Apple ][

Woz HP BASIC

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When Apple moved from the Apple ][ line to the Mac line, where and why was the decision to move to a closed architecture? I thought that Apple suitors were the hobbyist and as such would have more of a hardware/software development contribution... In reflection on programming graphics with peek and poke, I was wondering why an interpreted language rather than a compiled language was developed. Was this the Microsoft DEC BASIC vs. Woz HP BASIC approach we discussed previously?

Woz

The closed architecture was in line with attempts to bring computers down to less technical people. Does the phrase "for the rest of us" ring a bell. Although that phrase referred to the way the software worked, there was a strong feeling that some people were turned off by too much visible technology. There might have been personal reasons within Apple to minimize the technology aspect, since the technology emphasis came largely from me and not the other Apple execs. I don't feel that it was a good or needed thing to restrict access like this. Even the designers wanted more access and at least a "test" port but Steve Jobs nixed that.

I'd never written a computer language or studied writing one. I'd also never used BASIC, only FORTRAN and ALGOL and a number of machine languages. But it was clear that BASIC was the best language for an early home computer because of the ease of learning and using it and the many games available in BASIC. So I pulled out an HP manual and wrote my syntax diagrams based on that. It was a little different, mainly with strings, than the DEC BASIC.

I always understood that FORTRAN could be compiled but BASIC was an interpreted language. It's late and I'm not sure why BASIC has to be interpreted but an easy language for small programs is quicker to use when you can enter new lines and run them right away without compiling. It also takes less RAM. We didn't even have a floppy disk then.

Apple ][

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I still remember the ad Apple Computer ran showing an Apple ][ being used to monitor operations on an offshoree oil platform. I think we forget the *variety* of uses the first computers like the Apple ][ saw. In a day where computers get used for little more than games, surfing the Net, and word processing, it is interesting to note that early "home" computers like the Apple ][ were used for decoding satellite images, monitoring heartbeats for oscilloscopes, etc. Those computers brought out the imagination and skills of a generation of teens and college kids. It seems like almost every MIS person got their start with an Apple ][ or the likes.

Woz

That's good of you to remember these things. We sure do tend to forget the Apple ]['s importance in creating this company and industry.

First Apple Computers

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I am thoroughly impressed by you creation of the first apple computers (and some other nifty electronic gadgets.) I have a nice little tech bench set up in my apartment, and spend a lot of time tinkering and inventing little projects, but nothing on the scale of a computer. I am aware that you gave away your schematics for the first Apple at the Stanford homebrew meetings, and was wondering if you still had a copy? I am very interested to see the components you used, and to gauge the possibility of building such a device on my own. I know that it will not bear the same accomplishment as actually designing the machine and then producing it 20 years ago, but I am very interested in the fundamental concepts of computers and would have a lot fun trying to make a computer. I was also wondering where you learned most of your electrical engineering. Books? school? any specific books or courses?

Woz

The schematics that I gave away were of the Apple I. It used some PMOS shift registers (2904 and 2919 I believe) to cycle the screen data, changing characters at the precisely right time. These chips, I'm sure, are unavailable today. The Apple ][ schematics were in our early manuals. You can probably find one of these somewhere. Although I started designing computers at an early age, ones I could never hope to build, I mainly built a lot of small projects. That's where I learned techniques. But today you can't design at the component and gate level as much if you're planning on a computer. It's pretty much all done in LSI chips. I learned my electronics from my father (an engineer), from early electronic kits (hard to find nowadays), from getting a ham radio license (you had to build your own tube based receiver and transmitter back then), from Popular Electronics magazine, from some rare computer journal articles, from Terman's book (a famous old one from the tube days, Terman taught at Stanford), from chip manuals with example circuits, and from computer manuals with logic diagrams of various parts and sometimes code examples.

Graphics

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Regarding Apple history...I remember a friend having a Apple ][ and the two of us using peek and poke to program graphics |-]

Woz

Those are very touching things to remember! I managed to include lo-res commands in my BASIC, but not hi-res ones. Still, PEEK and POKE allowed BASIC to switch screen modes and the like.

PC '76

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I was in Atlantic City in 1976 for the PC Expo show at the Shelburne Hotel. I had a SWTPC 6800 so I had no real interest in Apple at the time, but I remember seeing the Apple 1 on display. Were both you and Steve Jobs there? I know I met one of you, but I can't remember who! (or whom LOL). I'd like to be able to tell people who I met. Was this the same one I saw with Lisa Lo*op at VCF 3.0?

Woz

Steve and I were both at PC '76. I mostly stayed in our room, adding to the BASIC. Steve and Daniel Kottke ("Dan" in "Pirates of Silicon Valley") manned the booth, so you could have spoken to either of them. One night Steve and I brought down the very newly built Apple ][ breadboard and hooked it up to the first color projector that we'd ever seen and it worked. The technician at the projector was the only one who saw it and he said that was the computer he was getting, with all the other early computers of the day in the same room. It was a real complement.

The Macintosh

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Keeping this short. I love the Macintosh, I love Apple. Thank you for making Apple a great company. I have recently studied your role at Apple and I am in awe.

Woz

The best people love the Macintosh. But, to be fair, I helped start the great company with my Apple ][, which turned the world around, and I helped start a great company with a spotted history, but I didn't have as much personally to do with the Macintosh design as you might think.

Why didn't Apple make the Mac Apple // compatible?

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Hi Woz! My first experience with computers was in 1982 when I was 12 years old. Shortly after that my Dad bought me an Apple // clone (sorry :) ... The Franklin Ace 1000. I kept that until the ][GS came out and drewled over it (and bought one). I still have it (Woz limited edition). Between 1983 and 1991, my life revolved around the Apple // (I've grown up now and have more important goals in life, such as my wife and children), but at the time, every waking moment was spent hacking my clone or my GS... discovering different softswitches, entry points into ROM, etc... When Apple started wayning in its support the the Apple //, it was extremely discouraging to me and my fellow Apple // "buddies". It seemed that they couldn't actively kill the // line for fear of loss of loyalty, but that they made every effort to let it die a slow death and that it continued to out-sell the Mac for years with absolutely no marketing for the // line. I've always wondered since then what was the reasoning for letting the Apple // die instead of continuiing that line with upgrades so that today, the current Mac would actually be the latest version of the Apple //? I had been hearing rumors at the time that Steve Jobs didn't like the "game" reputation the Apple // had and wanted a "business" competitor and that you were actually more of a // fan and you were the only reason the // line lasted as long as it did. What's the real story behind that? Why didn't Apple make the Mac Apple // compatible? Thanks,Michael Q. (previous graphics editor for GS+ magazine... If you remember that mag?)

Woz

The Apple ][ certainly was an excellent machine to get into the hardware and software and the basic levels of the computer. It made a lot of what a computer is understand to very many like yourself. But Apple's leadership had a very strong direction toward making the geeky parts as hidden as possible. That has it's benefits but it also takes away a very fun part of our lives, figuring out how to do our OWN things.

Apple never was very good at carrying on two lines at one time. Apple actually totally ditched the Apple ][ from 1980 to 1983. Every ad was for the Apple ///. But the Apple ][ was the best selling PC in the world in those years. It was also ignored when the Macintosh arrived because it was not the future and we can't have two high priorities at once. It's just too bad. Even though the Macintosh platform has a low market share, we keep supporting it enough to keep it working. But we didn't do the same for the Apple ][.

I don't have a strong personal 'side' on this issue. But I do receive continual email talking about how much the Apple ][ meant to people that could play with software and entry points and the like.

The "open source" movement

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I read in your comments that you were giving away your early designs. This seems to fit with the current popularity of the "open source" movement, and I wonder if you feel that the recent opening of the OSX Darwin kernel is a step in the right direction for Apple. Many people develop free software for free operating systems. Do you? If so, does the new Apple initiative inspire you to code for OSX?

Woz

That's a very astute observation. I gave away schematics of the Apple I at the Homebrew Computer Club. I also demoed enhancements to the Apple ][ every 2 weeks at the club. It was the opposite of normal corporate secrecy.

I don't have time to develop now but I appreciate the people who do so in the open source movement. It's been a long time since that was halfway normal. It makes me hopeful because young talented people have a chance to do more than stand by and watch and be paid a salary.

Your signature on the Mac

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In the comments I just read that you didn't work on the Macintosh. Why did my school's first Mac have your Woz signature on it? Just wondering.

Woz

After college and putting on some large rock concerts, I returned to Apple. John Sculley was just arriving and right away took resources off the losing Apple /// computer and revived the Apple ][. I was part of an engineering team trying to design a new and faster Apple ][. That project, the Apple ][x, got cancelled. By then, I was consumed with speeches and interviews and the like and couldn't design so I had my salary reduced below the real engineers. They soon thereafter went to the drawing boards again and came up with the workable approach of the Apple ][ GS, with a correct and plausable way of doing the graphics in particular.

The Apple ][GS team recognized me as a symbol of and some of the inspiration for this project. I was asked to supply a signature for a limited edition model. I gave a signature, figuring it was for 100 or 200 computers. But one day I was told that they made 50,000 of these. I was quite blown away.

I think that you just got tired

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I also see in the same book, (Infinate Loop) that you lost your drive and your edge, and that some say you got caught up being the WOZ..... I think that you just got tired.

Woz

It's possible that I lost my drive and edge. But did I lose my drive and then go in other directions because of it, or did I go in other directions and find great satisfaction and let some things, like engineering, slip away? The truth is closer to the latter. My kind of intense, best in the world, engineering was very very hard and I knew that no human could keep it up for long. When I departed Apple a second time it was to start a company and make a small programmable remote control. I did engineering and wrote the code for one of the internal microprocessors myself. I used a Mac, an Apple ][c, and an Apple ][e throughout this development, those were my main tools (the Mac for non-engineering things). The code for the second, and main, microprocessor wasn't coming easily so I flew to Hawaii to work on it for a week without phone calls and interruptions. Every day for a month I loved looking out to the sea. I came back and decided right then to hire other engineers for this task. I looked more at my young children. Other personal changes ensued. I've remained pretty comfortable ever since, although I never have a minute without something to do. But what do you expect with lots of kids still in school.

I do feel more tired today than back 'then' and I do want to take life easy. But I remember while designing the Apple I and Apple ][ explaining to people that I was actually lazy, and designed things with very few chips so I'd have less construction to do and less to debug. I used this 'laziness' excuse with my software being tight also. Maybe I believed in laziness even back then, even while I designed 2 computers and peripherals and wrote BASIC and much more code, all in a year, all while working days at Hewlett Packard.