When I hit your website today, I noticed in the "letter of the day" someone had already sent practically the exact email that I would have sent. You are probably being deluged with email after Pirates and after appearing on Slashdot today, but for the record:
1. my first computer experience: Black Bell & Howell Apple ][ in grade school (started learning Basic - I had full access, as the teachers were mostly fascinated to watch someone else play around with it).
2. Learned BASIC on a Bally/Astrocade game console with Bally Basic cartridge
3. Finally got an Apple / / e in Jr. High
4. Got my first 300 baud Hayes modem at 14. Got my own phoneline shortly thereafter (thanks to my parents, who really just wanted their phone back).
5. Started my first BBS at 14
6. Got a "Woz" Apple IIgs
7. Still ran BBS but it was down most of the time as I did a ton of graphics/audio/assembly programming on the GS for sheer fun
8. Got a degree in CS from University of Illinois
9. Started a game company with another guy, released 15 titles in 6 years
10. Left that to follow other dreams - working on smaller, possibly less competitive software projects now. Doing games for Palm Pilot. They're fun to write :) and hopefully fun to play. I have a few fans, anyway :)
So many of us just fell in love with computers for no explainable reason.
It seems that lots of cool young computer people went through the BBS phase in those days.
Congratulations. So many don't bother to finish college. At least you can tell others that you did.
One game that I hope to see again in a PDA is one that I had on my Magic Link. An array of characters was presented and you had a fixed amount of time to swoop out connected letters that formed words, with longer words counting more. The key to a good score was to look for batches of common word endings and suffixes and to work on that.
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?
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 ][.
Thank you so much for your contributions to the computer revolution which ultimately led to the G4 sitting on my desk! My first computer was an Apple IIGS and my second my G4 which I got in September. I took Video Arts for two years in high school and was amazed at how well the Power Macs at our school could edit video in a better way than our linear editors. However computers today are not as reliable as they were in the Apple II and 680x0 era - my G4 has crashed more times today than my Apple IIGS ever did (maybe Mac OS X will solve most of this) - does this bother you? Also what are your feelings about a computer made by the company you founded rivaling the performance of a Cray and do you ever think the expansion will ever slow down enough that we can finally buy a computer without a new one coming out 3 months later that's 10 times better?
The slowdown hasn't happened in 50 years. Perhaps when Moore's Law hits some roadblocks, and parallelism reaches it's limits too...
Woz, I want you to know that you have been a real shaping force in my life. When I was in elementary school, one of my teachers brought an Apple II to school one day and we salivated over it for the rest of the term. It had a clever little edugame on it where the protagonist solves a crime by working out word problems. It was a touch of greatness in a very small town.
Later, someone told me about the Apple IIGS, with color graphics and a digital sound chip. I begged and begged my dad to take me to the only computer store in the area where I could get a look at one. I brought home the brochure, and looked at it every night like it was a centerfold. Later, after I begged him beyond his ability to reason, my dad bought me a IIGS (Woz Edition) for about $800. There it sat in it's box for over a year, since we couldn't afford the display or floppy drive (I kid you not). I would take it out, plug it in and listen to it hum. No floppy to give it life, no display to shine in my darkened bedroom, but it was magic nonetheless.
When we finally got the display, floppy, and some memory (you had to upgrade the RAM before you could even use the thing), I spent every waking hour with it. I wrote a hundred text-based adventure games saved on those awesome 3.5 inch floppies (I was a ZORK fanatic). I composed opus one through six on a neat little program called Musicwriter (I still have tapes of the little ditties I composed). It was awesome. So here I am, after having graduated with a BA in Music Composition, now in pursuit of a BS in Computer Science Engineering. The box you guys made gave me a direction and a future. Now I read you're happily at work teaching young minds how to find their dreams in the digital revolution. What a fitting end to a simply inspiring life.
Yours is truly an unbelievable story. You were very lucky to get that Apple ][gs. It's very obvious that it meant an awful lot to you. You appear to have followed your dreams well. I hope that you can apply the same artistry of your music composition to programming - only a few programmers are like that and they really change things.
Reading all the comments has been incredible! Your life, as well as yourself in general, is incredibly interesting. Hopefully your legacy will keep living on for decades to come. But, to keep this short: did you ever think the computer would really become this mainstream? Did you even want it to become this mainstream? Luckily, we had a lab full of Apple IIGS in grade school. My dad sprung to get a IIGS (with a RAM expansion card and 3.5" floppy, which I thought never should've been called a floppy) , so I was the only 2nd grader who knew how to work the machines when something wrong happened. Ah, good ol' open apple-control-restart. Amazingly enough, even when my dad wanted to get a real Macintosh at the time, he instead got a IIGS because I said "I want a color screen!" :) I've still got that IIGS right around the corner here in the house, too... And of course, HyperCard is still high up on my list of priorities...I still get register's from my first game made in HyperCard (fishing game) . Btw, I'm 15 now. Me being able to make a fishing game when I was 13 says a lot about how great a product was put out then. Did you happen to have any input on HC? Thanks a lot for your time! (this got way too long!)
Back in the earliest days we felt sure that computers belonged in every home and would one day be there, even if they were just 4K machines!
I'm glad to hear about your HyperCard game programming. Hypercard is an amazing system of a very complete environment covering many bases, and the most natural writing programming language ever, that obeys human rules before computer rules. I loved teaching how to write puzzles and games in the HyperTalk language. I'm glad for you if that's what you're doing.