back to article Steve Woz: From wooden Apples to iPhone love

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 …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    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)

    1. Annihilator

      Check out

      The Big Bang Theory - Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification episode where he cameo's then :-)

      "I never got that turtleneck thing"

    2. The Fuzzy Wotnot

      Woz, the geek's geek!

      Unlike is oppo in the early days, Woz did it for the joy of tech, making a living "playing" with the toys he really wanted to play with. When you read his biography it makes want to run down to Maplin or RS and start making stuff!

    3. ColonelClaw
      Thumb Up

      Totally Agree

      His enthusiasm is infectious. Wish there were more people like him

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Give us a break

      Reading these vomit inducing articles about "Woz", "Bill", "Larry", etc. are just like viewing ads. I mean they always conclude with an endorsement of their products that happen to be currently on sale. What's between iPhones and say Androids? How are you "in a huge world right now" programming for one but not the other? It's horse bull, they just own masses of stock and have a knack for wooing Joe Public. The fact that they use their highly respectable history in doing so just lowers them in my eyes even further.

      1. Chad H.

        @ AC 13:54

        Woz has very little to do with Apple these days. Very bad blood with the other Steve.

      2. The Fuzzy Wotnot


        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!

  2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    The real reason for the ][s success... of course the killer app, VisiCalc.

    BTW, "brush" with PC-DOS? All IBM's own machines were shipped with it for many years - I think it's even still possible to buy PC-DOS 2000 from them.

  3. Tom 38

    <3 Woz

    That is all.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      I know <3 is supposed to be a heart, but if you look at it from another angle it looks like a penis. Especially if you do <===3

  4. Paul 172

    Sorry to be a pedant but....

    "The first digital computers – machines without any moving mechanical parts"

    ...that is _not_ what digital means...

    1. Frank Bough
      Jobs Halo


      ...though it seems like a moniker from a long lost age now, SOLID STATE is the term he was looking for.

    2. Michael C

      it does

      The original computers did work with digital information, but they used analog parts to do it. Determining bit paths and calculation steps was based on analog measurements of values. Digital computing used entirely 1/0 specific systems. it was either a 1 or 0, no gray area, no measuring voltage.

      1. Charles Manning

        Well they still do

        Digital electronics is just analogue electronics driven to clipping. That is a very important point often ignored by the less experienced electronic designer.

    3. DZ-Jay

      Re: Sorry to be a pedant but...

      You are absolutely right. The term the author should have used is "electronic computer," which imply non-mechanical parts.


  5. Anonymous Coward

    Sorry but being a brit

    I owe him sod all and the sinclair and acorn bods loads. It's the reality distortion field that makes me want to vomit.

    1. ThomH

      But Sinclair and Acorn took their cues from across the Atlantic

      It's not like the original home computers — things that plug into a TV with a built-in keyboard, usually built around a z80 or 6502, that boot into BASIC from ROM and are usually used with a TV for a monitor — sprung up near-simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic. The Sinclair MK14 came two years after the Altair 8800, the ZX80 two years after the Apple 2, both because the Cambridge lot knew roughly what was going on in America and sought to make the same sorts of product here.

    2. Blain Hamon

      Yes, but where do you think Sinclair and Acorn got their ideas from?

      Before the Apple I (1976) hobby systems were more like the Altair, where you manually programmed, literal byte by byte, using toggle switches and lights. After the Apple I? Keyboards and TV output. The Apple II (1977) was already shipping by the time Sinclair's MK14(1978) or ZX80(1980) and Acorn System 1 (1979) or Atom (1980)

  6. DarkwingDuck


    ...I'm pretty sure that sign says not to touch!

    1. Mike Moyle


      Well, let's face it -- it already has his fingerprints all over it, so what's a couple more?

  7. Andrew Hodgkinson

    Be enthusiastic

    If you're into tinkering with fun bits of kit, you could do worse than an ARM-based BeagleBoard XM. In addition to Linux, it runs RISC OS too thanks to the shared source effort RISC OS Open (of which I'm part).

    1. Hayden Clark Silver badge


      Not at £117 plus VAT and shipping!

  8. Dave Barnhart

    What I remember the most is

    What I remember most about the Apple II was The Red Book. In it was the assembly language programming of the Apple II's ROMS. I studied those pages for hours, marveling at how much functionality Woz was able to pack into so few bytes of code. The ROM in the floppy disk controller was all of just 256 BYTES of code. Utterly amazing. The man is a genius.

  9. Philippe

    What about Vista?

    if i grasped the message he was trying to convey, he wanted to do a lot of thing with the minimum of tools.

    This computer needed to be simple, usable and affordable by the masses.

    I wonder how he survived the launch of Microsoft Vista...

  10. Mike 16

    DRAM and 6502

    Tech-pedantry here.

    The decisions to use the 6502 (actually quite popular with Woz's contemporaries, if not so much with suits) and DRAM were not exactly independent. The 8080 had a more complex interface to memory than the 6502, so was harder (at a given CPU clock rate) to use with memory (such as DRAM) which had its own quirks. This is especially true when you add in the DMA for integrated graphics on the Apple ][ (The Apple I "terminal section" was just that, at about 600 baud)

    Going with the 6502 (itself cheaper) allowed going with DRAM (my recollection is 1/3 to 14 the price per bit) without taking the speed hit. And DRAM allowed more memory at the price point. It's a synergistic solution,

    Not that price, speed, or amount of memory are important anymore.

    1. ThomH

      But why not the z80?

      Launched in 1976, built specifically for DRAM (with a built-in refresh counter and external signals) but smart enough not to require a memory access every single cycle, unlike the 6502. Though the 6502 sort of predicts the RISC era by having a fast storage area (the zero page) for load/store and only very simple processing abilities (barely any registers, none general purpose, all 8bit arithmetic) such that it uses most of those memory accesses you have to compare the performance effects on low end designs, once the RAM is being shared between multiple components.

      The Electron used a 2Mhz 6502 with 2Mhz RAM. The video circuits have access to all of RAM. As a result, the 6502 spends most of its life underclocked at 1Mhz or ~600Khz, depending on the graphics mode. The BBC Micro used 4Mhz RAM and interleaved CPU and video accesses, but to achieve similar overall performance to the floating bus in the ZX Spectrum, that retailed at Electron prices.

      All academic, of course.

  11. Phil Hare 2

    Woz bio have an excellent bio of Woz.

  12. Bigbadbod

    Oh Dear...

    Just like to ask, are Iphones users really that excited because a white version is going to be released??

    1. ThomH

      Not really, no

      But people who will allow themselves to be seen only covered in white are quite excited that they'll soon be able to buy an iPhone.

  13. Mike 16

    RE: Why not the Z80?

    The Z80 was indeed quite "DRAM Friendly", and "Programmer friendly" as well. I spent most of my 30 year career on benchmarking at processor selection for embedded systems, and TANSTAAFL.

    The 6809 was probably the pinnacle of "programmer friendly" for the 8-bit generation, but nobody claimed it was a speed demon. Sometimes blowing off processor time for programmer time makes sense (as in today's desktop applications), especially if you are not paying for the processor (selling Shrink-wrap software). Sometimes (large volume deployment of cost or power critical embedded systems) not.

    Interleaving CPU and other (typically video) access _without_ using the convenient handles provided by the chip designer is a PITA, but it also avoids the dead cycles switching bus masters. If you are trying to minimize costs, you won't have a lot of buffering for the video, so you will need fairly frequent video access to memory, so transaction overhead starts to dominate. And if (like the Z80) your processor has a "marketer's dream clock" (where stated CPU clock is actually a multiple of memory clock speed), predicting when you can safely steal a memory cycle is complex. Often too complex to be worth it.

    What I was mainly saying was that the choice of 6502 and DRAM were not independent. A good design is synergistic, optimizing on many dimensions. Woz is good at that (just look at the GCR-based disk-controller that IMHO, _made_ the Apple ][ a viable tool for business)

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