where my frequency divider was off, and replace a diode that was bad. All my problems were diodes that I bought at Radio Shack in a bag where some might actually work. 

The key to the phone network then was a high E note, two octaves above the high E string on a guitar. It was 2600 Hz. The Captain Crunch cerial whistle could blow this note and seize a phone line. The blue box then took over with it's dual frequency combinations known as 'multfrequency' or MF, similar to touch tone frequencies but not the same. Some phone systems worked on SF, or Single Frequency. The 2600 Hz Captain Crunch whistle could make the entire call. One long whistle to seize the line, a short one for a "1", two short ones for a "2", etc. The blind phone phreak, Joe Engressia, could dial an entire call just by whistling it out of his own mouth! 

If you want to test this principal, play 2600 Hz into and long distance call and you'll be disconnected. We had fun doing that in the dorms. But don't be stupid and try to make a blue box today. It's much easier to make or program, but you're nearly guaranteed to get caught right away in most places. I experimented with it in 1972 but even then I paid for my own calls. I only used the blue box to see how many things I could do. 

I have Apple I's and original software and things but they're in storage and I don't have time to get them out and get them working right now.

 

 

I've been writing Woz-influenced code..

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Question from E-mail

Hi, Woz. My dad got me an Apple ][ back in 1979, and I found it so clean and crisp and cool that within days I did a CALL -151, and I've been writing Woz-influenced code ever since. Thanks for Wozifying the world!

Ok, I've just got to know. Which HP calc was it that most influenced the Apple 1 and ][, the HP 9830 (1972) or the HP 9825 (1976)? The Apple ][ looks a lot like the 9825, but given your tenure at HP, I'd have to guess it was the very cool 9830 with built-in BASIC that had the most influence on you.

Woz

I'm glad to find so many people that still remembering being inspired in the CALL -151 days!

All the small HP Calculators, the HP 35, 45, 55, 65, and 67 influenced the Apple II. They did it in the sense that each key had a worthwhile function meaningful to humans. Each key merely activated it's own program. A calculator was complete. It didn't need accessories and peripherals and programs just to have a keyboard you could use.

Important Product and the start of an industry being given away...

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Question from Colin T.

Hello, I'm Colin T. I have always been interested in Operating Systems, and like the Mac OS. However, I also like free stuff, mostly because the people who make it are considerate enough to realize that what they are giving is really nothing more than virtual words. Therefore, I absolutely love the Linux Operating System. Now, I have started my own, called FluxOS. It will be giving away freely and is going to be open source. I am writing it in Assembly for the MIPS class processor (a nice little RISC chip). But, since I have little experience in Operating System programming, I can't do much. I need to know how the Kernel works, and other such essential elements. Could you point me in the right direction or show me what could be done?

Woz

Nice note. I'm glad that you're into some good things and that you really want to be. I'm glad that you are starting, as I did, with the mentality of helping and giving. It wasn't shown, but I passed out schematics of what became the Apple I computer (after Steve Jobs saw $$$) freely at the HomeBrew Computer Club. Who ever heard of such an important product and the start of an industry being given away?

I can't help point you in the direction you want to go. You'll have to find that on your own. I can only do a certain number of things and I've had a family for the last 16 years.

Some thoughts about Steve Jobs

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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

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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.

40K for the Apple I

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Comment 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.