Apple II

Good people work for Microsoft too

in
Comment from E-mail

Hi, I watched the movie again today, and as everyone else, it brings back memories. I do not have any questions for you regarding the movie since you have answered most of them for me, but I do want to say thanks. I am the CEO and owner of a Microsoft Solution Provider company that develops custom applications. I am the proud owner of an Apple II+, IIE, and believe it or not, an Apple clone I bought in 83. I was 14 years old when my father bought my first computer. I quickly became submersed in the computer world. I lived on the BBs systems and ran one called "The Trading Post" in the south for years. We had over 100 calls a day and it was exciting. Obviously I have moved over to the Bill Gates world, but only because I felt that Apple did not have the business applications I needed to do what I was good at, which is developing business applications to solve business problems. Anyway, it was your computer that kept me going and made me what I am today. Thanks for everything.

Woz

Good people work for Microsoft, and Microsoft develops some good products too. It's just not fair when they use their power to keep others from doing so. The important thing is that your important formative memories involved the Apple ][.

You could have started Apple. Clearly.

in
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.

Woz

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.

My hat is off to you sir

in
Comment from E-mail

I just wanted to say that I've been using Apple products @ school...@ work...@ home since the Apple ][.

Serious BASIC programming was on an Apple ][... (my first programming experience was on a BALLY Astrocade with the BASIC cartridge...I still have both...circa 1981.)

My term papers were written on Mac 128k & 512k computers...

I was one of the first in my design class @ college to use a Mac...a Mac II, I think...before they became an industry standard...

I currently own a PPC 7500 that's paid for itself 3 or 4 times (original value).

I just wanted to say...thank you for starting a wonderful computer company and being one hell of a nice guy. Anybody that gives away co. stock to employees that have none...well, my hat is off to you sir. This email is loooong overdue...rest assured I will always be a Apple-man...so will my kids...and anyone else I can influence.

Woz

It was a big deal to give the stock to people that were along for the incredible ride the first couple years of our company. It was rare and brave and right. I don't know why the definition of right and wrong change once you 'get there'.

The Corvus Concept.

in
Comment from E-mail

Woz, (I hope this gets to you)
Thanks for helping start the thing that has defined my life.

Computers have given me my life and living. I thank you you for making it possible. I think computers aren't as fun an cool as they used to be in the "old days".

I started out with a TRS-80 Model I, but drooled over Apple ]['s, and planned to buy one and upgrade it with stuff from Applied Engineering. By the time I got the money together to do that, The Apple ][ and AE were history. I am a proud owner of a PowerComputing PowerCenter 132, a Performa 6116 and an Apple ][c.

I also helped author the Apple ][ version of FACTS+ (www.programsteppe.com). It's educational software for autistic children. Charlie would love to hear from you, and would gladly send you a copy for your review. FACTS+ is a lot like your designs. Not flashy, but solid and works well.

I also used to work for the NE Distributor of Corvus Hard Drives (Lawrence S. Epstein Assoc.). Those were fun times. Did you ever get to see The "Corvus Concept" computer. It was a Mac before the Mac.

It was a 68000 computer with a Ball monitor, I think it used CPM-68k, but was based on the Apple ][ design. I know it used Apple ][ Cards (Serial, Floppy, Corvus). It was a great system.

I used to sell these drives to Microsoft in their Albuquerque days. But I doubt Bill would remember me now.

I know there were too few to make this real, but I'd love to get a hold of a working Apple I or a replica just to play with. I did see one of the originals in the Smithsonian. Not too sure if it was an Apple I or an Apple ][.

I'm on the lookout for a 20th Anniversary Mac. One day I'll spot one I can afford.

I appreciate the direction you've chosen in life. I am doing something similar in mine. I just wanted to say hi to you. Thanks for all you do. Al H.

Woz

Thanks for the note. You do bring back memories, including the Corvus Concept. I can look back and see how important the Apple I was now. Good luck getting or seeing one!

The importance of Steve Jobs' role

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Comment from E-mail

Thank you for the Apple. Regardless of where it started or where it has been I have it now and it does add to my enjoyment of life. I am somewhat puzzeled by your seemingly critical view of Steve Jobs. I know that you experienced it all first hand but the fact of the matter is that Mr Jobs has driven the car while you got off. I care not why but you seemingly respond in your answers to "Pirates" that you did it all and Mr. Jobs was basicilly a non-technical salesmen. Did he or did he not have anything to do with the Apple computer ? As I interput your reponses, he was just hanging around like a vulture. Thanks for your time. C. H.

Woz

I'm sorry. I probably misdirected others too. I made a lot of comment about having done a lot of hardware and software, including writing BASIC for the Apple I and Apple ][, in my "Pirates" replies because I did this design while Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Paul Allen were not as great as engineers. As for the engineering, on the 'dark' side there was Ed Roberts with a computer (who designed it???) and Bill Gates and Paul Allen writing a BASIC. I did all of this and much more, singlehanded, while working a day job at Hewlett Packard too. Steve Jobs did not design the computer in hardware or software terms. He did what was needed to start a company. He found people and companies that could get us to a product (it was manufactured at a company in Santa Clara and we just put the final pieces together in the garage) and sell it and more. He also had product design contributions along the lines of the plastic case and low heat power supply. But almost every other unique 'first ever' feature was my own idea of what would make a good computer. In the spirit I had, of helping and not making money, I gave out schematics to anyone that wanted them in the Homebrew Computer Club. This is what led to the interest that led Steve to see a possibility of making a product for sale.

I've spoken many times in the past about the importance of Steve Jobs' role in the Apple computers. But I was the inventor and engineer, solely. Remember, the Apple I was the first small computer ever with a keyboard standard, and the Apple II had the first color graphics, the first hi-res graphics, the first BASIC in ROM, the first sound and paddles for games, and a host of very clever approaches. Plus, it was so understandable and versatile and usable that it inspired tons of people. I hear from these people all the time, everywhere I go.

In my speeches I go out of my way to make Steve Jobs' role, in non-engineering ways, seem more important. But in response to the movie, I'm trying to compare myself as the engineer to Gates and Allen as engineers and any perceived denigration of Steve Jobs is not intentional.

Thank you for the chance to explain.

The fight for survival of the Macintosh

in
Comment from E-mail

Sorry to add to the likely incredible spate of email you are likely getting after the Biography special, but I just really didin't think I could NOT drop you a line, even if it is getting awfully late here. I just thought I should take the opportunity to thank you, and to ask your advice. You can ignore the rest of the message from here on if you want to, and I will not be (too) :hurt, since its not your job to be an advice columnist.

First of all, thanks for the Apple II and all its progeny. Its had a major impact on my life. In 1978, I was eight years old when my dad introduced me to the first Apple II that the University of Saskatchewan ever bought. He was (and is) a prof in Educational Technology at the U of S, so I always got to play with the newest and coolest technologies when I was young. I've been an Apple person ever since (I'm writing this from my G4 400 at home). I'm a user support person at the U of S now, supporting Mac users in the Health Sciences at our university. So, I make a comfortable living off those ideas you had so long ago (in computer years, of course). But, you know (and you prabably do, from what they said about you in the Biography special), its more than that, more than just a way to make a living. Its (to me at least) a philosophy, a dream almost. Apple was always the company that helped people do things, to solve problems and to do it in a way that was friendly and understandable and different from the conventional. I have always tried to keep to that philosophy in my work life, and I think I have been relatively successful over the past 12 years.

That dream is threatened for me now, as it has been for some time. The writing is on the wall at my institution as far as I can tell. Macs are on the way out at the U of S, to be replaced in due time by (what else,) a Microsoft-dominated solution. Some small, rational part of my brain tells me that this is no big deal, they are only computers, I have skills that are applicable no matter what computer platform or group of people I am working with. But there is another part of me, deeply ingrained, that hates to see the dream die at my institution. I hate to see people say "Oh, we are getting rid of our Macs because everybody else has PCs, and we need to be compatible. It's too much work to keep the Macs." I hate to see the machines that I have always associated with "nice guys" (like yourself) be replaced by machines powered by a company that seems to win by forcing everyone to conform to its standards and crushing anyone that does not conform. The two companies were started by people with dreams, but from my point of view they are vastly different dreams.

My question for you (oh wise one :>) is, since you are the original dreamer who started us all down this path, what should I do? Should I listen to that rational part of my brain? If I had already, I would not be writing this email. Should I give up the fight? That is essentially what it has become, a fight for survival of the Macintosh, both in my local situation and on a global scale. It isn't supposed to be a fight, I suspect you are thinking, and you never intended for it to be [and its not really your responsibility, and why the heck do people email you and ask you these kind of questions anyway? :>]. But I am really kinda stumped here, and I am hoping you have maybe faced this type of question before in your personal life.

And maybe you could do me a really big favor. If you still have any contact with the other Steve, and let him know that there are people out here in this kind of situation (more than one in this town at least). Ask him what he is going to do for all the people like me that have subscribed to what is essentially (as I see it) your dream (Besides telling us all that we need serious psychiatric help :>. That's that little rational part of my brain butting in again!). He needs to be very careful, because the next year or so is going to make or break Apple(even if people have been saying that from 1982 on, this time it may really be true), and there is only so long that us "Mac Faithful" can remain that way (By the way, moving to fee for incident service on the Apple help line may make financial good sense, but it is suicide for Apple's rapport with its users, particularly when in many cases when people like me call the support personnel at Apple learn new things as well).

If you have read this far, thanks for listening, and I am really glad to know that a nice guy can once in a while finish first. Maybe there's hope for me yet! :>

Woz

I understand your anxiety and frustrations and sadness because I live them every day of my life. I have the same fears as you.

There was a time, perhaps between 1984 and 1993, when the Macintosh alone stood for a new humanistic world of computers. The Macintosh dreams included concepts like software that was so clear that you could intuitively figure out what to do. If you made mistakes, the computer gently told you what you'd done and guessed what you wanted to do and told you how to do it or offered to do it for you. Error messages were understandable and complete. Everything was plug and play and nothing went wrong. The GUI world needs little explanation.

The PC world in this time frame lived with less human concepts of computing and claimed that their way was correct and better for serious work. The Macintosh approaches for normal people (humans) made it too weak a machine for real work. We Macintosh users knew how much baloney this was and we held onto our good and correct dreams for humanity.

Now all computers have a GUI. But they all fail in the areas of what I call the Macintosh dreams. Software is crap wherever you look. Layouts aren't standard enough to follow. Messages are incomprehensible. Dialogs and menus lead you to wrong choices and unintended errors. Software crashes too much. It loses data. Files get corrupted. Checkboxes are used when radio buttons are called for. Operations become deactivated at particular times for no reason, other than that you might have hit some key in a particular hundredth of a second.

Both Microsoft and Apple are monopolies. Mostly, dedicated Macintosh users buy Macintoshes and they won't likely buy a PC. The number of Macintoshes sold does not depend on how much quality is in the software. The dreams are nearly dead. With no incentive to create intuitive and modeless software, like Control Panels for instance, that actually work, why should any company try to make them better for humans to use? The emphasis is always on some new product and the broken and non-working crap that's around just sits forever. I'm amazed at how many times I see software that takes steps backwards from great things that were done more correctly and humanly before.

Technology and the money of big corporations has become much more important than human beings. That was not the original intent of personal computers. They were to put more power in the individual's hand. As we store our data and apps on the internet, our computing world becomes a big corporate entity that makes individuals less and less important in the process. The era of truly personal computers is fading in many ways. The computer platform we use is becoming less and less important. This may be a boon to Apple, but there are many forces working against it, all for the sake of money. Apple has to be very different than all the others in terms of what it's products symbolize to buyers. Right now, it's the "think different" campaign. Some of us will make sacrifices to be included in that category.

A lot has been lost. Apple is not the only example.

How to make a personal operating system ?

in
Comment from E-mail

I have emailed you before, and i got so excited that a major player in the computer world awnsered me. So here goes my question. My friend and I want to make our own computer software, We bought an old computer and scraped it, and made a new computer, but we want to make our own operating system, You said you made basic for the Apple 1 and II. What did you us to make it? what type of software, if any would we need to make it with, and is there any hard ware we might need?

Woz

I don't know if these comments will apply, but here they are.

In high school I fell in love with minicomputers, which were basically small computers equivalent to the microprocessors once they came out. Well, I could never afford a minicomputer but I looked at the programming instructions for machine language and tried to write my own short routines. In college I started trying to figure out how compilers, like Fortran, were written. I knew that the compiler program had to read a line at a time and figure it out and convert it to code that the computer could run. So I started writing a routine in assembly language (machine language) that would analyze a line for correctness. But I never could afford a computer to try it on, nor an assembler to type it into. It was just a personal program that nobody else knew about.

After I'd designed a computer, before Apple was even conceived, I decided to write a BASIC for real. I'd never studied how to do this, but I had self trained myself a bit back in college as I described above. I'd never used BASIC but I knew that this was the popular language for games and that was too important to ignore. The first thing I did was get a BASIC manual at Hewlett Packard, where I was working. I read it and made notes and pretty much learned what commands it had. Of course this was Hewlett Packard BASIC. It differed from the Digital Equipment BASIC, that Bill Gates' first BASIC was based on, mostly in some string manipulation. This later turned out to be the greatest difference between my BASIC and theirs. I was tired of MID$, LEFT$, RIGHT$ type functions so I preferred the HP BASIC better (A$(5,7) meant the 5th through 7th characters of A$).

I'd never formally educated myself in the area of compilers and interpreters (compilers translate a program to machine code to run rapidly later, interpreters scan the program and figure it out as it's being run, which results in much slower execution--BASIC is an interpreted language). But I knew how Syntax charts defined the structure and words of a programming language, as you find these in programming manuals. I decided to write down a full Syntax description of my BASIC to begin. I'd never done such a thing, but it wasn't hard and was modeled after others that I could find.

I next decided that I'd actually put this syntax list into memory as part of my BASIC interpreter. It was stored character by character. I figured that I'd just scan the input line, after the user hit Return, character by character, tracing a path through the syntax table and backing and retrying things. If the line made it through the Syntax table then it was good, otherwise it was in error.

The unexplainable part is how I came up with the way my BASIC would actually do what it was supposed to. As BASIC elements were found in the Syntax Table, I generated tokens (codes) for these elements. For example, a left parenthesis might generate token #87. But in another usage, a left parenthesis might generate token #115. It depended on where it was encountered in my Syntax table in memory, the one I was traversing character by character and matching the input line. In an inefficient effort to make my BASIC very tiny and save every possible byte (even the minimal amount of memory for a computer language was very expensive in 1975) I actually counted how many BASIC symbols the 'matched' one was from the start of the syntax table, and used that count as it's token value.

After this step, I generated a line that didn't have to go through the Syntax evaluator again. The Syntax evaluator could be very tiny and run slowly, as it only ran once per line, which took only a fraction of a second for a typical line. When the program ran, it was already half in shape for speed.

Now comes a less explainable part. I had read and heard some things about compilers but I still don't know to this day if what I did was good or bad. As a line executed in a running program, it consisted of numbers (precompiled into constants I think) and variable names and grammar elements like a plus sign token or a left parenthesis token. When, during execution, the BASIC encountered a 'noun' (number or variable) it was pushed onto a noun stack, ready for retrieval. This was like our HP calculators where I worked.

When the BASIC encountered a 'verb' (a token that called for an operation) it would be evaluated in comparison to a verb stack. This was the way of reading a human-written expression from left to right, but doing the operations in a different order (2+3*4 does the multiplication first in most computer languages, even though the plus sign appears first). For each token I assigned 2 priorities. One was the priority to push preceding tokens off the stack for execution. For example, 3 + 7 * 5 would push 3 on the noun stack, + on the verb stack, then 7 on the noun stack (where it's ready to be the first element removed from this first-in last-out stack). When the * is encountered, it had a higher execution priority than + so it didn't pull the 7 and 3 off and add them yet. Instead it pushed the * onto the verb stack and then the 5 onto the noun stack. The end of line was a token with priority to push everything off.

So at this time the * is the 'topmost' token on the verb stack. It comes off and runs a prewritten multiply routine that pulls two items off the noun stack, adds them, and pushes the result back on that noun stack.

Any token that causes others to be executed immediately off the verb stack would keep looking at token priorities until it's own priority was such that it would merely be pushed onto the verb stack and await later execution.

Parentheses bring another factor into play. A left parenthesis is always pushed onto the top of a verb stack, hiding the execution priority of the preceding operator token until a right parenthesis, with extremely high execution priority, causes all tokens to be executed until the left parenthesis is encountered. At that time the right parenthesis has found it's mate and stops forcing ops (tokens) to execute. This is a sort of exception to the concept of a single priority. In addition, the left parenthesis forces no ops off the verb stack, acting as though it has extremely high priority. But no ops force it off, until the right parenthesis, as though it had an extremely low execution priority. So I actually had two priorities for each token, a 'push' tendency and a 'pull' tendency. A verb (token) would only push other verbs off the verb stack and execute them if it's push priority was greater than their pull priority.

I have no idea where these sorts of ideas came from. They just came to me as I needed an elegant solution.

A table held bites with 2 one of zixteen priorities for each token that might be in the interpreted BASIC program. Another table held an address pointer for each token, that pointed to the routine to run when that token was forced to execute. So for each of the dozens of tokens, I had to only write a short routine. This kept the program less complicated and easier to add new commands to.

I couldn't afford an assembler. I wrote the entire program on paper, assigning memory addresses for each program instruction. When I shortened a routine, it was too much trouble to re-write (by hand) a few K-Bytes of code just to shrink the space. So there were many cases of short empty spaces in my BASIC. When a routine needed to expand, I'd usually jump to a patch area where it's latter part was. None of this would have happened if I could have afforded an assembler, which would have packed things properly.

Thank you

in
Comment from E-mail

I doubt this will be actually read by you but here goes.I want to thank you for your contribution to this world the Apple computer!My first experience with a computer was in middle school(`83)I believe. I used the Apple II computer.I remember just typing commands that would spell something after I typed the word "run"..lol.. Later in high school I took basic programming but unfortunately didn't go any further with it. My interests were mostly in playing games.I remember a friend of mine got a Mac and we would play Ultima IV for hours. This was sometime in the eighties.Now its the year 2000 and six months ago I purchased a Emachines 400i computer.Man things have changed so much.I feel totally lost in the computer world today.I cant keep up with the upgrade madness. Did you ever envision that your invention would go this far? In closing I want to say its really nice to be able to talk to a forefather of the computer age.

Woz

I didn't think that I'd actually get to write to you, but here goes...

It's hard to catch up with everything that's happened, but the world is getting to the point that you can come in new and learn just the new ways, mostly on the web, and do OK. Even my mom does OK.

If I ever thought that it would get this complicated and a nightmare to maintain more than a couple of computers, I would have probably not have done it.

The new millennium started early

in
Comment from E-mail

My years on my Apple II's provide me with incredible memories and a sense of community and belonging. If personal computers didn't exist, I don't know what I would be doing. With all the excitement in technology now, I just hope I have the strength to do things that are worthwhile, and that make me happy - and hopefully make others happy too.

Woz

The new millennium started early for many, like yourself...

The IIgs

in
Comment from E-mail

My favorite computer is the Apple IIgs. To me it was a nice blend of the future (Macintosh), and the past (Apple II). How involved were you in the development of the IIgs?

Woz

Apple dropped the Apple ][ from it's own concerns between 1980 and 1983, years in which it was the largest selling computer in the world. Every ad from Apple in those years is of an Apple ///. Every employee had an Apple ///. Very few Apple ][ projects were approved. When John Sculley joined Apple he reduced the Apple /// attention. I came back to Apple at the same time and worked on a new machine, the Apple ][x. It saved a lot of jobs, my being associated with a new computer project. Finally, this advanced Apple ][ was cancelled. But shortly thereafter the same engineers came up with the Apple ][gs with a much improved graphics and sound system. I was primarily inspiration. Perhaps I helped these engineers be willing to risk new and better development than otherwise.

The Apple ][gs was a very good step for the Apple ][.