Question From e-mail (by way of Jim Valentine):

Jim, My name is Brian R. I spoke with you last night around 6pm and you asked me to send you this note. Several years ago, Steve visited Fort Lauderdale at my request for what was the local Apple user's group. Steve actually made 2 visits down including bringing 2 of the key developers for the Mac, Andy and another gentleman. On both occasions, Steve came over to my house where I showed him what I was doing at the time with a bulletin board system. After Steve's last visit, about 2 or 3 days later a 5MB hard drive showed up on my doorstep with a "Good luck" note attached.

The success I have experienced since then has everything to do with the Woz spending the time with me that he did in Fort Lauderdale and even on a trip I made with my family out to California shortly after his South Florida visit. As I told you on the phone last night, I am in town with my wife and 21-month old son and would like to stop by to say hello if at all possible. We are leaving Saturday morning to start driving back to Florida. I will call your office around 9-10am on Friday morning. Sincerely, Brian

Woz

Brian, this is Steve. I hope that I can get to see you, but if not, best wishes anyway. I do remember your name when I see this and I remember the two Fort Lauderdale visits as great ones. The parts that I recall might differ from your own. I remember your BBS and was very impressed. The second trip was the week that the Macintosh was introduced and I brought Andy, Burrell, and Bill Atkinson along as a special gift to your club and the one in Washington D.C. (if I remember correctly) where the projector almost didn't arrive in time. I remember crying on the plane coming into Fort Lauderdale but I won't say why here.

I get to hear back very often from people that I apparently made a positive difference in their lives, with special gifts or sponsorship. Many of them turn out very successful and I hope that they've been influenced positively. I've mostly forgotten these incidents. There are many many of them. Plus, they are part of my 'way' and not individually special. I am so glad that you remember this good thing.

All terms: Thank You
Comment from E-mail

I guess I am writing this, well in hopes of being able to make a friend. I would really like to be able to ask questions to the "woz" as a student, and I am so eager to learn but no one seems to be able to teach me thing I allways wanted to know, even J&W won't help they are a Compact Service Repairt Center...YUCK!!!!! . He is someone who I model my life after, I would like to learn from someone who I allways considered my hero. There were 3 thing I allways wanted to do when I was younger be a pilot(Private Pilot 233197440), go to a Billy Joel Concert (Billy Joel, Elton John), and work for Apple (Hay you never know?) I to would like to make my mark on society, but it is really increadable to think that a few people who just thought a little differently that everyone else changed so much.

Woz

Nice to get your good letter. I hope that you far exceed all of your heroes. You can call me a friend, but I won't be able to spend a lot of time and probably won't have much to teach you. I assure you that I rarely have a free moment and that too many people are looking for my time.

Your goals and achievements certainly impress me. I hope that no matter how many things you accomplish and no matter how successful you are, that you always enjoy a little popular music. Singers inspire what we want to be in life and how we want to live our lives as much as any heroes.

All terms: Music
Comment from E-mail

As the person who brought computers into the homes of common folks everywhere, what are your thoughts on the web and all its attendent joys and problems?

Woz

I think that the web is more user friendly than software is. I hate SPAM. I don't think that companies take responsibility for their software or hardware. Customer support matches voice mail menu systems for helpfulness these days. Someday that should all change to favor the customers first.

All terms: Customer Service, SPAM, Web
Question from E-mail

Would you ever consider doing another US Festival type event? I was too
young/poor to attend them but they looked like a lot of fun.

Woz

I wish I could. I always look back favorably at the US Festivals.
They were the best ever. You'll hear that often from people that attended

All terms: Music, US Festival
Question from E-mail

How do you feel about the Mac vs. Windows war that some computer users
engage in?

Woz

I'm surprised at the extent of the bigotry. But it really plays out
when companies or schools take a side and prohibit the other platform
at all. We Mac users should be good even when the other side is bad. We
should do what we can to accept the other platforms. All the best people
in life seem to like LINUX.

All terms: Linux, Macintosh, OS X, Windows
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.

All terms: Apple ][, BASIC
Question from E-mail

I just had to laugh at the part in the movie where someone called Dial-A-Joke. I remember calling that number to hear the joke of the day. Was it really you who did this?

Woz

Experimenting with blue boxes to make calls anywhere in the world while at Berkely in 1971-1972, I encountered a few Dial-a-Jokes in the world. I never used the blue box to save money on phone calls, I was an ethical hacker.

 

So while working as an engineer at Hewlett Packard, designing scientific calculators, I started the first Dial-a-Joke in the San Francisco Bay Area. This was before you could buy answering machines or even telephones. I had to rent a very expensive machine made for theaters, and eventually had to quit because I couldn't afford it. I got so many calls that I had to keep changing the number. Anyone with a similar number would get 100 calls a day. The best known numbers that I had were (408) 255-6666 and (408) 575-1625. I operated Dial-a-Joke out of my Cupertino apartment, where I did a lot of the Apple designing (I designed every bit and wrote all the code including BASIC myself). I used a thick Eastern accent, like Russian, and used the name Stanley Zebrezuskinitsky when I took live calls.

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.

All terms: Apple I, Steve Jobs
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.

All terms: Apple, Apple ][, BASIC
Comment from E-mail

I just saw "Pirates of Silicon Valley" on TNT. I have enjoyed using computers for several years, but I was unaware of all the things that took place between Micorsoft and Apple. I just wanted to tell you that if the movie was accurate, I admire you more than Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. You are incredibly talented and you kept everything in perspective. Keep up the good work.

Woz

The personalities and incidents are accurate in the sense that they all occured but they are often with the wrong parties (Bill Fernandez, Apple employee #4, was with me and the computer that burned up in 1970) and at the wrong dates (when John Sculley joined, he had to redirect attention from the Apple III, not the Mac, to the Apple ][ ) and places (Homebrew Computer Club was at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center).

 

I did give a lot of stock to employees that were with us from the beginning, etc. I also designed 2 computers (the Apple I being the first typewriter model with a keyboard ever and the Apple II being too spectacular to detail :o) ), a mini OS, app software, my own BASIC, lots of interfaces (cassette, printer, serial, modem, floppy) and more. Heck, in the movie Ed Roberts had the Altair computer KIT and Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote the BASIC. That's the last real design any of the other principals did. The part about me being the only true engineer wasn't played out much.