As the Apple II hits its 30th anniversary, one of its creators talks about what he'd hoped for it and the world.
Steve Wozniak is sometimes thought of as "the other Steve," the one
who isnt currently head of Apple Inc. and a media maven.
Wozniakor Wozstays mostly out of the public eye, working with his local
school districts and charitable institutions. He also is currently
executive vice president, chief technology officer and chief
visionary officer for Jazz Technologies Inc.
But Woz was the engineer who concocted elegant and minimal arrays of
chips and circuits and made the Apple I and Apple IImodern
testaments to simple designs behind powerful results. These two
machines headed the evolution of computing from massive to personal.
When asked if he had expected computing would be anything like it is
today, Woz answered, "Barely. Barely. Did we expect the Internet?
No. We knew that there would be data sent between computers, maybe
some kind of posting to bulletin boards. Music? No. Videos? No. Did
we expect digital cameras? No. There were a lot of things unknown
that people could dowe hoped we were giving them a universal
platform, a tool to implement."
Woz said that he saw the Apple II as a tool that, with the ability to
program, people could use to solve any problem.
Click here to read more about the Apple IIs impact since its inception 30 years ago.
"But at the start," he said, "there were no computers in the homewe had to make the word computer compatible with homes."
To do this,
Woz said, Apple included some software with the Apple II in order to
demonstrate how useful a computer could be in the home. Still, Woz
said, these were meant to inspire.
"We thought people might write what they needed," he said.
"In the Homebrew Computer Club [a local hobbyist club in the late
1970s], we envisioned people programming," Woz said. And that, he
said, was how he anticipated people using the Apple II.
"You could have any type of problemwant to keep track of your
checkbook, for example? You could write a program to do it," he said.
"At Apple," Woz added, "we saw that thered be commercial
applications." He added that Apple itself wrote some software to
include with the computers, in order to show off some of its
Still, Woz said, "the initial goal of the Apple II was to get people
to solve problems. But then people wrote so many good applications"
that many users didnt even think of programming, but purchased
"Its not 100 percent different from how we thought things would go
we thought that people would want to make some of their
applications but not all. The problem is that sometimes the
commercial applications are so complex, so confusing, because theyre
not how you would have made them," Woz said.
"People stopped becoming masters of their computers, but users," he
Woz said that one of the problems with commercial software is that
its overloaded. "It can be good or bad," he said, and the user has
no say. "If you use the program you make," he said, "youre the
master of yourselfyou use theirs, youre more of a slave to how
they do things."
"We wanted the Apple II to be a teaching device," Woz said, "a course
in how chips are put together to make a computer, how software is
made and works. Id grown up learning computers not from classes or
books but by seeing how other people did things."
He added, "I think [the Apple II] helped a lot of people fall in love
Still, Woz said, he didnt want to condemn those who dont, or cant,
program. He said he understands those who just want to, say, make
music using a commercial music application rather than taking the
time away from music in order to learn to programming.
When asked what is one of the most positive things hes seen come
about from the Apple IIs birth, Woz said, "I think of some of the
kids I met who started companies while still in schoolmaking
oscilloscopes, modems and so on. It happened in the hundreds or
thousands in the early days of the Apple IIall these people who,
like me, were excited by technology and could do it for almost
nothing with an Apple II."
Does he see anything like that today?
"Im seeing a resurgence in do-it-yourself," Woz said, pointing to
the subculture growing around MAKE magazine, a quarterly devoted to DIY projects.
"These things have no practical use, but these are the people who are
going to stumble on the next big thing someday," he said.
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