About risk

Comment from E-mail

Like you I am one to be a aim player rather than the risk taker…maybe chats why I was an Intel Officer in the Navy and now a product author and senior research scientist for Computer Security software at PentaSafe, Inc.

Woz

I, and my associates and family, consider me to be a total risk taker. I’m never afraid of doing things differently than before or even facing strong opposition. I’m a very low stress person, at least now, and I am very patient with others.

ResNet

Comment from E-mail

I noticed that you have worked with the school system for quite a while. Have you heard about ResNet…Rural Education System Network…I heard they were a nonprofit operation putting T-1 service to school in out lying rural areas that could not afford it. I guess it is a good thing…the schools are then faced with paying the underpaid teachers a better salary to keep them or fund a computer lab. Do you know of any people of organizations that provide new computer equipment (favoring Apple myself) for these kind of schools?

Woz

I’m not too knowledgeable in this area, sorry.

Graphics

Comment from E-mail

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.

Fortran, Basic

Comment from E-mail

At the current age of 41, I remember that the first language I learned was FORTRAN via a paper tape teletype at my high school connected to a time share system…I later learned BASIC on the Apple as I recall…

I learned FORTRAN even though our HS had no computer. I just learned it on paper and then my electronics teacher arranged for me to go to Sylvania once a week to program an IBM 1370. My first program was the Knight’s Tour of a chessboard. Nothing came out so I assumed that I had an infinite loop. The next week I determined that my program was fine. Then I calculated that I’d find a result, by standard backtracking, in about ten to the 25th years! A good algorithm is worth more than a machine that can do a million things a second.

Woz

I’d never programmed BASIC in my life when I developed the Apple I. But I could tell that BASIC was the way to go if you wanted to be able to buy books of computer games. Plus, the Altair, with Bill Gates’ BASIC, had shown that this was the popular language among the crowd interested in hobby computers. I used a manual for HP Basic (that’s where I worked) to learn it and develop my interpreter architecture and syntax diagrams. The major differences between HP BASIC (that mine was modeled on) and DEC BASIC (that Microsoft’s is modeled on) is in the string functions and strings. HP’s strings had to have a size dimensioned whereas DEC’s could grow to whatever size if I remember correctly. But the LEFT$, MID$, and RIGHT$ functions of DEC BASIC were much nicer in HP’s. You could specify STRING (5,8) for characters 5 through 8 of the string, for example.

Mac SE/30

Comment from E-mail

The first Apple I had wasn’t until 1989…shortly before the birth of my son Evan. The machine was a Mac SE/30 with a super large 20 MB hard drive and gobs of RAM (2 MB)…Evan was 2-3 when he started using the mouse and SuperPaint to doodle. To this day (he is now 10) he asks why Windows isn’t as easy to learn as the Apple |-]

Woz

A lot of people that are used to PC’s and try Macs find this out.

Studies

Comment from E-mail

I’m a student at the University of Pittsburgh, studying electrical engineering. My first semester was terrible and well I don’t think I’ll make it through. Tell me what I need to do to make it as an engineer. Steve in my opinion you are one of the most influential people of this millenium. You’ve inspired me to start a revolution of my own. Of course as of now I’m still trying to develop an idea, but someday hopefully I will leave my mark on society like you did. Thanks for the inspiration.

Woz

Engineering is not an easy major. You have to work very hard, especially at the start. Don’t you have general classes the first couple of years for the most part? Do well at general subjects and get a head start on studying electronics (if that’s your engineering branch) on your own to get ahead. Buy a book or two from classes that you may not be in until a junior. That only implies more work. But you are young and can do it now. Be successful while you have the energy and you won’t have to worry when you’re older and can’t work as hard. Partying and socializing should be minimized if you want to be successful in engineering.
I can’t possibly advise you on education as well as your own councilor can.

Speeches

Comment from E-mail

This year will mark the end of my sophomore year at Hume-Fogg Academic High School in Nashville, TN (www.humefogg.org–the web page is a disaster right now, that’s on my agenda as well). You know, I almost wonder what it would cost to get you to do our commencement in a few years…last year’s keynote was such a bore. And when I graduate in 2002, I want someone cool to be my graduation keynote. 🙂

Anyway, it’s really cool to see our up to all kinds of good…I’d love to hear from you 🙂 Maybe you can IM me sometime if you’re ever in the mood…I’m on AOL’s little IM’er and ICQ.

Woz

I’m so busy with email and personal requests and company pitches and investment pitches and idea pitches and computer updates and computer repairs and network administration and teaching that I get very little time for speeches. I give a lot but only about one for every 10 or 20 requests. I would consider a high school graduation appearance, but it would have to hit me on just the right day to accept. I never charge for such things, just air travel. But I don’t really have any TN connection at all.

Steve, Paul and Bill

Comment from E-mail

Hello, I am Harish Tella. Man I’m so curious about the history of Apple and Microsoft. I saw the movie pirates of silicon valley. I know you already answered a ton of question on this but please. I beg of you. It is so interesting. I am 13 now. I am so interested in computers. I wanted to learn more about this history stuff. When I found your page and saw that you took time to answer many letters I was so happy. I could get a response from the “Woz”. My role model, my idol. I have a few quick questions for you. Do steve jobs and bill gates hate each other. What about paul allen. Whats he up to these days. How did steve jobs get back to apple in 1997. Is steve really a bad person as he was portrayed as in the movie. Are there any books or web sites with more info on the history about this stuff that you can recommend. Thanks for your time. Oh yeah and remember my name because one day I hope to reach your greatness.

Woz

I don’t really know what Gates’ and Jobs’ feelings are about each other. I think that Steve is probably a little jealous that Bill wasn’t smarter but wound up with the mass market and $. Things in the movie that you might call ‘bad’, Steve might call ‘good’.

About Atari

Comment from E-mail

I was just curious about what you did for Atari? I’ve heard that Steve Jobs had worked there and was using you for chip consolidation on the Breakout arcade game. I was curious if this is true and what all you did for Atari?

Woz

I did design Breakout for Atari, in very few chips. Steve got me to do it in 4 days which is unbelievable for hardware. We both stayed up all night for 4 nights in a row and barely finished it. While Steve wirewrapped my design and it’s changes, I would go onto the factory floor and play all night, for free, the first driving arcade game, GRAN TRACK 10. I got so good that years later, when I’d moved to Scotts Valley, I found a pizza parlor with that game and a free pizza for a score over 36. I could easily do this and after two free pizzas they took the game out.

I worked at Hewlett Packard. I had designed my own version of Pong with very few chips and the Atari people saw it and offered me a job. But I loved HP too much.

How does your son use the computer?

Comment from E-mail

How does your son use the computer?

Woz

That son is now a senior in HS and is incredibly bright (I hope that he gets into MIT but he doesn’t have straight A’s). He has used the computer all these years in school. Most importantly he has used 3D drawing and video editing since elementary school, and such projects always come out very impressive. 3D is the best trick for impressing friends and teachers that a kid can ever learn. Some projects and animations take 20 minutes to a few hours to create but are so astounding that people assume they took weeks.

The Macintosh

Comment from E-mail

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.

The Apple ][ colour controller

Comment from E-mail

I was reading slashdot.org today and I saw someone had posted this comment. Is this true? > “Actually, the Apple ][ color controller was an accident! They didn’t know it was generating colour until one day they connected it to a colour monitor, rather than a Black&White one, and to their surpise, it was colour…so Woz had to reverse engineer his system to figure out how to control it’s colour capabilities.”

Woz

That is so so untrue. I dreamed up the method of using pixels on a color TV screen, based on an exact multiple of the color subcarrier frequency, while constructing a [hardware] game for Atari around 1974. I based my [monochrome] 1975 Apple I design on this frequency, intending to add color ability to it later. When I got down to adding the color, I came up with so many circuit optimizations that I designed the Apple ][ instead.

I used such a simple, patented, scheme to generate color that the circuitry doesn’t show any direct evidence. It’s as though you’d have the same number of chips to generate the video, even without color. But you’d have a tough time explaining a chip or two that gated the color subcarrier frequency during part of the horizontal blanking. It can’t be passed off as an accident. Not to mention that you could never even ‘see’ color on a TV without this subcarrier reference.

About Bill Gates

Comment from E-mail

So you are retired, that is great. I was wondering how you feel on how the govenment is charging Bill Gates with monopolizing the computer industry, do you think he is?

Woz

Bill Gates is not charged with monopolizing the computer industry.

The corporation Microsoft is charged with using it’s monopoly power (a ‘given’, already expressed in Judge Jackson’s Finding of Fact) to suppress new companies from starting. I think that Microsoft did more in this regard than any company in the world could have. There’s nothing more that a ‘worse’ company could have done. Therefore, if there are laws against such things, they apply and they should be applied to the fullest extent.
[also see: Woz.org Microsoft Feature]

Computer stories

Comment from E-mail

I just read all the emails posted on your site. They got me in the mood to send one too. In 1983 I bought and Apple ][e. A great machine, and I still have it! It still works! When I started college in 1982 the Physics department had four black apples made by Bell and Howell. We used them for tutorials and to do homework on. That’s what convinced me to get an Apple in ’83. I used the machine all through collage, and several other students did too. Not many people had a computer at school in those days. I used to write programs that would do calculations for me and also plotting programs to print out my results from labs and stuff. They were good times. That’s when I realized I loved computers because they are really flexible tools that you could program to do things for you! In 1989 I started work for the U.S.Army. at FT. Monmouth. We did most of our work on PCs, but we did our graphics work on Macs. It wasn’t long before I fell in love with the elegance and simplicity of the Macs. I didn’t need to know about its guts to get it to work for me! By that time I was programming on the PC all the time at work. A few years later my “future” wife bought me a Powerbook 100. I loved it, and still do! It is so neat being able to play on the computer where ever you want! Right before my wife and I got married, she asked my if it was alright if she didn’t like computers. (she used PCs before) I said sure! no problem! Then I bought a PowerMac 6100/av I still have that one too. That’s the main machine we all use. My wife looked at me do things with it for a few months. Get on the internet, write letters, record video clips, make HyperCard stacks, etc. She now is a happy Mac user! She loves it. Funny, she still hates computers though. Gee, this letter is real long. Sorry. I’ll finish this up as quick as I can. My little girl told me when she was three that she wanted a “pink ‘puter”. She must have got a hold of someone at Apple, a few months later the fruity colored iMacs arrived. Both my children love the ‘puter these days, and I think they have more software than I do. The girl is now 4 and the boy is 3. Thanks for starting a company that makes great computers. Jeff D.

Woz

I’m glad to be a ‘collection point’ for all these lifetime computer stories like yours. I have to share a secret. My wife uses and lives on her computer but she really doesn’t like them either. I get to spend all the time it takes to make things work.

Life before Computers…

Comment from E-mail

Woz, Happy New Year!

I am writing in the name of a club of children aged 8-13 years, for whom the Computer is the preferred “toy”. They know a lot of the history of Apple and you are for them what Tom Swift was for you. They wrote about you an article (“The Great Kids of the Computers”) in their magazine named ” PC’s Ateliers”.

It’s really a honor for us to can write to you.

Woz

I am very delighted to see your note. It means as much to me to receive it as it could have meant to you to send it. Please tell the club that there is nothing more interesting than every aspect of computers. To me, growing up, the knowledge was very much like a toy to me, even though I had little hope of ever having a computer in my life. Sometimes I wish I were born later and could grow up with computers, but then I wouldn’t have been able to see how life was BEFORE computers.

About Steve Jobs

Comment from E-mail

What’s your opinion on how Steve Jobs ripped you off with the whole blockout game at Atari?

Woz

It’s a small thing in most regards. It hurt me because we were like best friends and I would have done it for free to help him out anyway.

Microsoft O.S.

Comment from E-mail

Much is made of the history behind apple hardware and Microsoft O.S.’s. Not much is told of the operating system behind the Apple II. Was there one? Was it just Basic?

Woz

There was a disk operating system when we came out with the floppy disk around 1978 or 1979. But the Apple ][ originally had only cassette tapes for storage. It was quite slow and there was no OS function other than to read a program in, which could then read it’s own data in.

The level of the original Apple ][ ‘Operating System’ was that each slot could be assigned a device, which could be communicated with via BASIC. Each slot had a fixed address block assigned. Within those addresses you could include a Driver program, stored in ROM on the card that went with each device. This was true plug and play, with no separate step for driver installations.

A user could switch the printout function to any slot (and the input fuction). By switching the printout to a card that controlled AC power, for example, you could then print commands to the card which it would obey. You could also print to a card that then did other things, like change BASIC languages or switch the display to a card that could handle more characters per line.

Apple IIGS

Comment from E-mail

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.

Woz

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.

PC ’76

Comment from E-mail

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 WozCam

Comment from E-mail

Hi Woz, I am a newbie to computers. I read an article in the Providence Journal about your speaking at Brown University. and decided to come visit your site. I couln’t get the Woz Cam to work and don’t know why. Could you help? Thank you, Carol

Woz

The WozCam software came from a company and it might need version 4 of Netscape or Internet Explorer to work fully. Otherwise, after you try to move the camera, you might have to click the Reload button.

If you’re on a modem, the live operation will be very hard.