Steve Woz: From wooden Apples to iPhone love
Computing the human equation
Interview Steve Wozniak loves computers. He really loves computers.
Apple's cofounder is currently using six in-car navigation systems, trying to decide which one plots the best route, and he carries as many as six cell phones. Each time one of his handsets is spotted in public, it generates fresh buzz among those desperate to find hidden meanings, to see how far Woz has strayed from the path of the sacred iPhone.
Wozniak's passion began early in life, when he stumbled onto his dad's engineering magazines and found a computer inside. And when we say computer, we mean computer in the old sense of the word - not some natty little device you can slide in the hip pocket of your Mad Men-inspired narrow-cut trousers. This computer couldn't even fit on a desk.
It was the early 1960s, when most computers came in one size - room-size - and you needed the spending power of a small government to buy one. The first digital computers – machines without any moving mechanical parts – were only beginning to appear.
Man and machine: Steve Woz and Apple II, at the Computer History Museum (photo: Gavin Clarke)
"I said 'Oh my God, this stuff is just so beautiful'," Woz told us during an interview at the opening of the Computer History Museum's exhibition Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing, remembering the machines in his dad's magazines. "[They showed] how a little learning and little tiny items add up and are put together to build more complicated things."
But Woz loves more than just the bits and bytes. He loves what computers can do for people. A pioneer in the early personal-computer revolution, he took those room-sized machines and shrunk them down to a reasonable size – and gave them a reasonable interface. He built the Apple I and II in 1976 and 1977 with an aim towards making computing accessible. It was time to shift computing power out of the hands of the rich and powerful elites, and put it at the fingertips of individuals who had relatively little money and few - if any - programming skills.
"I couldn't be prouder of anything more than that in my life," Woz says, looking back on the Apple I and II. "It was a big cornerstone in my life to be worried about the person at home having as good appliances as the military or the big business [who had] all the money."
Next page: Woz remembers
Say what you want about Woz....
..but whenever I read about him he re-infects me with the feeling of excitement I had over the 80's era of computing. That is missing, I think, as computer technology is generally in the hands of big firms. The people who look at alternative OS's running on custom hardware, (RiscOS and AmigaOS - if that is what you are called - I salute you and yours)
Sorry to be a pedant but....
"The first digital computers – machines without any moving mechanical parts"
...that is _not_ what digital means...
NEVER DISS THE WOZ!!!
Yes agree with all that...except Woz.
This is the man who paid for his local schools to have computers out his, obviously, very deep pockets.
This is the Woz who dropped out of Apple, very wealthy obviously, to persue a career as a school teacher to ensure kids got as much joy from tech as he did when he grew up.
This is the same Woz who when he found out that only he and certain upper level managers would get get Apple stock options, gave his own to his staff in the R&D dept at Apple because that dirtbag Jobs wouldn't cough up.
This is the same Woz that when he first met Jobs, took on a job to make an arcade game. Steve Jobs got $1000 from Atari but he told Woz that they were only getting $200 each, Jobs took the rest for himself. Jobs only told Woz about 15 years later when they were both multi-millionaires. ( If it had been me I'd have still lamped Jobs there and then! )
This is the same Woz that even when the Apple II was at it's multi-millions dollar sales mark, Woz would still be putting in all-nighters with his team to ensure the firmware and hardware were still working at peak efficiency.
Yes, Jobs, Ellison, Gates and Ballmer are all business men, pretending to be geek-chic, but Woz is the real deal and should never lumped in with the these spawn of Satan!