Question from E-mail

Is is true that you were a big fan of the Newton eMate?

What's your opinion regarding the discontinuation of the Newton platform?

Woz

The eMate solved a lot of problems that I had for years teaching 5th graders with PowerBooks. It survived rough treatment and drops, the way a laptop shoud. It didn't have constant hardware and sofware failures. It was easy to do many of the things students have to do in class. It was even easier than any computer to transfer files between students and teachers, with "Send" and "Receive" buttons that worked. Sort of like the simple syncronization of the Palm Pilot that made it so accepted.

Thinking about the prior customers as part of our loyal family, we should have been more loyal to them. Apple should not have discontinued the slightly profitable line until someone was found to license the technology to, even if for free. That way, some other company or companies could support it and provide replacements for the future, even if the Newton and it's great technologies weren't right for Apple to continue with.

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.

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.

All terms: 8mm, Apple ][, Bell & Howell
Question from E-mail

First I want to say thank you, not just for your contributions as an engineer but for serving as a valuable role model as well. My personal experiences with computers evolved from the C64's to Apple IIe's, Windows then UNIX (several varieties) and now I feel as though I found the perfect OS with Linux. With all the discussion of Mac vs. Windows it seems like other good options don't get the recognition they deserve. I would like to know your opinions on these alternative OSes (Linux, FreeBSD, BeOS, etc...) as well as the open source movement. Have you ever played around with any of the other systems and if so do you think it possible that you might switch to something other than a Mac?

Woz

It's only been Apple ][ and Mac for me. I used a little UNIX in the far past, and have to touch on it for some of the network equipment that I administer.

Over the years I met so many people doing things with Atari computers, particularly the Amiga, that were not easily doable with Macs or any other PC, that I was very impressed. Many of the best people ('best' meaning those that want things other than normal and that can't stop moving and all) are into Linux so I admire it. But with all my time consumed with a large family and many computers to maintain and a network too, and mail and magazines and updates and all, I won't have time for things like Linux for quite a while. I actually look forward to my children being gone.

Question from E-mail

Being a computer pioneer, are you responsable in some way, great or small, for the Y2K problem?

Woz

I hope not. I'm very precise about many things and only want them done the correct way when there is a correct way. Many engineers notice such mistakes all the time, like the State of California using 2 rear license plates instead of one rear plate (with month and year sticker icons) and one front plate. But engineers can't easily nail down everything in the future. Our Macintosh was never designed to address more than about 56 MB of RAM until we fixed it. In computers, a year is a long time, 2 years is almost too hard to predict what will happen, and 10 years is infinity. I hope that I'm better than others most of the time.

Also, all the software that has problems has managers that are more responsible than the engineers for quality and features. They are normal, non-technical people. Yet they let the 2K problems get by also. I guess there aren't very many people that take care of such matters well. But even if we extend all dates in all software to 4 digits for the year, we'll get nailed in the year 10000. And we aren't necessarily wrong. It's just amazing that so much software didn't get corrected for Y2K much longer ago.

All terms: Y2K
Question from E-mail

You changed the world with your revoutionary ideas about technology...what do you see as the next major techno-revolution?

Woz

In Apple I could predict a year ahead because I could see it in the labs there. But whenever I predicted 2 years out, I was way off. Too many unexpected advances or new approaches showed up. Even what made sense to do changed many times. What's worth doing today, could change tomorrow. All the efforts that solve today's problem might be futile if people don't need those solutions next year, either because the problem is gone or because there's another type of solution. Today's Iridium phones might be an example of this.

All terms: Apple, future, Iridium
Comment from E-mail

Woz, you changed my life. 
I have a number of motor, cognitive, and learning disorders. 
Growing up, I wanted to be an astronomer, physicist, or automotive engineer. 
Long before I was old enough to go to college I realized I could not go into a technical field. My handwriting was so bad *I* couldn't even read it. And worse, though I became proficient with a slipstick, I seemed to be unable to find the correct place to put the decimal point. 
The truth was, I couldn't even make it through college. I enrolled in, and flunked out of SF State at 17. 
I realized I was a loser. 
I ended up traveling all over the country working as an iron worker or a trucker. 
I missed things about school. I really missed the fun of figuring out things more complex than how to avoid death, dismemberment, or truck scales. I also missed helping people. 
By the time I was 39 I landed a job as a bid estimator. I was up against my old problem again--my inadequate math and handwriting abilities (the skills were there, I just couldn't execute!). 
It was 1989. I decided I needed a computer. I had to decide which computer to buy. I had to learn how to use the thing and make it work for me within weeks. I asked an elementary school teacher friend of mine for advice. He said buy an Apple ][. 
I bought a 5 or 6 year old used ][e for $500. I learned AppleWorks. I started using Quicken. 
I realized that this computer thing changes everything. With my "new" computer, my "old problem" was geography (it was gone). 
At 40 I went back to college. 
I earned a BS in accounting (OK, chalk one up to lowered expectations here). I passed the CPA exam. 
Now, at age 49 I am a senior analyst (I figure out complex stuff!) in a public employee's retirement system (I get to help people). These are all very good things for me and my family. 
Woz, your role in my life is clear. I guarantee none of these good things would have happened if someone had not designed a cheap computer with a keyboard and a monitor in the 1970's (If you had waited until the 1980's, how could I have found a 6 year old used computer in 1989 for $500 as good as the ][e?). 
Even if I had chosen an IBM XT instead of a ][e for my first computer and had actually been able to get some results out of it within a few weeks, you would still be responsible.

Woz

This is the best such story that I've ever heard. I have seen and taught and hired (for my teaching) many learning disabled people that can do amazing things with the computers. Also, the one year that the teachers of the local 5th grade class told me the students were mentally behind and slow, was the most outstanding year for my computer instruction. I'm not just saying this, many many other teachers have seen the same thing with computers in schools.

I have to say that it was just luck that I saw a low cost computer in the keyboard-display paradigm. It was more of building a computer into a TV terminal than of including a TV Terminal in a computer, based on what I'd built just before the Apple I. To be honest, the rest of the world might have figured this out in a lot less time than you're suggesting. But my motivations were to make a usable product for the simplest user at the lowest cost, and that included you. I had to think of what I wanted for myself and keep my head vacant of what a computer was and looked like and how you made it usable. I did that and went for it in the Apple I. The Apple ][ was merely the chance to add to that concept with some great features and good engineering, at very low cost. It was still aimed at normal people, whereas computers before it were primarily targeted at business clients with lots of money.

Again, your story is so good that it makes my eyes water. I hope that many hear it.

Question from E-mail

I just wanted to write you this letter to say thank you. I'm 23 years old and have used Apple computers for ever, except for a little time with the commodore 64 and 128, and the atari, because they had cool games. Oh yeh I also used a computer called a laser it was a Apple clone of some type I think. I joke with people sometimes about how happy I was when we got our new Mac at my house and it had 2Mb of RAM and a 20 Mb hard drive and I thought what am I going to do with all this space, and know it is all about Gig and more. I design websites and I do editing for local tv commercials and corporate videos, for a company that me and my dad own together (he owns more cause he is my dad). I basically would like to tell you thanks for making the Apple I and the Apple II they were great computers and you will be glad to know I still have a working Apple IIe and have over 20 old Apple and Mac computers in storage basically for posterity and to never forget where i came from so to speak. Now I use a G3 266 for editing and I have a iMac, a 6300, a 6500,a LC 580 and a Powerbook 5300cs still going strong at my office. Wow is that iMac G3 fast compared to my LC 580 and my 6300 but I still love the slow ones, but what's slow really compared to my Mac classic storage now that's slow. I don't know if you will read this whole letter, but if you do thanks for everything you done. 

P.S. I don't know how hard core a Mac user I am but I've only used one microsoft program in my life and that was because I had to in my computer lab in college, but I always go back to the best computers ever made my Apple's. Thank you for your time Matthew.

Woz

I can write a few people back, but not everybody. So far I've managed to read all my email but it gets very tough at times. I have other things that I used to do, like sleep and eat.

On a personal note, you'll go further and be more motivated because of your reason, your bias against Microsoft. A lot of people can't say exactly why they feel this way. Maybe it's just because Microsoft was overly successful selling junk, while Apple would only sell good stuff. Microsoft has learned that you don't have to make something good to sell it.

Comment from E-mail

Contrary to what Steve believes, you are the heartbeat and soul of Apple. With greatest thanks.

Woz

Thank you. It's been said that Apple and Macintosh carry different weights and feelings and associations. I agree with your observation. Although it's not spelled out, you can't always put such feelings into the right words. I'm surprised that people can see that there was a time that we stood for the average person more than for our own company's growth and size and revenues.

It's funny but there are a good number of people in Apple right now that still have these same sorts of feelings, about the soul of the company being important. It's much harder to associate the soul of Microsoft with anyone. It's hard to imagine the soul of Microsoft, right?

 

 

All terms: Apple, Macintosh, Microsoft
Question from E-mail

My question to you is: Do you regret the demise of the II line in the same way that many of its enthusiasts did (and do)? Was the IIGS a promise of more great things to come, with built in command line interface, backwards compatibility, ease of use and a great OS, or simply a compromise "bridge" that was made in a half hearted attempt to appease the large number of II users? I still remember the bitter disappointment when the IIGSx (10mhz, 640x480 video - yohoo!) never came out.

Woz

Your question has more than a single answer. I don't regret the fact that the Apple ][ was demised. Even I switched for good reasons. I do regret the fact that because there was superior technology, Apple gave up on the Apple ][ support too fast and drastically. It's strong sales should have been supported and gradually switched to products like the Apple ///, the LISA, and the Macintosh. For the last 3 years that the Apple ][ was the best selling personal computer in the world, Apple had almost totally withdrawn from it.

I think that this might have been personally motivated. Everyone wants to claim credit for this marvelous invention and the most notable company formation of recent times. The best way is to invent another marvelous computer that overshadows the first. None of the people running Apple had really conceived or invented or designed the Apple ][. Naturally, they needed another good one to demonstrate their own prowess. In the case of the Apple /// and the Macintosh, those in charge didn't want to support the Apple ][ much because it was strong competition with their own products. The LISA team really didn't bring much conflict to bear, at least not that I perceived directly.

A lot of the problem in Apple bringing such satisfying products to market is that the personal computer market exploded, and products have to be rushed to market without the psychological research and product corrections to make them really nice and easy, the way it was supposed to be. I still believe in the LISA dreams of the software being so obvious to use that it was hard to make a mistake and that mistakes were clearly explained. These dreams, of a computer being so helpful to people, were carried over to the Macintosh. But time has proven that we didn't do a very good job of appeasing the users. In my opinion, Windows did much worse, but to be fair it might be because there are so many more companies and companies making products for PC's, with correspondingly more conflicts and artifacts that are impossible to handle properly. The Macintosh has the advantage of fewer options and therefore fewer conflicts. In these terms, you can see why the Apple ][ was so satisfying, it had very little that could mess you up.