You could have started Apple. Clearly.

Comment from E-mail

Steve, Hey, I just found your web site! I have always wanted to be able to send a maser to you, but it took discovery of your site with its nice invitation to send letters to get me going.

I have been an Apple fan since in high school. Dad bought a very early apple II (before the plus) It was about serial number 3700. I got started in electronics tech school shortly afterward and the Apple was great for learning hardware/software development. Printers were very expensive back then, and as a near kid ended up getting a IBM Selectric IO terminal (upper case only) and designed, built and learned assembly from the built in monitor. Got it to print just fine!

I ended up with a genuine Apple I computer in college, and used it to learn more about digital h/w. Ended up banking some DRAM's piggyback, added a Write protect jumper for the back to keep my buggy as code from trashing everything. Added Parallel ports, timers, and a DAC to do that sinusoidal waveform synthesis stuff. I remember reading that there were folks making touch tones with DAC's...

Most of all I am to this day still telling folks how efficient Apple computer was at designing hardware. The Apple I was only the size of a terminal board, but was a full computer. The Apple II was miles better integrated than anything else, and even when IBM came out it was SO FULL OF CARDS to do the same work. The Mac was a again really excellent.

So I went from electronic tech, to engineer and was always thinking and talking apple - like the story of how you re-laid out the disk controller to get rid of a few feedthroughs. Everything was so good for the day - the Apple I disk controller, the II disk drive I/O card gee the little 256byte monitor for the Apple I was cool.

Steve - , and I really liked the back page Fine Home-building piece on the cave you built for your kids. That magazine went to work and we all sat around the lab talking about it.

P.S. I've got a basement of old stuff, the apple I, a few apple II's, a few IIe's a few IIc's, an Apple III, an IMSAI and an Altair. And a bunch of Mac's, Just can't bear to part with them. However due to space reasons, gone are the KIM-1, AIM-64 and a whole bunch of other computers. I'm glad I saved what I did, just thinking about the KIM and AIM has got me a bit wistful.

Someday I've got to take a photo of the Apple I. It looks so cobbled up, I feel bad about the cuts and jumpers on it now, but it sure helped a me learn about computers - and besides it looks like a hobbyist who really did use the thing.


Your story is one just like my own life, learning by seeing and modifying and having technical skills. With a couple of years difference you could have started Apple, clearly. You are so lucky to have the old equipment. I can hardly believe that you actually have an Apple I. I got rid of a lot of my old stuff because it was taking up 4 storage lockers, and I've regretted it ever since. I had about every Apple ][ program and peripheral ever up until some point.

The cave that I built didn't really work out. It wasn't attractive enough for kids to use as a hangout. But some secret spaces through the walls and in hidden attics with peep holes and more, things that had no practical reason in a home, turned out great for the kids.

It was 1975-1977..

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.


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.