Pong

About Atari

in
Comment from E-mail

I was just curious about what you did for Atari? I've heard that Steve Jobs had worked there and was using you for chip consolidation on the Breakout arcade game. I was curious if this is true and what all you did for Atari?

Woz

I did design Breakout for Atari, in very few chips. Steve got me to do it in 4 days which is unbelievable for hardware. We both stayed up all night for 4 nights in a row and barely finished it. While Steve wirewrapped my design and it's changes, I would go onto the factory floor and play all night, for free, the first driving arcade game, GRAN TRACK 10. I got so good that years later, when I'd moved to Scotts Valley, I found a pizza parlor with that game and a free pizza for a score over 36. I could easily do this and after two free pizzas they took the game out.

I worked at Hewlett Packard. I had designed my own version of Pong with very few chips and the Atari people saw it and offered me a job. But I loved HP too much.

5 Questions to Woz

in
Comment from E-mail

I have some questions for you. If you could answer them that would be great.

1. When you think about your time at Apple, what did you enjoy the best? What made you want to come to work each day?

2. What unique skills did the management team have that helped make Apple a success?

3. When you were a kid my age were there any classes or hobbies that you liked that let you know that you would be good in technology?

4. I understand you work with students. What skills, hobbies, or classes do you tell them to focus on, to prepare for the future?

5. Do you know any good technology camps for me?

Woz

1. I was motivated by several things. I was very independent. I could look at a problem and come up with my solution from any of a number of angles. I could work on a problem in the order and with the method that I chose. I was my own boss. I knew that what I did was good and that it impressed people. I had goals that guaranteed that I'd only do an A+ job that was better than anyone else would do. I got lots of praise for what I did. Also, I was free enough to include plenty of fun and humor and pranks in the worktime. For example, in writing Pong in BASIC, I put in a mode where the game would play itself, but jiggle the paddle enough that a player didn't know it. I actually got a friend to play, and win, an entire game and he thought that he did it himself.

2. We had a very unusual situation. Steve Jobs and myself had no such experience. I was very good at what I did and could take a project near to completion on my own because I was the designer, constructor, tester, coder, modifier, and more. Steve Jobs never let up in the pursuit for excellence, to have the best company ever. Mike Markkula had a lot of prior business success and he ran marketing in a professional way, while lots of other startups were very unprofessional. Mike Scott was our president. He could be rough when it came to getting the needed things done, like Steve Jobs is, but he could also joke a lot. I really liked Mike Scott a lot. Rod Holt was an older engineer with engineering management thinking and expertise outside of my fields. Without him we wouldn't have had many totally completed projects that a company could actually build.

3. By the time I was in 5th grade I was well on my way to an electronics future. I didn't know that electronics would lead to computers even. My 5th grade science fair project had 92 switches and lights to display the electron orbits for every atom. While this wasn't a computer, it did involve the sort of reasoning and complexity of computer logic. The electron orbits don't go in order. At some point, a switch has to swap one group for another. Some diode logic circuits were required. Also, in 5th grade I read a story where a ham radio operator was a hero and the book said that anyone of any age could get a ham radio license. This is different than driving licenses. I went to school that morning. On "Safety Patrol" (holding stop signs while students crossed the street) I told a friend that I was going to get my ham license and he surprised me by telling me of a class for such on my own block. I did get my license by 6th grade. It involved learning a lot of electronics and circuits and I even built my own transmitter and receiver.

I really advanced in computer logic circuits in 6th and 8th grades, and got the real concept of what a full computer was by 9th grade. We didn't have computers in our schools back in the 60's.

4. Teaching is getting harder and harder for me, with my tremendous email load. I prefer answering everyone individually (although one of my lists has hundreds of unanswered ones that came in after the "Pirates" movie) rather than have staff do it, or to publish it all. But I'm still human and can only do so much.

The primary focus of my classes for 5th through 8th graders is to show them ways to make their homework look exceptional, to impress teachers. The positive reactions of the teachers will lead to students thinking better of themselves and actually doing better work. At least that's the theory that I subscribe to. Also, just doing interesting, different, things helps motivate students and give them a good reason to spend more time on schoolwork than they might otherwise have spent.

I also focused on how networks work, including the types of data packets on the network and where they go and how they are handled. This helps the students debug network problems. This part of the class involves setting up servers with privileges as well as just accessing servers. It always included AOL accounts for my entire class, and I put heavy pressure on the parents to buy extra phone lines for the kids' computers. My real goal was to get the kids their own phones at an early age so that they could be independent but don't tell the parents I said that.

Nowdays, the online part of my class includes the internet.

The main time consuming part of my class was on how computers work, and on how to keep them maintained. I almost always had students take apart PowerBooks to exchange RAM and hard disks and modems. They had to have a good understanding of how the Operating System worked so that they could [sometimes] understand computer messages and take the right action. This part of the class is about having the skills to own and take care of your own computer.

My advanced students went into music recording, video editing, 3D graphics design and lots more..

5. Sorry, but I don't at this time. They change a bit, but I've seen or heard of them in recent times so you might do an internet search.