Pirates of Silicon Valley

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.

Pirates of Silicon Valley

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Comment from E-mail

Hi Steve! I live in Sweden and I work at Ericsson company (do you recognize the Ericsson mobile phone?). I have read about you in articles and in the superb book "Hacker: Heroes Of The Computer Revolution" by Steven Levy. I have seen you in TV documentary too. I believe that you are an alive legend and thanks to people like you the computer revolution took place. A part the work I like to do own hardware design. Very simple design to control robots. I am fascinating about building robots. The most important thing when I start a own project is to have fun that's all. I never heard about the movie "Pirates of Silicon Valley". Was it shown on the TV? Can I find it on video? Do you have any suggestion on how I can find it?

Woz

It's an honor to get good email from someone in Sweeden. I'm very glad that you read and enjoyed "Hackers." It had a lot of true and meaningful stuff that disappeared as Wall Street took over the image of the personal computing revolution.

Send me your address and I'll get you a DVD or VHS tape of "Pirates of Silicon Valley." Unfortunately the VHS tapes are NTSC only and the DVD is U.S region code. I have friends that can make the conversion if you need, but it may take a while.

I am a huge fan of yours

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Comment from E-mail

Steve. I am a huge fan of yours. I think you are the most important person in computers. although the movie (pirates) is probably mostly full of you know what, it painted you in a great light, for you are the one who created the computer in the first place. I think the brain behind the sky is more important than the rain. I hope that you have inner fufillment always, i bet you do. I must admit, I do own windows, but that's only beause, as you know, it's cheaper, and I only use my puter for writing. I just wanted to say the US fest. in, I believe it was 83, was the best time I ever had in my life, and I want to thank you for that and for making the computer as well. I hope that you are doing well, and good luck to you. your brain is better than anything. james

Woz

Hey, I'm glad that you are glad for computers and I'm honored if I'm one of your symbols for having that, especially when you refer to such things as brains. It seems that I was the master engineer and programmer of the start of this revolution, not a businessman or salesman.

I'm especially glad for what you say about the US Festival. I hear that very often, yet you rarely hear of the US Festival in historic terms.

Jobs was a little nuts

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Comment from E-mail

I was watching the movie [Pirates of SIlicon Valley] yesterday (I'm in Canada so we rented at the video store) and got the impression that if you took more charge instead of Jobs, Apple would be in a much better position today. You looked like you were opposed to the infighting, and it looked like you thought Jobs was a little nuts at times. Do you agree?

Woz

I think that it's fair to say that we'd have run things quite differently. I'm more into patience and talking and not fighting or having conflicts. I don't like to step on other's toes or call them idiots. I prefer to work with them to get better results.

But I think that would have been disastrous for Apple. A better partnership between the two of us might have helped more.

Is it true that Bill Gates worked for Apple?

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Comment from E-mail

this is a dispute that a friend of mine is having did or did not Bill Gates work for Apple at one time. Was he an employee, my friend said that that was inaccurate in the movie and I am under the impresssion, why would the film want to stretch something that far out to say that he worked for Apple, if only to foreshadow that one day, indirectly Bill Gates would own a piece of Apple and subsequently, Jobs would be working for him?

Woz

I find this interpretation humorous. Bill Gates did not work directly for Apple. But we did work deals and commission software to be delivered by Microsoft for our computers. In that sense he worked for us, but not as a programmer, i assure you. It's funny to hear you say that Jobs now works for Bill. I'll have to remember that one!...Steve

How accurate was the movie?

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Comment from E-mail

How accurate was the movie when it showed the scene where you and Jobs were at a technology convention and when the doors opened and crowed flushed in, crowding yours and job's booth, which was displaying, Apple I, i believe?

Woz

It reminded me of the West Coast Computer Faire where we introduced the Apple ][. We had the best booth space of all, right as you came in. We also had a video projector, which was quite a feat in that year. Our product was the Apple ][. I did pull a rather large prank at this show, distributing thousands of brochures for a non-existant product called the "Zaltaire." But I don't have time to elaborate here...Steve

The ][c

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Question from E-mail

I just wanted to say, that really appreciate everything you have done over the years. My dad got me a IIc when they first shipped in 1984, and I used that wonderful little system until 95 when I upgraded to one of your Limited Edition "Woz" IIgs systems. but I chose to stick w/ the past & not only did I get a IIc+ later that year, but a rom 03 IIc.... Lately I have a custom built IBM system, but I still have my IIgs which has been greatly updated thanks to Alltech Electronics and several other companies.. And have helped a couple friends reawaken their old GS systems and bring them up to date as much as a IIgs can be updated. on to other subjects, I watched "Pirates of Silicon Valley" last night, and found it to be very reveiling about the past......and was wondering what you thought about everything that had happened.... ack....blasted server.....gotta go...lag is killing me..

Woz

 

I loved the ][c the most of all the Apple's.

All of the early Apple's had the laptop to typewriter size right in front of you. This is what I like. I broke with tradition for this 'look'. I have nice minitowers but I rarely use anything but a laptop, a PowerBook, as a computer. I just like it all in front of me, it's hard to explain why.

Memory Loss

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Comment from E-mail

Can you discuss the nature of the "memory loss" that you suffered?

Woz

This may be simplified but here it goes. When you see or hear or othewise sense something, it's held in your shortterm memory to be perceived. If you hold it in short term memory for a while (5 seconds? 10 seconds? 15 seconds?) it can somehow (unknown) make it to a long term, permanent, memory. The processing path for this formation is well suspected to be through the hippocampus because people who can't form long term memories, like myself for 5 weeks, often have identifiable lesions in this area of the brain. This is called atereor grada amnesio or some such thing ('forward' amnesia). It is quite common after car crashes and plane crashes and the like. Mine wasn't diagnosed by doctors, friends, family, psychologists, etc. After all, with all my old memories, I could go places and ride my motorcycle, etc. People just thought that I was weird because I said weird things. I couldn't tell you that I'd seen someone 10 minutes before (I'm presuming) but I had no way to know that this amnesia existed or that I had it during the 5 weeks. I couldn't have told Steve that I had memory problems, as in the movie.

It was real. I never got any memories from this period. I would never have gone 5 weeks with my dogs in a shelter, nor left a missing tooth be untreated for this period.

The 'backwards' amnesia with which we are most familiar is called retrograda amnesia, or something like that.

Really a Pirate Flag

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Comment from E-mail

I just have to ask you about the Pirate Flag that was in the movie. Was the flag real or was that something they added in the movie? If it was true, who's idea was it? While watching the movie, my only guess was that Apple raised the flag when Bill Gates met with Steve Jobs for a business meeting. On another note, you're a great man. Not too many people in the world as caring as you. If the part of your charactor was real in the movie (i.e. telling Steve Jobs to do the right thing, or you will give away some of your stock), I can only say that you DID THE RIGHT THING!! Right on! -Andy

 

Woz

Couldn't be the real flag. It did fly all the time. I gave away a lot of my stock to do the right thing, very rare but true. I didn't go into all this for the money.

Some thoughts about Steve Jobs

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Question from Mark B.

I was just browsing through your website and I just thought I'd offer my two cents and ask you a question regarding Pirates of Silicon Valley.

The main character in the movie seems to be Steve Jobs, described by the director in an interview as a complex Shakespearean character. While this maybe true, I found your character equally compelling, and ironically, an opposite in many respects to Steve Jobs in desires and ambitions. After reading your comments and seeing the movie, I came away with a greater sense of the history at Apple, and your your significant role, to create revolutionary rather than evolutionary products. It was interesting for me to see that, although computers can perform many of the same functions, Apple's early focus on creativity (both at Apple and in there users) remains as compelling today as it was back then. Kudos to you for defining the essence of Apple early on.

I guess, if I could ask one question: Why was Steve Jobs so cruel, especially with regards to his own child? The director eluded to his adoption and the search for his mother but no evidence for a link was ever given. Is this one of those things that only Steve Jobs knows the answer to? Did you ever get any insight to the source of this behavior? I have to believe this is beyond the simple desire to have people perform at 110% for 90 hrs/wk.

Thanks again for creating and defining a tool millions of people can use to learn, express, and communicate ideas.

Sincerely, Mark B.

Woz

First, you are accurately observant. I look back at the importance of making computers quite unlike any that had ever been done and can see how great that was. The Apple I was the first low cost computer to come with an alphanumeric keyboard standard. I just couldn't see the waste and effort to build some general techie product that needed a lot more junk to start typing. And until you type, nothing is worth much. I'd been through the other computer paradigm my whole life before. Also, our calculators at HP had meaningful (to humans) keyboards when turned on. I also made the Apple I display on the cheapest device possible, your own home TV. I also wrote the BASIC for it. I only left out floating point after thinking hard in order to have the first BASIC for a 6502 and maybe get a little fame in my club. The Apple ][ was the first to have BASIC in ROM, the first to have DRAMs, expandable hugely on the motherboard, the first to have so few chips, the first to be completely built, the first with a plastic case, the first with color graphics, the first with hi-res, the first with sound, the first with paddles for games, the first to include built-in casette interface, the first to have color and game commands in the BASIC, etc. It was the third ever to look like a typewriter (the Apple I was the first). I'm especially that I helped the concept of computers are for games develop so early.

Steve and I are very different. Mainly, I want to be an engineer and make neat things for my own fun, forever. I told Steve and Mike Markkula that I wouldn't expand Apple into a real company because I had to quit HP (I'd designed all the Apple stuff moonlighting for a year!). I loved HP. But I finally realized that I could do it and not have to run it. From the start, Steve wanted to run a company and learn the ways to. Otherwise, what was his contribution? He didn't design any of it.

Steve's management style has left a lot of bad impressions. I never saw it personally and it was different than I would have expected from knowing him. I don't think that he was ever cruel to his daughter, at least as far as the movie. He may have indirectly been cruel to the mother. Well, here's my take on that. All the people that lived in the Cupertino house with the two of them agreed that it was Steve's child for sure. I'm assuming he didn't like her idea to have the baby. But he wasn't in control. I think that's why he said "I don't know" about why he was being this way. He couldn't pinpoint the fact that he was being told by someone else what was going to happen. Does this make sense. It's my theory. Taking that into account, it's understandable. He had strong feelings to fight this baby thing and it came out the way it came out, maybe not exactly intentionally.

I don't get a lot of insight into Steve's behavior. A lot of it, or what infuences it, is more secret than in people like myself. But he always seems to be thinking well and just wanting to do things that make sense most of the time. Sometimes Steve doesn't listen fully but he tries to.