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Interview: Steve Wozniak Unbound 384

Posted by Roblimo
from the don't-hurt-your-back-bowing dept.
I personally consider Steve Wozniak the biggest "star" we've ever interviewed on Slashdot. I was s-o-o happy when he agreed to do this interview that you wouldn't believe it. Many excellent questions for him were submitted Monday. Click below to read answers to the 11 questions we felt best represented the hundreds y'all sent in.

1) LinuxPPC?
by UM_Maverick

What's your take on the use of LinuxPPC vs. the MacOS? Many people say that Mac hardware is (and always has been) better than x86, but it's been held back by the OS. Do you think that LinuxPPC can change that?

Woz:

Many of the hardware advantages that Apple has is due to it's being more tightly controlled by Apple and in it's being more tightly integrated with the software. That allows Apple to make hardware changes and decisions that are more reliable than in the Wintel world. This has nothing to do with Linux and everything to do with MacOS. The basic plumbing is superior to Intel hardware in some ways (firewire on the motherboard for example) and a bit lacking in others (3D rendering hardware) but the basic performance advantage goes to the RISC architecture of the PowerPC processor. Intel's response to this is that even if RISC is 40% faster, that only amounts to a few months lead, according to Moore's Law.

If you consider attractiveness and other external qualities, you can't find any hardware that comes close to Apple's. That's because even companies like Sony, that truly care about the user experience, can't do much about the internal hardware (buying it from Intel like every other manufacturer). Also, companies like Sony are in competition with many very cutrate prices in a commodity market. The internal hardware supplier can't do much about the external quality either.

LinuxPPC certainly has the capability of improving the hardware efficiency and preventing some very bad things from happening and allowing software to behave in more expectable ways. It's hard to say that a great deal of the buyers are much influenced by these things or we wouldn't have so much successful crap around. The Macintosh market would probably be prime and ready for LinuxPPC but it probably needs more ease of setup. Also, other UNIX variants (Like Mach Ten) are available already and only marginally used by Macintosh owners. The performance of MacOS X Server is already quite incredible, and the [largely] Open Source MacOS X Client is coming in the summer.

2) Open-source and free software questions
by papo

Do you think open-source and free software is really a revolution or only a hype? How do you think things will become in the software industry in the future with open-source variable inserted in their middle? And do you think this model could lead to a more competitive and less monopolistic market?

Woz:

I definitely think that open-source is a revolution and not hype. I could have chosen to say that it's both.

There have always been people that believed strongly in free software. They are mostly people that have developed something rather good and even sellable, but small and of limited market potential. I support these people. It's little known, but the schematics of the Apple I were actually handed out at the Homebrew Computer Club before we started Apple.

But there are so many large bucks available just to companies that get people using their software because software is like a portal. It's hard to have a clear advantage in getting software widely accepted just because it's free. That's because Microsoft can distribute a lot of good software, like browsers and email clients, for free, making money in less direct ways. The main attraction to open source software may not be it's advantages (price, functionality) but the fact that some people don't want to support the big successful proprietary companies. There's good reason for fear of monopoly stagnation too. Look at ATT. When I was in school there was only one phone in one color. You couldn't buy an answering machine or any of the neat phone stuff that abounds today. ATT was the only phone company and didn't want any change to their guaranteed business due to competition.

3)Ease of Use vs Level of Control
by _J_

Apple has long been noted for having the most (or among the most) user friendly stuff around. What do you think of the trade off between ease of use and level of control? Is there a trade off?

Woz:

In a lot of cases there is a trade off here. In the case of applications, Apple primarily appeals to a market that wants things made easy. That means hiding functionality and control. It bothers people like ourselves. But Apple could say that programmers have as much control as they want, but that certainly isn't true of its hardware. The rule is "keep out" and "don't do it unless you are an expert." You won't find much at all in the way that individual techies can design and use their own boards with a Macintosh, the sort of thing that I always wanted to do.

Then again, Apple is the leader (for decades) in providing user interfaces and hardware interfaces that are easy, like plug and play (and install and pray) yet which can do as much anyway. This is the hardest thing to do in software and hardware and only the greatest artists can do it. It takes a mind that keeps searching for a better way that's unknown, and not stopping at the first few working results.

4) Did/do average people need a computer?
by Otter

In the days of the Apple ][, did you believe the average American household needed a personal computer? I remember being told that computers could balance your checkbook, keep your schedule and store your recipes and wondering if that was a cost-effective solution for people, or just an expensive, if fascinating toy. It's my impression that it's only now with consumer Internet access that a home computer provides value for most people.

What do you think?

Woz:

Even as a toy, I believed that every home needed a computer. This was even though I thought the computer would remain expensive and small, sans Moore's law. Also I believed it before the first killer app, Visicalc. I believed that people would become programmers and not need companies as much. You can see how laughable that was.

Although I never talked to Steve Jobs directly on this issue, I never heard him predict outright some things that are very obvious today in the internet days. But he was more forward looking and interested in making computers palatable for people and finding ways that computers could help them, not as computers but as tools to balance checkbooks, etc. The Apple ][ was just a start in gaining acceptance for computers in the home.

In Junior High School I assumed that transistors were being developed so that people could use them in transistor radios. But my father, who worked at Lockheed, corrected my by saying that they, and the early chips, were designed only for the military, and the consumer market just fell out. This bothered me. I was a person after all. I wanted consumer products to drive the chip market. Around 1969, when I could design any minicomputer made, I knew that I wanted one for myself. I told my father that someday I'd buy a 4K Nova computer and he said that it cost as much as a small house (in those days). I said I'd live in an apartment then.

By the way, the Data General brochures that I ordered came with one of two posters. One showed a commercial looking rack mounted computer. But the other showed a Nova in a sculpted shape on a glass table. It made a huge impression on me that even commercial looking computers with dozens of techie switches and lights, could go into a home. At least one other person believed this, since Data General had the poster.

Well, when we had the Homebrew Computer Club, we all talked of this revolution in the sense that it was empowering people without the companies owning the computers. A lot of people were planning to buy an Altair kit computer but a few started designing ones. The designs were a mixture of surplus store hobbiest and putting microprocessor into the existing commercial looking boxes, doing the same things, expecting the same plug in boards to do anything useful. I was in a perfect position to conceive of the computer in a different way, a personal (not commercial) way. First, I believed only in designing products for the average person. That's the exact phrase I always used. it was hard to stick to this thinking when everyone else, in 1975, was going a different way. I thought out what I wanted to do with my own computer and went for it.

I had an advantage in being good at reducing chips. I could conceive of an entire finished usable computer and design it in few enough chips to be practical. My philosophy of fewer chips led me to dynamic RAMs when all the other hobby computers were going with static RAMs. It just took a bit more design work.

But the biggest advantage of all was that I worked in Hewlett Packard's calculator division. Our calculators were basically computers, yet they were totally human and usable by normal people. They didn't have binary switches to toggle and boot up procedures from a teletype. The had a small amount of code in ROMS (under 1K 10-bit words in the HP 35) and a human keyboard. The ROM program merely watched the keys and responded to whatever key was depressed. So it was quite obvious for me to think of the keyboard and some ROM as integral parts of the computer. From there it's easy to see it in normal people's hands, whereas all the other commercial looking machines had no chance except in the hands of techies.

5) What would an Apple II 2000 look like?
by Croaker

The Apple II was the original "geek dream machine." I mean, the Apple ][+ we got back in 1982 or so came with schematics! Talk about an open system!

Pretend that Apple (or some other company) came to you and asked you to design a PC that would "fill the shoes" of the Apple II line. What do you think you'd put in it?

From reading your website, I know you're pretty pro-Macintosh... is that the ultimate in what you'd want to see in a personal computer, or would you do some things differently? Where, do you think, that current PC's (not meaning just WinTel machines) reflect the philosophy of the Apple II, and what do you think they have missed?

Woz:

First, my thoughts on what a modern computer would be can't be superior to anyone else's. But, in the light of the Apple ][, I'd choose the best processor that I could in terms of package size, performance, integrated I/O, number of leads, etc. I'd prefer unseen advantages under the hood, like RISC architecture. I'd design a board with very few chips that did a lot. The display would clearly be VGA and only standard ports would make sense. This is different than with the Apple ][. But the computer would have very few chips and would have high level languages and low level debugging and coding support too. I would try to offer high level GUI ability in the high level language. The schematics and all the code would come with the machine and would be open source (unless someone like Steve Jobs convinced me to sell it). I would treat the most important aspect of this machine as it's being an example to others of ways to design and code. There are a lot of people that want to learn in this way, on their own. Sometimes it's their desire, sometimes they can't find other sources easily. I'd also try to write some articles with small examples for others to learn from.

6) Teaching the children
by tweek

Do you feel that operating systems such as Linux/*BSD are a viable option for teaching those children who have no previous experience with a computer? Certainly the cost factor would be a great motivation for choosing these over other operating systems. It seems to me that it is more difficult to train those who are set in one GUI than those who have no previous experience whatsoever. I really have an interest in this kind of community service and felt that someone like you with experience (and albeit alot more money ;) could provide some insight and advice.

Woz: I think that the greatest need of children is to use computers to help do their homework and to make it look good. They are basically using apps and not an OS.

I personally think that our schools should change and teach real computer science from 5th grade on. You don't need higher level math or calculus or biology to start learning logic design. In this regard, Linux or BSD or even other UNIX variants, or simpler microprocessor Operating Systems, would be required in order to have a greater understanding of the machine and it's innards.

7) the Steves
by Skyshadow

What advice can you give the new innovators? As someone who would like to start a company, I can't help but notice that most truly innovative companies tend to boom then bust, either fading slowly into obscurity or being assimilated by some larger company.

Do you have any ideas for avoiding this fate? Is the only alternative to make some money and become a predatory company yourself? Or, alternatively, is this the eventual unavoidable fate of all idea-driven companies (Netscape, SGI, Apple, etc)? Or, to sum up the question: Can an Apple ever defeat a Microsoft?

Woz:

Apple made too many marketing mistakes early on. These were hard to see because we were extremely successful anyway. But we really went from first to second in the early 80's. It wasn't to Microsoft, it was to IBM PC's (and all the clones). Only recently did the world find out that Microsoft was a sleeper and was really in first place. Software made the bigger difference in computers and was what really changed the world more than hardware.

As a computer supplier, Apple is still huge. Our recent model computers still have the greatest market share of any manufacturer. So we must be doing something right. Apple is the only manufacture that is still in control of its future and changing computers and advancing the world and leaving the past behind. Every other one is a slave to Intel and Microsoft and competitive prices that don't allow for much R&D. They are the ones that have been assimilated. I'd rather be Apple. I believe that Apple's turn around is just starting. But it's not a matter of 'defeating' Microsoft. It's only a matter of building the best stuff we can. If Microsoft creates such good things they should be successful too. But there's always the luck of the right approach, even though no successful company will admit it.

8) Have you played with the BeOS?
by RavinDave

Have you ever had a chance to play around with the Be operating system? Since its developers were part of the Apple culture, I thought I might find a blurb or two on your page. What sort of advice would you offer Gassee? Is the proprietary aspect an albatross (should they opensource the OS and concentrate on apps)? Are they trying to get into the game too late?

Woz:

I have one and always wanted to play with it but just don't have the time yet. I like interesting people that can make your work fun, and Jean Louis is like that. But he had the same proprietary thinking that almost all key Apple execs shared, including the avoidance of licensing the software. BeOS would need something very special to rise above the noise, with Linux and open-source being so popular.

9) A question
by jd

Once upon a time, garage developers were considered the mainstay of the computer industry. Later, either you or S. Jobs said that the days of garage developers was over, forever. Later still, the Open Source model rewoke the Garage Developer philosophy with a jolt.(Or a Mountain Dew, depending on taste.)

Today, do you feel that garage development still has a place in Computing? And, if so, would it be in software, hardware or both?

Woz:

There were a couple of factors that helped a garage startup succeed in the late 70's. Before that time, computers were physically quite large and expensive and were developed by large teams. Now computer projects, even games, are worth so much $ that they are developed by large teams. Around 1975 and 1975 there was a window in which a person or two could develop a good complete computer.

Also, in the early days the computers weren't really personal computers, they were hobby computer kits. You would typically build them yourself and had to operate them at the binary switch level. It was more like ham radio than today's computers. Many big computer companies predicted no future for this hobby market. That's because all their market research was among existing computer customers, those buying the big $M machines. Those customers had no need for a 4K machine that could only run BASIC. But the market research didn't touch on non-computer users like dentists and schoolteachers and kids. So they missed the boat. Apple tried to rise above the hobby type machine and approach homes with a 'personal' computer. Only then did analysts and computer companies start to see things in a different light.

Today, look how many successful startups there are. These often come from a couple of young people with good ideas and not a huge amount of money. I'm on the Board of one such company now. So it must be happening all over the place, just one step above a garage. It's hard to happen in the garage, because the Apple story is not forgotten. A lot of investors missed out and want to jump at anything having to do with computers that looks like it might succeed. So a couple of people like myself and Steve Jobs would be consumed very quickly today, unless we almost deliberately remained hidden or found a perfect investor like Mike Markkula.

Now that I think about it, we had to grow out of the garage to build more than a couple of hundred computers. So today, many that get funded for a startup really developed something in their homes, in their garages to speak, anyway.

10) Idealism today
by Ledge Kindred

You seem to be one of the most "purely" idealistic people in this industry. (i.e. RMS is idealistic in the sense he wants to push GNU, you are idealistic in that you just want to help kids get a leg up and generally be An All-Around Good Guy.)

Do you ever look at the industry and get depressed over what's it's become with companies with virtually no product and running deep in the red but who have "e-" or "dot-com" in their names pulling off ridiculously huge IPOs, companies patenting obviously unpatentable concepts and ideas apparently for the express purpose of suing the pants off of competitors instead of competing with the quality of their products, companies like Microsoft going beyond the boundaries of the law and way, way beyond the boundaries of ethical behaviour to get a step up on the competition, the industry lobbying government to pass laws that would create an entirely unregulated industry, including things like legislation that would legally disavow software companies of any responsibility for creating shoddy products that don't even do what the box says they will do, employees floating with a company just long enough to vest and then bailing out without a backwards glance so they can go to The Next Big IPO, etc, etc, etc.

What do you look at in this industry to remind yourself that computers and the computer industry can actually help make the world a better place?

Woz:

That's a lot of questions. I don't get depressed at all over anything. I do happen to think that companies that look like the big dot-coms of the future deserve their successful IPO's. I guess that they sort of sell out early to finance their guaranteed dominance. Investors take advantage of this too, knowing that the IPO financing will guarantee that these startups don't lose their early lead. Many see this as a situation where the great wealth being made is being lost somewhere else but I don't. I see it as truly new wealth that's being created due mainly to an accelerated economic system. Regardless, this wealth gets trickled down to all of us to some extent. Eventually, it all gets distributed. As the wealthy approach death, estate taxes will be due. Any large amounts of funds have to be transferred into foundations whose purpose is to distribute them to tax free organizations. Otherwise the government gets half the money. It's just the only efficient way to go. It's in the tax laws.

Some patents are for truly clever things but some are for simple things that every single person would think of if there was a need for it. Wealthy companies patent such things early, when these things are not yet viable, when they are too expensive to market. For example, I used a chip in the Apple ][ called a character generator to convert characters to dots that could be displayed on a CRT or TV. It turned out that RCA had patented it back when almost nobody could have afforded to put characters on a CRT. Such a simple concept does not help us respect the patent system.

I truly wish that companies would be liable to consumers for products that don't do what the consumer reasonably expected, or that don't include the sort of service that the consumers reasonable expected. I'd like more truth in advertising. I'd like speedy remedies for people that are injured. We need regulation in a lot of technological industries, including cellular phones. Not in order to keep prices low, but to assure that powerless people have recourse and can get things corrected. Most of all, companies should be required to give straight answers. Too many ISP's and phone companies and computer companies and software companies and hardware companies dodge helping in order to save costs. Only a few are very good, and they don't always remain that way. I'd much rather that another person be honest with me than that they sell me something at a good price. This industry will provide service as cheaply as possible due to competitive factors that can only be overcome by regulation.

11) The Future of Education
by moonboy

From what I've read, you are very involved with children and their education and technology seems to play a major role in the basis of that education. Personally, I think that next to being loved adaquately, education is the most important factor in a developing child's life. In America we seem to take education for granted and are very far behind other countries in regard to the quality of the education that our children receive. Technology in general and more specifically, computers and the Internet, are fantastic tools with a great potential for drastically improving education.

My question: How do you see education making better use of technology and technology making education better?

Woz:

Personal love is certainly the most important thing. To some extent, a teacher offers this, but only to each student 1/30 of the time. 30 computers could become like 30 teachers, but they have to become as personal as possible. They need realistic graphics like games have. They need realistic sounds. They should be voice operated, especially since very early elementary students can't type well. Every time a computer program gets more human-like, it attracts better student attention. But the software needs to be many times as deep as it is today in terms of a personality. It needs to be more like a real person, with many ways to present the same subject, backtracking intelligently, even to the far past, following a student through years of education. The programs should tell lots of jokes as well, and play occasional games too. Today the class presentation is fixed. Each student hears the same presentation in the same time frame. Then a test is given and the varable is the grade. But with 30 teachers, the presentation can be variable, with students going at different speeds in different courses. The student can pick their grade in advance, with the grade now being fixed.

It's too hard to predict that schools will disappear as rapidly as many stores and newspapers and other things of the physical world. Schools currently serve as a parking place for the kids during the day and, even when everything is available at home on the web, parents will still want their kids in a socially healthier environment during the day.

----------

Next week: Larry Augustin and Chris DiBona of VA Linux Systems. AND, at the same time, another,very special interview guest: Leon M. Lederman, Nobel Prize Winner, internationally known specialist in high energy physics and director emeritus of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois.

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Interview: Steve Wozniak Unbound

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I would not recommend this book highly. Clifford Stoll is unable to grasp the new methods of communication. He also overexaggerates situations. If he walks into a room with 20 people using the Internet, he will scream and kick and jump around the room (literally if you've ever seen him speak, he's a maniac) and go absolutely nuts insisting that these people are absorbed in the net and are completely ignoring the people right next to them. He forgets that once class is over, the kids go out to recess and play together and that in the next class they're making clay sculptures of something or other.

    He ignores people like me, people who spend hours online and spend most of the time keeping in very personal, very close, and daily contact with people I knew in high school who are scattered across the world now! He's one of the misguided morons that actually thinks that having a sack of meat and bones in front of you instead of communicating with them directly matters. The biggest hoot of all, and I mean this really kills me, is that he says that computers have no place in science or industry either (they replace people).... he's an astronomer! He couldn't do anything but get blinded by the sun without computers and computer-controlled telescopes and everything else!

    Cliff Stoll is one of the biggest living hippocrits alive, but he gets a lot of attention by doing somethnig people have been doing for centuries. They take common wisdom and, without reason, just scream "Its wrong". Think 100 years ago with most of the world christian when Nietzsche stands up and screams "God is dead!" as a joke (read Thus Spoke Zarathustra, it starts off as a nonsensical joke and evolves into an irrational argument) and turns it into something he can argue behind. Cliff Stoll is doing the same thing. Some would say its at least good that he makes us re-examine our conclusions. Wrong! We've already come to our conclusions! We're *WASTING*TIME* re-examining our conclusions.

    Its one of the big reasons this whole totalitarian socialist Open Source idea (totalitarian because they don't want you to have a choice, they want Open Sourceness to be mandatory, socialist because its community-oriented and no one gets compensated for their work) makes me mad. Its a waste of time. Its making us run through this whole confirmation-of-capitalism-and-freedom as opposed to 0-freedom-but-everything-is-(cost)-free thing we've done a hundred times throughout history. A waste of time.

    E.
    (I grew up in front of a computer. Spent 90% of my time there. I'm an Eagle rank Boy Scout. Cliff Stoll, choke on your contradictions)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You should know NEVER to shoot a computer indoors with a .38! That's the dumbest goddamn thing I ever heard of. What kind of an idiot would do that? Do you know how dangerous that was?! NEVER, EVER shoot a computer indoors with ANYTHING less than a .45 -- otherwise, you might only wound it, and a wounded computer in an enclosed space will immediately attack. There is NOTHING MORE DANGEROUS than a wounded computer. Treat it with respect and you'll live longer. If the first shot hadn't (fortunately) been fatal, in a split second that computer would have become the greatest threat to your life that you ever encountered. They are fast, cunning, and utterly vicious.

    Was it a Mac or a beige Intel box, by the way? Macs die more easily, but they're enormously more cunning. I've known Macs to play dead for hours, waiting for a chance to get at my throat. The G4's are the most dangerous of the bunch, but the G3's aren't far behind. The only Mac you can absolutely trust to stay dead is the Lisa.


  • by Anonymous Coward
    Has anyone noticed that Woz and Paul Allen, the two "second-string" guys who actually did all the work, are the ones who are out there making the world a better place while Bill and Steve fight over pissing rights?

    I never thought I'd be the one coming to BGates' defense, but... do you know how much money BG gave to charities last year? I read the other day that it was something like $16 BILLION! Sure his company may make crappy software, but I would say that he has done more for improving the world that we live in than, say, RMS, ESR, or any of the other idols of the /. "community". Dedicating your life to "freeing" software seems pretty ridiculous when there are people out there dying because they can't afford food or medicine. But, you gotta admire RMS, he is true to his ideals... even if they do only benefit those rich enough to afford a computer in the first place.

    I don't mean to downplay the significance of Woz's contributions at all. I think he is the most well-balanced, nice, and generally great person in the technical industry. The fact that he uses his money and influence to improve education and help the upcoming generations is the thing that I respect him for the most.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "....usually as little as five times a day, sometimes five times an hour." You're familiar with the Norton Utilities for Macintosh, right? And turning off the Extentions that you don't need? Rebuilding the desktop? Spring Cleaning 3.1?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Read it again, he's not an Open Source whacko, he's much more down to earth about it. He _likes_ the idea (and so do I) that Apple has total control of the hardward and software base, because Apple can steer the development of the computer. On the other hand, we in the Lin-tel world are stifled by competition, a lack of a single vision of the future, *No*Money*For*R&D*.... Open Source magnifies and amplifies these problems, it doesn't solve any of them. Just because he thought schematics with a computer years and years ago doesn't mean he's an Open Source advocate.

    I like the Woz, don't try to anthropromorphize him into some Linux Nazi when he very clearly would like to see LinuxPPC go away and have MacOS retain center stage.

    E.
    And I agree with the man, he's a great guy and I'd like to have a beer with him, unlike most of you guys who would just go into convulsions when faced with reality.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ahh.. developmental psychology. What Woz is suggesting is not delving children into a world full of dangers and pitfalls (which the internet is) but leveraging them up to a point where they do not view a computer with suspicion. Using computers on a regular basis and having knowledge of computers is currently considered a geeky endeavor, and people who participate in those activities are many times abused (see the insightful series of Hellmouth articles). What Woz is saying about computers is indeed viable, and even necessary, to compete in the world of the future. Let children get exposed to the outdoors by regular field trips, and then have them take a test on a computer built into their desk at school. Teachers ARE NOT necessary in a GRADE SCHOOL environment. At that level of learning, all that is being taught is the very basics, and the best way to teach that is without prejudice or bias, which only computers are capable of doing. At the college level and above, it becomes a different story since you need opinion and bias to properly teach the material. But no secondary school system NEEDS children being taught by biased, irrational, and oftentimes angry teachers. Computers are the future in that end, but it will not be accepted easily. Exposure to real life and wilderness is no fault of computers, it is the fault of a poor educational system which does not provide a large enough budget to its districts to let them do anything creative, or lazy administrators or teachers who do not want to go through the trouble of exposing children to the outdoors. I was a boy scout for several years, have seen Yellowstone, Glacier, been to alaska, seen brown, black, and even a polar bear, I own a siberian wolf mix and have plenty of exposure to the outdoors, yet I am majoring in computer science /and/ spend much of my life on the computer.

    In addition, the future mobility of computer systems will allow them to be used with ease in the outdoors. Imagine a system resembling the popular anime 'Pokemon' with the 'Pokedex' being able to be used on actual creatures in the outdoors. That would be wonderful.

    Chason Chaffin University of Houston
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "It's nice to read from someone who doesn't complain, doesn't blame people for anything -- he just says what he'd like to happen, where folks fell short, and how we can step up to the plate. "

    That's because he's a capitalist. Its the only way you can be honest like that. If you do something Open Source and screw up, your work is based on someone elses, so theres an instant collapsible ladder of guilt. In capitalism, IN steve's view of the real world, you are responsible for what you do. You own it. You choose to share it or sell it or whatever you wish. You take responsibility. That's why he thinks companies shoudl stand behind their products - not because he wants someone to listen to his complaints, but beacuse he wants those companies to find out how beneficial it is to stand behind a product and grow with it. Every problem you fix is a hint towards what was wrong with your first product and a tip on how to improve it. Not like in Open Source where if someone tells you they hate your program for X, you simply accuse them of working at Microsoft or say it was implemented by someone else.

    E.
  • With respect, I found the Stoll book completely without point, a monotonous drone about how computers are bad. He says that sitting in front of a computer is bad, and that people should be out caving or knitting. But I have met more people online than whilst knitting, and I regard social intercorse as much more important than being outside. (Admittedly I prefer socialising in beer gardens, but that's just a personal thing...) Stoll continually put forth the idea that the computer somehow caused the poor behaviour of people. In the example you give, where people loved writing email to foreigners but didn't talk to the 11 physically present in the school, he makes us think that this is somehow the computer's fault. I do not believe for one moment that if you took the computers away, that those 11 students would be any less lonely. The problem had nothing to do with computers; Stoll continually presents arguments as though they are the fault of the computer, when in fact they are just a scapegoat for the things he sees are wrong with the world. His email addiction is a case in point. It is not the computer's fault that he felt the need to check his email on vacation.
  • I cannot believe what a cool person Steve Wozniak is. From the first time I heard the story of him figuring out how to build the first Apple when everybody else thought it was impossible he's been my hardware hacker god. Between him, John Carmack, and various kernel hackers I know, it's a wonder I have any self-esteem left when I look at my own stuff. :)
  • I, too, learned on a crappy computer (Commodore VIC-20, then Commodore 64). I even made crappy hardware to plug into its crappy little expansion port. That was an experience.

    The closest I can get to that experience today is Linux. And the free BSD's, of course. You can go down to the kernel level and see exactly what's happening, and even write your own device drivers if desired.

    If I had kids, I wouldn't think twice about plunking a bare Linux box on their desk and saying "have at it".

    _E

  • This is Woz, not Jobs, we're talking to.

    While I believe Woz has some influence at Apple still, it's nowhere near that of Jobs. We'll be VERY lucky to see the non-BSD layers. Even if Woz is fanatically committed to Open-Source, I don't think he has enough influence in the current Apple (esp. with Jobs solidifying his dictator-for-life power) to make the changes you propose.
  • ...but [the G4] has more instructions [than] some CISC chips!

    This is only an incredible observation if you subscribe to the philosophy that RISC means "A reduced set of instructions". That's one view. I'm told that, in contrast, the original designers of the Power architecture interpret the RISC philosophy as "A set of reduced instructions". It's a subtle difference, but it means that the G4 doesn't necessarily stray from the RISC philosophy, since the size of the set wasn't what they reduced, but rather each instruction. At least that's what my prof taught me. YMMV.

  • Hey man, don't put yourself down. All of the people you mention are mere mortals also, and although their accomplishments may be great, there is nothing to say that, given a different situation (say, your own), they might not have accomplished what they did, or that if your situation were different (say, you had the same opportunities and experiences they did), you wouldn't have accomplished what they did.

    Not to put anyone on your list down, but I don't think idolization of anybody is particularly healthy, beneficial, or even justified.

    Just remember -

    If you compare yourself with others, you will become vain or bitter, for there will always be those greater and lesser than yourself.
  • Open source software works as those who have the ablity to fix bugs are permitted to do so and either fork off a project or get the fix into the original. And they, and anyone else, can apply a patch or download a new version to get things fixed on thier system in a hurry.

    Hardware open source isn't quite the x86 situation. There is competition to fill 'open spec' slots (MCA may be great, but IBM just plain blew it by hoarding the specs, etc.) So what happens is many companies make boards to fill those slots (or systems to fill boxes, whatever)... some use top of the line parts and take time to design right. Others go cheap and throw anything handy together. People are cheap, quality can be inexpensive, but is rarely cheap. Result: A lot of junk gets used and good hardware doesn't sell as well.

    Can open source hardware be done? Almost certainly. A person/group(company?) would have to set out a license (insert BSDish vs GPLish flames here, I prefer BSDish, myself fwiw) for it and stick to it. Then hardware hackers would have to be able to see specs and schematics (and protocols and all the software/drivers would need to be open source as well, of course) -- and those who could 'scratch itches' would be able to at least see problems and suggest solutions back, or implement them if they had sufficient capability on hand.

    What would happen? The first versions of anything are crude. Anyone running an early '90s linux version? For production? No, of course not. But the 2000 versions are rather solid. The first open-sourced hardware would likely be annoying and buggy as hell. ("This may cause severe problems - we are NOT responsible for burned out hardware, downtime, fires... this is VERY 'alpha' hardware. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK [a handy fire extinguisher is a Good Idea!]") But a few cycles later... it'll be solid.

    The real question then becomes, will the open source hardware development cycle be fast enough to keep pace with the lastest and greatest closed source, eventually? Will the costs be low enough to make it workable? Software can be copied easily, I can give you a copy of something and not lose anything but a my time. If I give you a copy of my boards, I'm out a few boards.

    If anyone is doing this, or will be starting, Good Luck. Maybe you'll be interviewed here in a few years...
  • Thanks for the great interview. It's really inspiring to see somebody who started this industry still care deeply about where it may end up.

    The comment about unix/bsd/linux style "real" comp sci education at an early age is quite interesting. I think some kind of technological literacy will be necessary in the future, but really, how much of this will be hardware, and how much software, and how much telecom-related? The world is only going to get more networked.

    In anycase, I'd like to advocate for the software portion being taught with free tools. I think it makes a lot more sense. I've long worked on GPL'd tools for the free software community, and can honestly say that the things I miss the first time from reading open sources are invaribly pointed out to me by others. It's easier to understand complex systems when you are able to look at all the little bits, even the obscure ones.

  • Few computer programs are in mission-critical roles, like the brakes on a car, but people still need to be able to trust labels. If it says 'x', it should provide 'x', not 'x if y' or 'x maybe'.

    As a realtime embedded guy I worked with would say, ``shows how much you know.''

    Take, for instance, the MC68HC11. This microcontroller was designed for automobile manufacturers. The HC12 was designed because motorola didn't want to lose out on antilock brake system controls.

    Every Dodge/Chrysler car has a Motorola MC68HC16 in it that does all sorts of stuff. Microcontrollers run much of the mission-critical stuff you see around you. But if you work with microcontroller guys (and gals) you'll find that they strain their brains for every concievable way that something can go wrong... if you think systems programmers for a typical PC os or even for high-end server systems are anal retentive you've never met a good embedded microcontroller programmer.

  • I would appreciate an interview with somebody with a differing view of technology but Cliff Stoll is not that. He has turned distinctly anti-technology in recent years to the point of near-fanaticism. I'm all for controlling technology and using it, not letting it use us, but I'm not going to ditch my computer and go grow apples as I've heard Mr. Stoll say we all should.
  • It is a very rare school that has both the resources and the strong leadership needed for excellence, and often that's despite, not because of, the district-level leadership. Suburban schools fare better because their higher pay means less turnover and adds the ability to "cream skim" the inner city and rural school districts, (e.g., in Houston ISD, half the teachers seemed to have applications on file in Forest Park ISD or other suburban districts, and Houston ISD actually pays quite well compared to most urban school districts). Even there, mediocrity is the norm -- I did my student teaching in some of the best public schools out there, and they were good despite of, not because of, their leadership. There were individually a lot of good teachers, but they rarely had the books, material, and administrative support that they needed to do their job to the utmost (which requires challenging students -- which means discipline problems, which means the administration coming down on the teacher for "being too hard on the kids). Not to mention that the whole system is based on quantity, not quality -- teachers are expected to be on their feet for six hours straight and be as effective at the end of that time as they were at the beginning. It doesn't work that way -- teaching (the right way as vs. 'here's a worksheet, fill it out', anyhow) is exhausting work, and without lengthy rest breaks between classes, you can practically see the teachers drooping at the end of the day.

    The wonder is that most students come out of this system with an adequate, if mediocre, education (even our best and brightest don't get the level of education that the best and brightest in other countries get). The sadness, however, is that it could be so much better -- if we properly focused priorities and organized schools for quality rather than as babysitting academies tied to the bus schedule.

    Obligatory story:

    A very good assistant principal was promoted to the principalship after the former principal retired. This guy was GOOD. He did not tolerate nonsense, but he had the patience of Job and great ideas for how to better our school, ideas that made sense (as vs. "fad of the day"). Anyhow, he decided that it'd be great if we could extend the school day in order to give both students and teachers more of a break between classes.

    No could do. The Transportation Director blew a fuse. "You'll mess up all my bus routes!". At the end of the year, this great principal was demoted to 6th grade teacher for the crime of "rocking the boat" on this as well as on other issues (such as, his willingness to discipline kids whose parents were influential in the community).

    That's what we're up against, folks!

    -E

  • Fun games after school are generally in mixed-age groups. Even organized sports generally are mixed-age and based on ability -- e.g., a very good 12 year old soccer player may be playing on the "14 and under" team rather than on the "12 and under" team.

    I have a certificate to teach Mathematics in the state of Louisiana, but even without that, if it came down to a choice of home schooling and sending my kid to the schools as they exist today, I know which choice I would make. Today's schools are utterly strapped by misplaced priorities, high turnover, and lack of ability to properly discipline children due to all the lawsuits that have been filed against schools that effectively discipline their students. Unfortunately, for most people home schooling is not a viable choice -- it requires altogether too much labor on the part of parents required to be in the labor force in order to make ends meet.

    -E

  • Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" novels had a Galactic Empire like that, where nobody knew how the stuff worked anymore, "it just works" was their response if asked WHY it worked. As a result, they did stupid things like forward hoax virus warnings and run cute executables from people they didn't know :-). Just kidding on the last, but you get the picture. Dr. A. was commenting upon the fallacy that "children don't need to learn the nuts and bolts of technology, they just need to know how to use it."

    I think Woz's point was that children DO need to learn something about the internals of computers -- not just how to be a user of black boxes, but someone who knows what's inside the box. Maybe not in excrutiating detail, but enough to know WHY you don't want to run cute executables from people you don't know.

    Of course, I suspect people will heed Woz's warnings about as much as they heeded Doctor A's warnings -- i.e., not much at all. -E

  • If a kid's going to play Quake rather than go out in the schoolyard and see what a fight really feels like, he's going to grow up with misconcieved and possibly fatal preconceptions of just how fragile human existence really is. And what about all of those "educational" programs that show little kids outdoors, exploring these cartoon worlds.

    I, for one, would have much preferred it if Quake had been around when I was eight years old so my classmates could have had something better to take their eight- and nine-year-old angst out on besides me. But I guess that's just me.

    And, most important, anyone who sits in front of a computer for hours at a time knows that they are the most ergonomically incorect devices this side of a guillotine. My back, wrists, and eyes are all damaged on a continual basis from these unnaturaly devices. Do we want our kids growing up with bad posture and carpal tunnel syndrome? School desks and video game consoles at hmoe are bad enough - do we want them to think that bad posture and continuous back pain is the norm?

    One wonders what millennia we live in when a computer is blamed for the incompetence of its user. Computers have never been ergonomically incorrect devices. Find yourself suitable desk and working environment and stop blaming Microsoft for your pain; for once it isn't their fault.

  • I totally agree; and as computers tend to become more like `closed box', limited capability appliances, not only is the urge to experiment and tinker taken away, but so is the means; at least with most vehicles, one can get a manual, pop the hood, and see what does what and how. (iirc, though, even cars are tending to become a lot less easy to tinker around with..)

    I'd like to hope the geeks of tomorrow are intrigued and curious by our present-day non-appliance computers, intrigued and curious enough to find out what they can do with them today, and dream of what they can do in the future..I also hope that dream isn't just a more powerful toaster.

    Peace!
  • I remember using Warp 3 in 1995. I downloaded a shitload of software for Warp to take the place of the stuff on my DOS partition (My aim was to cease depending on the WinOS/2 system and free up some disk space).

    OS/2 had a "feature" that would allow you to shut down your system with apps open and it would open them again next time you started up. Not the same as resume on a laptop, but similar. This feature was set "on" by default.

    There were a couple of programs that gave me all sorts of grief when combined with the restart feature. I would start up an app and it would either freeze the PC or crash it. Then the OS would restart along with the dodgy app and I would be stuck in a loop.

    I spent hours trying to figure out how to stop it and it ended up something like editing an obscure text file in a special text mode of OS/2. Poos.
  • My iMac has never actually crashed, but both IE and Netscape have hung on me more than once. The only app to shoot itself in the foot was Outlook Express probably because of a large attachment. Since I started using a PII 450 with WinNT at work I've never had a crash or hang. Due to company security policy I have to shut down the machine every night - which isn't really an issue because I'm not using it when I'm not at work.
  • Actually, I apologize. This was meant to be a reply to the post "Just some thoughts ... [slashdot.org]"
  • What influence does Wozniak have over whether the carbon UI or any other Apple proprietary stuff is Open Sourced? Apple isn't his company and he isn't even an employee of Apple. He may still be a stock holder but that doesn't entitle him to run the company as he sees fit, if he would even support Open Source in that manner. Steve basically said that the allure of Open Source software in his eyes was the ability to not support the big players.

    Maybe Apple will Open Source the UI, but I doubt it very much, I don't see how they'd be a viable company if they gave away everything and the stock holders would thus react rather violently.

    I think a better opportunity would be for Apple to make QuickTime available under Linux even if its via the LGPL (they don't own the Codecs which are the merit of QuickTime, they're owned by Sorensen, the parts which Apple does own, which is basically the file format which surrounds the data is as far as I know publically available)
  • you're neglecting a large part of what teachers do in a classroom - facilitating social interaction.

    If the focus of relationships in the classroom ever disappeared to boxes on the desk, there might be an interesting struggle that might develop among our youth. Kids might be too young to express "the good old days when we got together and played games." Physical education, which may be considered as an advanced form of social interaction, in such a culture might be too intimidating and as an option.

    Computers are great learning tools, but are no replacement for a good education from teachers and peers.
  • But the software needs to be many times as deep as it is today in terms of a personality. It needs to be more like a real person, with many ways to present the same subject, backtracking intelligently, even to the far past, following a student through years of education. The programs should tell lots of jokes as well, and play occasional games too.
    Or, in short, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer [amazon.com]
  • This may seem a bit out of context as this is an e-mail response I sent off to a co-worker who thinks that computer games are detrimental to his children's future...

    OK, I admit I was being a little... brash in saying that Woz agreed with me, but I still stand by my earlier conviction..

    Now I agree that all video-games are not necessarily beneficial, but I think in general, games are created by geeks, people who think in a structured technical manner, and I think the games reflect that. Many computer games force people to think in a very logical fashion to solve the puzzles, or just to win. Computer games are difficult to win (that's why they're fun) and the majority of them aren't won through sheer quickness (although it helps often) but by problem-solving strategies.

    I'm sure if you were to go back in time and ask my mother her opinion 10 years ago about computer games, I'm sure she would agree with you, and she might be thick-headed enough to think so now as well, but she's wrong. The first many years of my computer use were dominated by games. I didn't start becoming interested in the technical issues until much later, and it was my love of games that dominated that drive. I learned to program so I could write my own games. It's only once I realized how difficult game programming is that I gave up on that dream. But my point is that there was a very long period of time when it looked like I was wasting (VAST quantities of) time on games for no gain, but it got me where I am today.

    My very first lesson in C was when I tried to contribute code to a MUD (an online RPG) that I played until 5AM every day (driving my mother crazy, and convincing her I needed a bedtime at 16...) My second lesson in C came when I became the maintainer of another multi-player game at my high-school. This might seem like an isolated case, but every single one of my friends who was a game-addict has also moved on to more technical matters. Just like the couch-potato is motivated to throw the football around with his buddies after watching a football game on TV, so computer-game players tend to start mucking around with their computers.

    I'm not foolish enough to believe that everyone will be helped by computer-game interaction, but I think it has a more subversive and less noticeable affect than most people think.

    Maybe I'm just bitter because all my parent's parenting efforts and society's educational efforts were misguided, and playing computer games was the best thing that ever happened to me.

  • I agree. I've pondered how to successfully implement computer use in schools and the best that I've thought of is to simply concentrate computer use under the supervision of teachers who are knowledgeable. For most schools, this would mean having a "using computers" class of some sort that would teach skills usable in many classes (such as word processing, searching the internet for information, basic information about how computers work, etc.)

    Such "using computers" classes would be an improvement, but they're not even close to the full potential that computers in the classroom offer. Nonetheless, I think that they're as good as we're going to get until the national computer literacy level rises a great deal...

    ... which touches on another subject: kids who can't read and write aren't going to be able to learn much about computers. Many public schools have bigger problems than lack of computers, and like you said, throwing computers at the problem isn't going to do any good.

    Perhaps computers could be used to interest children in learning to read and write? Are special education teachers flexible enough to use computers as teaching tools well?

  • What more can be said?
  • by Skip666Kent (4128)
    Every other one is a slave to Intel and Microsoft and competitive prices that don't allow for much R&D.

    Not R&D in terms of computer architecture, true, but R&D is alive and well in terms of software and peripheral hardware. Look at the revolution 3dfx started.

  • > In America we seem to take education for
    > granted and are very far behind other countries
    > in regard to the quality of the education that
    > our children receive.

    The emperor wears no data. It's amazing to me that no one else has commented on this part of the question. There have been no assessments of quality of education which have ranked U.S. schools as "far behind" other countries, much less "very far behind". This is just false.

    The only assessments which have ranked U.S. schools near the bottom are ones that have suffered from systemic errors, such as uncontrolled sample sets.

    The failure of our schools is a matter of faith these days. It seems no one is interested in looking at data.
  • Woz, you're the greatest, thanks. Thanks especially for the Apple II, the first computer I actually got to touch. I had been coding on paper for 4 years (since I was 10) before meeting my first computer in high school.

    I'd also like to thank Jobs for convincing you to box it up and sell it, because I came from a poor family and wouldn't have touched one for several more years if I'd had to buy all of the parts and assemble it from the schematics. It was good to have it encased in plastic and therefore palatable to public schools.

    Best Wishes, and thanks again.
  • I never thought I'd be the one coming to BGates' defense, but... do you know how much money BG gave to charities last year? I read the other day that it was something like $16 BILLION!

    I can smell the tax benefits from here :-)

    Sure his company may make crappy software, but I would say that he has done more for improving the world that we live in than, say, RMS, ESR, or any of the other idols of the /. "community"

    If they or I had that kinda money, I'd probably do the same. Point is, they/I don't have that much (although maybe they could give more to charity, but I'm not accusing them or anything. OTOH, I have no money, so the point is moot).

    Woz
    gzw@home.com
  • The MacOS is definitely not more stable than Windows NT (even though Apple has the proprietary hardware advantage, which helps), and as far as OS basics, it's way way behind (no real multitasking, goofy memory management, etc.) I'm a big fan of the MacOS, but let's view the company realistically.

    Apple would likely have been much worse than MS had they become the monopoly OS. Doesn't anyone remember the FSF boycott of Apple products? There was a real reason for that.

    The real question is: had Apple won, could Linux have even gotten started? An open and ubiquitous hardware spec was one of the most important aspects of early Linux. Look at how Apple was 10 years ago, not how they are today (when they're starting to slowly embrace open source).

    Given their total control over both the software and hardware, and their eagerness towards lawsuits back then, I could easily imagine them crushing Linux back in '92 by setting the lawyers on them (like BSD).

  • by DLG (14172)
    I appreciated hearing from one of my early day heroes. I own an Apple ][+ and one of the great things about it was that the ROM's were listed in the manual as where the schematics. It let me understand what a computer is, back when I was 11 years old. Further the fact that it included 2 flavors of basic (I had a language card (16k!!!)) and the monitor(programming environment for writing code to memory with hex) and the miniassembler which actually let me use mnemonics, all in the inital box, was great. When the first Macintosh came out, I was very unhappy to see that the schematics were in a 50 dollar book, and there was NO programming language. While I do love the Mac, I have always felt that the difficulty programming it for the begining coder is prohibitive. Where Microsoft gave us Visual Basic, It took years to match that kind of easy novice development system. Microsoft Basic infact was the first language I bought for the Mac. It has always been my feeling that an OS provider had a responsibility to see that there were development tools available to get the greatest application library, and from the Apple][+ with 10000+ programs to the Mac which for a long time had one app in any given category, It is clear how long it has taken for the Mac to really gain market parity.

    I do not think that Steve Wozniak has to prove his comittment to hobbyist computing and programming. I think his efforts there made alot of programmers out of kids in the 80's. Whether he has the power to influence modern apple towards his early and it seems current philosophies, he is a real hero in my book and he doesn't need to do a damned thing.

  • Maybe the Linux/m68k for Mac [linux-m68k.org] people have been living in a parallel universe or something, because Apple has shown itself highly uncooperative with people trying to port Linux to their hardware.

    I find their experience highly inconsistent with Apple's recent lip service to open source. So which is it?
  • I agree with the main thrust of your argument completely, but I differ on the specifics.

    I see the disinterest among teachers in computers as the ultimate result of a time in which bright young men were expected to be doctors, lawyers, or engineers, and bright young women were expected to be teachers, nurses, or housewives. The feminization of the teaching profession led to an environment where teachers (predominantly female, though I don't at all mean to indicate a personal gender bias) saw their profession as being in a sense, "seperate, but equal" from technology.

    That view is changing, even among the "old guard" in the teachning profession. But the attitude of most of the people I talk to in this position is one of reluctance, bordering on dismay: they know they should learn how to use computers, possibly even that they must, but they fear and delay the process. Even worse, this situation leaves our schools open to school staff and faculty with "dangerously small" amounts of knowledge, more interested in personal glory than providing technology solutions that work for schools. (Fact: I personally know of a district who's technology director singlehandedly raised the local tax rate by requiring a T3 and two Cisco 7500s. For a high school. Not even a very big one, at that.)

    (My credentials, not that you asked: two family members working in the public school system, two years as a systems administrator for an ISP providing access to several districts and private schools.)

  • Really? I'm a little surprised by that point of view. Given the amount of T.V. watching that most kids have done by the age of 10, I'd think that an hour or so in front of the computer would be inconsequential in comparison.

    On the other hand, I certainly haven't actually studied the matter at all, so. Several large grains of salt.
  • There seems to be a distinct lack of the usual flame sessions that have become synonymous with Slashdot in this interviews responses. It's like a visit from the cool uncle who all the kids love, with all the siblings and cousins curtailing their usual ugly, bratty fighting as a result of the laid back, fun-loving attitude he brings to every situation. When's Uncle Woz gonna come back for another visit Rob? Huh? Huh?
  • This isn't so much a problem with teachers but with a lot of adults as well. My parents for example. They are afraid of computers. They both come from blue collar backgrounds where computers are something that steal your job, not a tool to increase your productivity. They go through the day blaming computers for why things dont work like they used to. A computer to them is something that sits at an insurance company or bank. It's evil. It's heartless.

    Of course this isn't true (My father is figuring it out qucker than my mom now that they own a computer). My mom's biggest complaint is that she thinks the computer makes her feel stupid, it's absurd to us, but it's how she feels.

    Worse yet schools dont exactly have quick turnaround. In high school I had the same english teacher as my father did. Same coach in PE. Same Economics teacher. Same Spanish teacher. The dean of students was my mom's history teacher. There were many more teachers that taught my parents that were still there, but I didn't have.

    Eventaully these people will retire and the next generation of teachers will come in, more saavy in the ways of technology. Hopefully by the time I have kids :-)

    -Rich
  • *raises hand*

    I cant put into words how exciting it was to first learn how to print my name on the screen or write a program to ask the user his or her name. Or to draw a low res picture of a house or a rocket. This was earth shaking stuff to a 9 year old in 1982. Thanks Woz.

    -Rich
  • For a while, I believed that increasing teacher salaries would only attract more lousy teachers to the job, assholes who were only in it for the money. A couple of my worst teachers in HS were people who didn't give a rat's ass about teaching, but who fell into a teaching job for one reason or another. I did have a number of good teachers, however, that I felt should be rewarded, so I found myself rather conflicted on the matter. Once I got out into the real world, however, I met a number of people (and came to suspect that there were many more who felt the same way) who would have loved to teach if the pay wasn't so much lower than their other options. I now believe that there are a lot of people out there who would be great teachers, if only they thought they could earn a reasonable living that way.
  • I recently read an article about living in Silicon Valley. The article focused on people with non-tech jobs, such as service jobs and teachers. Housing is so scarce and expen$ive that the Silicon Valley school district is considering a plan to build "project housing" for teachers. Their teachers cannot afford to live in the area, so the school district would offer housing as a job benefit.

    What if the school district put that housing money into their teacher salaries? I don't know what the "solution" is. This are some crazy times and Silicon Valley is a surreal place sometimes..

  • God, I thought the guy who responded to my other message was fucking ignorant, now I discover he has a twin.

    You're too fucking stupid to read, so I'll break it down into easy little concepts.

    Teaching = Simple Repetetive Work + Hard Human Interaction

    The simple, repetetive stuff, like showing for the hundredth time how to do a simple math problem, can be automated. That's why we have textbooks, to save a teacher from having to write this out every time, for every student.

    Having a system which could do this dynamically, adjusting the course work to fit each student, and having infinite patience and the ability to show many different ways of tackling a problem, would free a teacher from having to do this. That would let teachers do the stuff they don't currently have time for, like helping kids with social development.


    A question. Why do you launch into personal attacks like "your education (assuming you had any)" when you disagree with someone? If nothing else, it proves my point, that teachers are so busy with other things that they can't instill any manners, or interpersonal skills in people like you.
  • You know, this proves that some moderators just don't get it.

    I get massively flamed, by someone who has his caps-lock key shoved so far up his asshole it affects his ability to read my post, which would inform him that I'm not saying anything like what he thinks I'm saying.

    And he gets a +1 interesting.

    For what? He didn't have a properly formed sentence in his post, let alone any coherently expressed ideas.

    Then I reply, tell him to piss off and stop flaming, and coherently and rationally explain why I said what I did and how it isn't what he thought.

    And I get -1 flamebait.

    Ummmm

    Hello!?!

    The ranting, all-capslock people get the negative moderation, for they add nothing to the board.

    I'm not even complaining about my moderation as much as the fact that his juvenile flamebait and venom was deemed worthy of a +1 at the same time as I got a -1. That's just clueless!

  • I personally think computers can replace teachers, for 95% of the teaching that teachers currently do. It's that last %5, where a teacher can take a difficult problem and break it down in different ways, until they find one the student can understand.

    I see schools of the future having most people working on the computer, with a few teachers wandering around giving support, and helping with the problems that need human assistance.

    Class sizes probably don't need to change. 30 kids aren't too many to handle, if you're not run ragged trying to teach them at the same time. This would free teachers up to do more social teaching, hopefully preventing the uglier aspects of school that all of us remember.

  • I think that most of the slow, difficult kids you mention are going to be in special classes. The type of teaching software I'm talking about would be for average kids, not the geniuses with the hard questions, or for the slow ones who can't tie their shoes.

    A lot of courses are pretty simple, they just consist of learning a new concept and practicing with it, like math, or memorization, like social studies.

    A lot of this can be done on a computer, Where in the * is Carmen Sandiego is a good incentive for a bored student to pay attention to what would otherwise be dull facts.

    And this isn't to say that the computer would do everything, just the fairly simple stuff, like presenting a hypertext encyclopedia article, being able to explain difficult terms, offering background if the student requests it, etc.

    Students would still write essays, which would still be read and graded by the teacher. The teacher would still help kids when they had a problem beyond the scope of the program.

    The idea is to save the teachers enough time that they can work on the hard questions, and deal with the difficult students, without getting ulcers from the stress, or growing to hate teaching. Removing the repetetive work seems the best way to do this. Let the students work without the teacher until they have a problem that can't be answered without the teacher.
  • As a realtime embedded guy I worked with would say, ``shows how much you know.''


    I assume you're saying that much software is mission-critical.

    Sure. I'll accept that. I said 'few', meaning relatively few. Even most of the people I know who write code for embedded systems don't do it for anything terribly important. I mean, what's the worst failure in a cd player, or a VCR, etc.

    I don't know what you think you're proving, with the detailed message, and the chip #s, and all. I didn't say there weren't critical systems, just that there were 'few' of them.

    And, next time, could you be more polite about it. You could have said "In my experience... which contradicts what you said" instead of "..shows what you know", especially because I don't think you showed that I was wrong, just that 'few' means different things to both of us.
  • If the only way he can parody anything is with the caps-lock key and insane, insulting rants, then he's not doing anything very intellectual.

    Intelligent parody might be worth something, assholes with drunken rants, are not. It was done to death by 'comics' in the late 80s and it wasn't funny or witty then, a cut-rate parody by a moron on /. is worth even less. If his main contribution to discussions is to flame anything that moves, then he should just shut the fuck up.

    Please /. people, implement /ignore, that way we can get rid of people like that.


    (OT:

    Since the IP of ACs is logged, as is the account of people who use the 'post anonymously' feature, a way to ignore certain ACs would be nice. The software wouldn't have to actually let us know the IP or account, it could just ban the freaking retards, like Hot Grits boy, and your favorite mr. Caps Lock with the not-so-witty rants.}
  • MacOS is fairly stable for low-end usage. I only lock it up when I try to do more than one thing at a time. For an office worker, or a casual user, both it an Win9x are probably about the same.

    I'd still want an open OS even if it wasn't MS I was getting away from. Apple's "Users are too dumb to need to see X" where 'X' was most things, attitude pissed me off. I'd have been looking for a replacement even sooner than with Dos/Win3.1 (which is the era I got into Linux in) because the Mac is even more restrictive.

    An open OS is also a learning tool. You can view it as the same black-box, running a bunch of black-boxes, or you can look at the source and attempt to understand it. An open OS is *always* preferable to a closed OS, all else being equal.
  • I'm not sure I follow, Gates dosn't make that much as pure salary for being CEO, instaid is "net worth" is all tied up in microsoft.

    As far as I can tell the majority of the billions of dolars he does get out of the system ends up going to charity, so in a sense, nearly all of his "income".

    Or, to look at it another way, gates most certanly did *not* make billions of dolars of money in salary this year, and he gave away billions of his money. I don't know many people who give out 1000x there own income to charity.

    This is not to say that I like bill gates in anyway, just that your post dosn't make much sense.

    "Suble Mind control? why do html buttons say submit?",
  • I had a Franklin Ace 1000 when i was growing up. It was an apple IIe clone, which my grandfather replaced with an IBM XT so he gave it to us. It had a command line, and a basic interpreter and not much else. I learned how to use the command line to launch my videogames, then how to manage files, use the word processor and spreadsheet and database. Then i learned how to program in BASIC so i could write an adventure game, then 6502 machine language so i could put sounds and fast animation into my programs.
    The point is that children, if they are curious and determined, can overcome a command line in just a week or so. GUI's primary function is to provide support for legacy wetware (stpuid adults...) I remember my Franklin Ace 1000 fondly, and infact i still keep it running. I remember the day i took it apart and using the schematic and some knowledge of the console device, wired "open apple" and "closed apple" keys onto it so i could boot and use UCSD P-System and run my old Pascal compiler.
    I think it would do kids a service if there were an operating system and computer available today to provide a simple, efficient, open, and functional platform, with an optional GUI (for the old people and the mindless television-degraded children).
  • A lot of people i know went off right after high school and took out thousands of dollars in loans to go off to college, and now they are back flipping burgers, or driving cabs, or whatever else. On the other hand some of them went of to school and got good interresting jobs, doing what they are good at and making decent money.
    I stayed in town, didn't go to college, and got a decent job programming, working with a small team of people i like, and i have a much higher quality of life than i have ever had before. I think the real wisdom is to set kids free. I grew up with minimal supervision, and i explored what i was interrested in all by myself. My parents didn't try to stop me from spending 10+hours a day programming/tinkering, so now i made a marketable skill out of what was just a hobby then. My parents also didn't stop me from running around with the wrong crowd, being a punk, or any of that. They said that if i needed help from them i should ask, but they trusted my judgement. I think that the more people pamper their kids, and the more they push them, the less they learn to think for themselves, and therefore the less fit they are to be anything but preprogrammed mindless consumers once they leave the nest.
  • I think if i ever have a kid i'll get him/her a simple computer that can be taken apart, put together, programmed, and expermemented with as easily as my old franklin. Maybe i'll be that one and same old franklin (i still have it, and it still works...)
    I'll design and build a machine to spec if needed...
  • "While I don't think computers will ever replace
    flesh and blood teachers, (A computer can't be as passionate about a subject as a real teacher, but it can be an excellent tool to reinforce teaching.) I do think that his support of computers in education is A Good Thing (tm)."

    While its possibly true that a computer may not be able to eventually emulate passion, and hence replace passionate teachers. There are such a small portion of teachers that are passionate about there subject -(1/100 or fewer I would guess?), that the other 99/100 could be replaced without much difficulty.

    The future role for teachers (10-20 years? I'm optomistic ) will likely be

    1) education in subjects where teachers excel, and computers suck, namely in social interaction and group communication. Areas that are largely ignored formally in schools, but generally have the greatest impact on success in life. (For almost any definition of success...)

    2) tutoring, counseling of special needs students. Roughly ten to fifteen percent (more I think, don't have the statistic on hand...) of students have handicaps which substantially impact learning ability. These range from learning disabilities (Dyslexia, Dyscalcia, Attention Defficit), genetic and developmental problems (Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE is the widely spread, but lesser known cousin of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) is the most common, as well as many others...), the emotionally handicapped (EH) and abused. There are also the common physical disabilities.

    3) There is also the role that the WOZ mentions, that of glorified babysitter. The major changes that will be effected here are- substantial increase in the student teacher ratio- currently 20-30/1 will likely change to 200/1 or perhaps even as high as 400/1 with computers. (Think freshman college courses at major University's). There will also probably be a substantial reduction in administrative overhead.

    4) There will probably be an increase in the use of teachers for special tutoring- athletic, academic, and artistic.

    That's it for my predictions

    LetterRip
  • I've been using the Mac since it first came out. It is relatively stable as compared to Windows (i.e. the OS iteself very rarely crashes). It seems like the larger the marketshare of a platform, the more unstable the user experience is. Sometimes it's due to corporate arrogance (like at Microsoft), but more often it's due to a larger number of low quality developers attracted to the platform for all of the wrong reasons.

    The Mac was never intended for the hobbist. It was intended to be used by a someone who is relatively computer illiterate. Even still, I enjoy programming it and find that it's the best choice for me for other productivity.

    Linux is a very inviting system for the hobbist, so I think that the Mac's popularity would not have had too much of an impact on Linux, except perhaps on hardware. Windows, however, probably never would have existed if the Mac had dominated the PC. OS/2 also probably would have had a better shot of living. (Hard to picture MS and IBM developing OS/2 as their last, best hope.)

    -Jennifer
  • I don't know if it's the memory "padding" done by MacOS 9 or if the apps I run (including some of my own) are more polite, but the only time I've fully locked up my G3 is running the Netscape Client Customization Kit. That an app can crash the entire OS is unacceptable... but if I had the equivalent of "uptime" on my Mac, I'd have gone about 10 days of Netscape, Unreal, Q3 Demo, BBEdit, NiftyTelnet, et cetera since last I booted, which was, IIRC, to add a second video card and display. Interpret that as you will, but uptime on my Macs and my BSD and Linux boxen (which, granted, serve a few more SSI pages and CGI's than the Macs ;) is about equal.

  • I just picked up a book by Cliff Stoll (Known for the cracker non-fiction whodonnit Cuckoos Egg) in which he argues that Computers DO NOT belong in schools...I'd recommend this book highly.
    The book is Silicon Snake Oil [fatbrain.com], and I second the recommendation. I recently caught part of a radio interview with him on NPR's The Connection where he was discussing the same themes.

    His point is basically that while computers are nice, "real life" can and should be even nicer, but that we are losing track of those real life pleasures. He may be a little too hard on the electronic beasties, but it's a refreshing and necessary antidote to e-hype.

    For many (perhaps most) of us technophiles who become deeply involved with computers, there comes a time when we realize - as a friend of mine put it - that a real flower is infinitely more interesting than the best hi-res JPEG image of a flower. We have to find the balance where using computers and the net is enhancing, rather than replacing, our life experience.

    As for computers in the classroom, they have their place there. But they should be though more of as replacing textbooks than replacing teachers.

  • Yeah, I am also a computer geek (I posted the parent comment to which you responded), but I will be the first to advocate serious restraint in adding technology to schools. For now, at least.

    Reasons include the technophobia of the teachers that other have mentioned. Plus the undeniable fact that the typical "if we through enough money at them, the sudents will get smarter on their own" approach is utter unadulterated bullshit.
    The point is to teach the students to THINK, not to just blindly turn to the computer as the Source Of All Knowledge. Spending thousands of dollars on new computers won't do a damn thing by itself. Concentrating their schooling in computers at an early age can easily have this effect if we aren't careful.
  • I had a similar experience with Apple ][ BASIC, 6502 assembler, etc. I think the key benefit was that it was possible for a 12-year-old to understand a whole computer, down to the machine language level, to know where everything was in memory and how the whole system fit together. The screen was just an area of memory, you could twiddle with bytes in the hex monitor (or in BASIC) and see the dots change. When I was about 14 I wrote a 70-column character generator in assembler, and assembled it by hand into hex codes. Nothing could have given me a clearer sense of how the machine worked. I don't think programming in Visual Basic could give someone that sensation. In my professional life as a programmer, I meet many programmers who waste time on ridiculous ideas, and are unable to optimize their code, because they lack this fundamental understanding of how computers work.

    When the Mac first came out, I loved the GUI, but it was a shock and a disappointment to realize that there was no straightforward way to explore the internals. At the same time, the internals were a lot more complicated; the early Mac programming manual was something like 10 volumes.

    I'm wondering whether 12-year-olds today are learning Linux internals, or if that's just too much to ask of even a very smart 12-year-old. If not, maybe Apple should start manufacturing the Apple ][ again, so that young people can learn low-level programming on a manageable scale.
    --

  • Well, Woz wouldn't have known about the new Apple site stuff unless he was briefed on the MacWorld Expo keynote (not impossible, but still pretty improbable). Here's his reaction to the speech (from the San Francisco Examiner [examiner.com]):


    Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was spotted walking over to the exhibit hall after the speech. "I cried," said Wozniak, in reaction to Jobs' decision. "It felt just like the old days, with Steve making announcements that shook my world."


    Asked if he saw himself returning to the fold in Apple's Cupertino headquarters, Wozniak said, "Well, not really. But who knows?"


    Whether or not he's referring to OS X or to the new site stuff is unclear. It should be noted that the reviews and cards sections are largely available for everybody; only the tools and certain customization sections of the cards require the Mac OS, unlike (for example) Intel's WebOutfitter service for P-IIIs, which requires both a P-III and Windows 98.

  • I don't like the fact that the hardware is closed, but Woz does have a very valid point that Apple is more free to innovate with hardware than the PC world.

    Be aware that this sounds very similar to the MS argument that they should control the protocols on the network, so they are free to inovate and control things for us. What the PC lacks is not a single, focused mini-monoply (like Apple), what the PC lacks are standards (like the Internet).

    The RFCs of the Internet provide a complete specification for something. It's completely optional, but it's in a corporation's best interest to support it -- other companies have. USB was a standard (like the FTP protocol RFC), so it was shoved into every chipset (Irix has Ftpd, OpenBSD has FTPd, Linux has FTPd, etc). Once the dominant OSes began to support it (lots of FTPds running with interesting files), then the devices (FTP client applications) appear as is by magic, and are free to compete on their own merits. (Alright, RFCs are not standards, but it fits my example very well)

    Field of Dreams [imdb.com] told us, "if you build it, they will come." The Internet taught me, "if it is a standard, and it has a reference implementation, it will thrive." So -- you want easy GUI on PC side? Make a cheap GUI that works mostly, and it will thrive. Design a simple printer that can be hooked to one of the ports, and you will have desktop publishing. Make a simple reference browser (Mosaic), and everyone will licence it or make another one. If you want cheap 3D, make a simple 3D board that has some important support for standards (OpenGL), etc.. And if you want a cheap Unix work-alike, write a mini-kernel that kinda supports things, posts it as 0.01, and make sure people can muck with it :-)
    ---
  • It was available (until the cloning fiasco) in a $30 manual. Later, they made most of the early Mac stuff available too in the same form.
  • They did, up until the point the complexity of the machine made them useless to anyone without $20,000 in specialized equipment. I got schematics with my Apple IIe, and I was able to request them for the IIc I have.
  • I noticed that Woz referred to RISC designs as an advantage for the Mac..I would have too, if not for the ARStechnica article about RISC/CISC...which makes me believe that we are in a post RISC/CISC era. The G4 has a RISC history, but it has more instructions that some CISC chips! And I'm a Mac user to boot..

    http://arstechnica.com/cpu/4q99/risc-cisc/rvc-1.ht ml
    Risc vs Cisc [arstechnica.com]
  • My wife is a 3rd grade teacher and this very subject frustrates her every day. She had 3 years of schooling as a Mechanical Engineer at a very good engineering school before changing her major to teaching. She also has me (a computer scientist) as a husband. She goes to work each day and is an instant technical Guru.

    MANY teachers are afraid to use computers. Even the ones who realize that children really need to learn about computers, and that computers won't replace teachers are afraid. They are afraid of the technology and of looking 'dumb' in front of their students. Several times now my wife has had to demonstrate to teachers how much easier a word processor is to a typewriter. She has saved several teachers dozens of hours by showing them that they don't really have to re-type their 15 page report on an old typewriter for every revision and proof reading.

    It is very sad to say, but too many (I'm not saying all) but too many teachers are not intelligent or ambitious people. They are afriad of learning new ideas. They are the people who get C's in high school math and science.

    Just "loving to work with children" like many teachers do, is not enough in my book. I want teachers who want to learn, expand their minds, and share that knowledge with their students. Unfortunately our current system does not provide the funds to attract these types of people and they are instead snatched up by big companies and universities.

    Just as a disclaimer, I do realize that there are some VERY EXCELLENT teachers out there. I know several of them personally. I just wish there were more.

  • Those were the days. The younger demographic won't remember drooling over Apple ]['s or hanging out with Users Groups with their home made heath kits or the magic of the BBS age which really only lasted about a decade. Or coding in BASIC or Apple Pascal. I was lucky -- my father worked at a university and I got to play with the mainframes and get some of that culture as well. My first GUI was actually a Sun box with X and the first "real" computer (Outside a TI 99/4A my parents got me for Christmas, 83, for $50 at K-Mart since the power supplies had a distressing tendency to catch on fire) was a UNIX box.

    This all may explain why I despise Microsoft. Their software design is still catching up to what we were using back then. DEC introduced their 16 bit PDP 11 in 1970. These days we're still having to do 16 bit thunking in our MS Software, while DEC's had a full 64 bit archetecture for years.

  • I want to know how he manages this bit, a true skill.
  • It was booting, working, running QuickTime and some other apps. They locked some programmers in a room with a Quadra at one end and a Dell 486 at the other. It worked. Apple's head of hardware started to get nervous about how he was going to sell computers if there was cheaper competition running the same OS. They either killed it and then MS hired the head programmer, or MS hired the head programmer and then they killed it(can't remember).

    Source:Jim Carlton's Apple history book. Boy, that's a downer. He published it right before Apple's current change of fortunes...

  • It's good to see someone as Woz interviewed here on Slashdot. And it was even better to read his answers, because it's very rare to see such depth in these days. Everything is relevant - but some point are really precious.

    First of all, it's clear that Woz really believes in Open Source. But I found it strange because his answer on Open Source wasn't so enthusiastic as I thought it would be. Seems that Open Source is so natural to hime that he misses some things. For instance, at several points he does mention the value of information for research. It's related to his beliefs about teaching and personal computing. And this is one of the main advantages of the Open Source approach. So it seems that Open Source for him is much more important that even he realizes - up to the point of saying that his Apple ][ 2000 would be completeley documented, hardware and software.

    Also it was funny to see his line about designing computers for the average person - he took himself as an example. Steve Wozniak is not an 'average person' - he's way up above the mark - yet somehow he does know what it takes to make something usable for the masses. Ideas that we take for granted - for instance personal computers with keyboards - were perfectly clear for him yet nobody else seemed to catch at that time.

    In the end, it was a very good article. It shows that you can have your ideology, live it, and not have an inflated ego as a result. Woz humbleness should ashame some self proclaimed Open Source stars (thansk god he's not the only one...)

  • by Eric Green (627) on Friday January 07, 2000 @10:26AM (#1394657) Homepage
    My biggest frustration, when I was teaching, was that the administration plopped those computers into my classroom, but gave me no support in figuring out how to USE the bloody things as instructional devices. Yeah, there were math games and drills on the things -- but they were totally unrelated to the curriculum that the state department of education required me to teach (the curriculum that would be on the exit exam that the students were required to pass in order to get their high school diploma).

    And I have a degree in Computer Science.

    Yes, computers are not being used properly in the schools. But it's not always the teacher's fault. If the software is not related to the curriculum that teachers are required to teach, or if there's no instructional materials for teachers to know what software relates to what topics in the state curriculum, what are teachers supposed to do? Most teachers eventually, on their own, figure out something to do with the computers, but without leadership it's being done on an inconsistent and haphazard basis.

    -E

  • by Jerky McNaughty (1391) on Friday January 07, 2000 @09:49AM (#1394658)
    I started using a computer at home in around first grade. It was a TRS-80 my dad brought home from the office. You could just flip it on and it was instantly working, ready for your BASIC programs to be written. Shortly later, we got a C-64 which was even better. All I ever did was fool with this things, and I had a great time. I credit those machines with my career today at the age of 23.

    I loved to figure out how the operating systems on those machines worked. I read all of the low level stuff I could get my hands on. I learned assembly language around fourth or fifth grade. I remember writing programs on graph paper in class, hand assembling them to opcodes and running home to type them in. It was fun.

    Now, computers are everywhere. Few families don't have them. But look what they do with them. Surfing the web and playing games, that's about it. I feel _sorry_ for kids these days who don't have the advantages I had of what now seems like a crappy computer. I learned logic and programming skills from those original computers and they sparked my interest. If I were a kid today and had a Wintel box, I don't know if it would have inspired me the way those machines did so long ago.
  • by Herbmaster (1486) on Friday January 07, 2000 @01:07PM (#1394659)

    Kids have forgotten the value of a library because they can just browse the internet.

    And I think that's beautiful. A library represents everything which is proprietary and wrong with the information distribution of the world. A library is a closed system where people with cards can get books which have been selected by the few to be available to the many. And the books in publication are those which have been published by those with the relatively rare capacity to publish a book. This is a self-preserving system which has no interest in bringing new, challenging ideas into the system.

    The internet has no such structure. Anyone can publish anything, and be heard without the approval of a third party who has no business interfering in the affairs of readers. This directly supports people with challenging or unpopular ideas, because they can be heard, too, in this medium. Not to mention the technical benefits of the internet over a library: access from any point at any time, powerful searching technology, the practicality of information being updated in a timely fashion, and the existance of a forum for discussion and disagreement about the content. It's far more difficult to access a library from Guam at 2:00am. It's far more difficult to find a book with a [computerized] card catalog than it is to use Google [google.com]. Making comments in the margins of a book if you disagree with the author is usually frowned upon, and the opportunity for an interactive discussion is nil.

  • by seppy (2431) on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:36AM (#1394660)
    I just picked up a book by Cliff Stoll (Known for the cracker non-fiction whodonnit Cuckoos Egg) in which he argues that Computers DO NOT belong in schools in that they are sold as the quick and easy way to a great education, where they only serve as a distraction from the ultimate purpose of educating. A good read, and I'd recommed it to all techies as a viewpoint not often considered. I wish I had it on Monday and would have thought to pose this question to Woz, as it would be interesting to know if he'd heard the arguments involved, considered them, and how he would insure that technology does aid in education and not become a distraction...

    One noted example from the book is a school district where the students loved emailing people from foreign countries, while 11 students who were going to the school district from different countries were completely ignored.

    I'd recommend this book highly.

    .02
    Brian Seppanen
    seppanen@bresnanlink.n.et
  • by Shoeboy (16224) on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:57AM (#1394661) Homepage
    You fool!
    When we built The Woz as part of 'Project Ubergeek', we did it right. Underneath his caring exterior is a pure rubidium exoskeleton encasing the most advanced robotics that the US army has ever developed. He can take a direct hit from a nuclear warhead and still keep teaching and designing boards. He cannot and will not be stopped until we have achieved our agenda of...
    Hang on, I seem to have forgotten why we did this...
    It'll come to me eventually...
    --Shoeboy
  • by Forkenhoppen (16574) on Friday January 07, 2000 @01:11PM (#1394662)
    Hmm.. but the problem isn't that the teachers need to be trained. The problem is that we need teachers who are as enthusiastic about learning with their computers as the kids are.

    Right now, training is the last thing that I'd want to give a teacher who has to teach kids about computers. Whenever someone's just taught something, they tend to teach it to other people the same way it was taught to them. ie; you use the same crutches (memory mneumonics, etc.) that your teacher used.

    The students, on the other hand, will be more interested in endless experimentation. You'll have kids messing around in the control panel, trying to figure out how to change the colors.. you'll have others messing with the command line options on command line programs.. These are the sorts of things that kids like to do when learning something like this. And it's also the way they learn best.

    So what happens when you've got a bunch of teachers, who were trained one way trying to teach a bunch of kids, who are inclined to try to learn another way? A disaster. The kids will tend to have a difficult time paying attention; they'll wander around, trying out everything in sight. What's this do? How about this? Ooo, this is neat..

    It's not long before the teacher loses it.

    See, training and learning are two totally different things; training is whenever you force a crutch on the student to help them speed up the learning process, at the cost of them being less intuitive with the material. Learning is whenever you attempt to fully understand the material, ("zen") at the expense of time.

    That's not to say that training is bad; I'm just saying that by training the students, you're forcing them to use the same crutches that their teachers use.

    Problem is, the teacher's crutches may seem especially stupid to a kid. The recycle bin in the upper left-hand corner of the screen? Why? Let's move that recycle bin to the lower right-hand corner. It's still a recycle bin, still does the same thing. But lookie, it goes here now. And if I move this over here, and this over here.. yes, now everything's perfectly organized!

    What happens, though, if the teacher was using "third icon from the top left" as their mneumonic for where the recycle bin is? This is the crux of the problem, you see. The teacher was using this crutch, and the student just pulled it out from under them. Two things can happen at this point; (a) teacher berates the student for doing something they're not supposed to, because they're not using the same crutch that they are, or (b) the teacher recognizes that this is another learning opportunity, and goes with the flow.

    All the teachers I've ever had, who've just gotten off of computer training, are of the (a) variety. It's very rare that you'll see one of the (b) variety. The problem is that in order for the teacher to be this openminded, they have to be able to give time to each and every one of their students. And with class sizes what they are nowadays, one on one interaction with students is definitely not high on the list of priorities for teachers.

    So I guess it all comes down to this; books and teachers versus teachers and computers. Which is better? I'd say there is no better. The problem we face is the learning curve of the computer. It's a lot like the learning curve for interacting with other people; it takes a long time to figure it all out, and the rules don't always carry over from one entity to another.

    You see, we could dump the requirement of using a computer onto a parent---but that's not right, because using a computer requires the use of the alphabet. But use of the alphabet is taught in school, so that has to be taught first... The problem is a chicken/egg problem, because if the child knew how to use a computer, then the task of teaching with a computer is greatly simplified.

    So should the school or the parent teach the child how to use a computer? That's what I think's the real question we need to be asking.


    James
  • by WNight (23683) on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:41AM (#1394663) Homepage
    Woz's take on schools is interesting. In the wake of Katz's HellMouth stories it seems like most people on /. probably assume schools are going the way of the dinosaur, it's interesting to see a different view.

    If computers ever get to the point where you can learn 95% of your schoolwork from one, not just the rote work, but the creative, and the whys behind things, then it'll make schools drastically cheaper. A teacher is overwhelmed now with even ten kids to teach; they either have to teach slowly, or leave kids behind. And it's not the dumb ones who get left behind, it's the ones with the different questions. If 9/10 kids don't understand how to multiply fractions, and one kid is interested in finding the LCM in the least ammount of work, guess who's going to get the teacher's attention. Being able to just nursemaid children while the teaching is being done, at their own pace, is likely going to be a revolution. If nothing else, I think grades are going to be a thing of the past. They were useful when you needed to cluster people together with a teacher, but when their teacher is net accessible, and on any terminal in the school or at home, you'll be able to learn at your own pace, being grouped with peers for emotional reasons.


    I like the idea of making companies liable for products that don't work as advertised. Not that programmers should be sued for every bug in a non-essential program, but software should do what it says on the box, much the same as you'd expect a frying pan to be watertight, or a CD to be round.

    I think we need a Raplh Nader for this industry. Not some arrogrant fat-cat looking for news coverage by advocating government interference in something they don't understand, but an insider, someone who understands the industry, attempting to regulate it in ways that are good for the consumers, above all else.

    Few computer programs are in mission-critical roles, like the brakes on a car, but people still need to be able to trust labels. If it says 'x', it should provide 'x', not 'x if y' or 'x maybe'.


    It's good to see that Woz isn't depressed by outcome of the apple// and Apple's (in my eyes) spiral from leader to barely counting in the industry. Their success and failure was strongly tied to their policies on information as property. The Apple // was very successful, mainly because it was open. There were a hundred times more addons for the A2 than for the C64 for instance. But the collapse of the A2 and Mac marketshare was largely based on clones, or the lack thereof.

    I'm suprised though that Woz isn't more anti-patent, considering the Apple // (and much of PCs today) could have been made impossible if some company back then had patented the use of a keyboard to convey information to a computer, or a device to continually refresh dynamic ram, or similar. Amazon's 1-click patent is about like patenting 'Return' to enter a line of text. It's getting dangerous to innovate today, patents are being used as weapons to force huge payouts, something garage startups can't survive.


    It's nice to see that Woz is still where he was in the late 70s though, trying to bring computers to the people. I got into computers thanks to him, and I owe him a lot. My way of paying that back is to support all the open standards I can, GPL, Linux, etc, so that kids will always have computers as computers to tinker with, not just locked up set-top boxes.
  • by WNight (23683) on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:56AM (#1394664) Homepage
    A lot of that is social, or will soon be irrelevant.

    Who cares about running executables with an OS smart enough to spawn a restricted 'shell' to run the Frog-in-a-Blender of the week in? This is something that's only a problem because of the complete lack of security in Win9x and MacOS, the two most common user-level OSes.

    People don't forward around warning in real life, or at least not to the same level as online, partly because they can't just hit 'cc' and select a whole list, but partly because 'real life' isn't something new and scary where they suspect nasty things. When students are raised with computer, and know what they can and can't do, this won't be a problem.


    As for open software...

    I got into programming because I could list the programs on my school's Apple//. It wasn't just a black box. At the time, it might as well have been, because basic looked like proverbial greek to me, but it gave me an incentive to learn. Without open source (in the form of unencrypted/uncompiled basic programs) I wouldn't have had the incentive to learn, because I wouldn't have known how easy it was/is.

    If kids use Win9x/WinNT, everything is compiled and closed, from the OS to the programs. They can't examine any of it. With an open OS, GNU/Linux, or something else later, they'll have access to the source, and compilers, and all the tools it took to write the thing in the first place. And in any decent OS, you can tinker all you want without bringing it down.
  • slightly off-topic, but this is a good opening..

    It is very sad to say, but too many (I'm not saying all) but too many teachers are not intelligent or ambitious people. They are afriad of learning new ideas. They are the people who get C's in high school math and science.

    This is why I think that teacher's salaries should be doubled across the board. Take the money from other "programs", standardized testing, and yes, even some infrastructure. Schools don't need to buy new computers (esp. elementary schools) There are vast seas on old machines, and will be many more soon, that don't have the horses to run the latest software (esp Win2K), these can be donated to schools where the school IT man. (every school should have at least one) gets them up and working. The salary doubling part is to help make teaching a more competitive field. I'd love to teach, but I can't live like a hermit to do it. You do find exceptional people that can make the sacrifice, but they are few and far between, the majority of teachers (and this comes from my brother a HS Bio. teacher) are people who never figured out what to do, took it up "until something better comes along", or use it to complement a spouses income (i.e. just a "job", not a career). By subsidizing the teachers directly you could make it a viable career option for above-average folks and truly gifted sharers of knowledge.

    The education system in this country is poor (unless you spend serious cash), but what can you expect for an industry in a capitalistic system that never generates revenue? Our normal "market" economics will NEVER right the educational system here, it must be treated as an entirely different entity. A good place to get the money would be from our prison system and a good way to do that would be to get rid of a bunch of stupid laws (possession of controlled substnaces springs instantly to mind) I'd rather live in a learning state than a police one.

    /End Friday Rant.
  • Isn't part of the Linux hype the fact that it is something that is not MS?

    Ok, going back to when I first tried Linux...

    I used DOS. Windows was something that ran Windows apps. I used it only for word processing. I spent the rest of my time in DOS, learning things about it (Thank you Peter Norton, for allowing me to see deeper into my computer). I learned assembly language, first used the internet (thank you Telemate).

    Back then Internet for me was ftp and telnet. I spent most of my time downloading software and mucking about with it, hoping to learn something new. I kept noticing a directory called "linux" on many ftp sites and decided to enter one. I was amazed. A whole tree of apps I never heard of, and tons of text files. I downloaded some text files and read them, finding out that the easiest way to install Linux was by using a "distribution." In the "distributions" directory there were a couple of directories, SLS and Slackware (I think there was another one as well, but I'm kind of fuzzy). Completely randomly, I went into the "SLS" directory and downloaded the installation instructions. I then downloaded boot and root disks, as well as the "A" set.

    Then suddenly, I backed up everything on floppy disks and parititioned and formatted my 100MB drive. 20 MB Linux, 5 MB swap, 75 MB DOS. I didn't go to sleep that night. I installed SLS, then DOS.

    I read a vi tutorial, learned bash, read all the documentation I could get my hands on, learned how to compile programs in Linux, installed Slackware, and never looked back.

    It wasn't MS problems that got me into Linux, simply boredom.

    I was too young to have been able to get into Apples like I see many people here have, but I think Linux provided a similar enthrallment to someone who was born a little too late.

    I hope that answers your question :-)*
  • Espousing the notion that it is proper for the government to seize half of a person's wealth upon their death exposes Woz as just another socialist.
    If they're dead, it's not their wealth - the dead own nothing.

    Anyway, estate taxes are only relevant to the wealthy - you can pass up to $675,000 tax-free. And in our system, the wealthy usually get that way through government backing (the state creates artificial entities such as corporations that concentrate wealth, and defines and enforces artificial property rights on land and (saints preserve us) ideas); so for the state to take back wealth it created for you in the first place is hardly a tragedy.

  • by dsaxena (57330) on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:51AM (#1394668)
    I think the problem is the clueless education administration that is pushing technology as a silver bullet to repair our educational system. Our governement and the media have mad it seem as if just shoving computers in front of kids will suddenly make them more intelligent. Wrong. The problem is much larger than just technology alone. I'm a software engineer making ~$60K a year, while most teachers earn around half of that. IMHO that is just sick. Teachers should be payed at least around $70-80K/year. They play one of the most important roles in our society, that of making sure that the next generation is well educated and prepared to face tommorrow's challenges. What we need is s total educational reform which puts more money into hiring good teachers and focuses on teaching the students how to learn instead of making sure they pass stupid standardized tests. In my home state (AZ), standardized test scores were low, so the state government is looking into changing our curricillum into one that would focus more on what's needed to do well on these tests. We're going to raise a generation of multiple choice test takers who never understand the value of learning for learning's sake.

    Sigh..

    --
    Deepak Saxena

  • by mochaone (59034) on Friday January 07, 2000 @09:09AM (#1394669)
    Steve Wozniak is cool because his last name can be shortened to Woz. The other stuff is secondary. Check out the derivations:

    1) Wozzup man !
    2) Wozzie
    3) Wozzinator
    4) Wozster
    5) Woz's Happening

    etc.

    Thanks for the nice interview, Woz !

  • by adubey (82183) on Friday January 07, 2000 @11:59AM (#1394670)
    I don't think it has anything to do with the Great Jihad against Microsoft.

    I'm now accustomed to thinking about everything like an economist, so here is my economic analysis (kinda summarizing what other posters have said).

    Microsoft had a monopoly in operating systems. When you got a computer, there was DOS for "free". Of course, the OEM was paying for it, but you couldn't really tell.

    The monopoly caused market failure. A competitive market would have seen many different OS manufacturers in a monopolistic competition. What monopolistic competition means is that each OS supplier tries to target a slightly different market. To some extent, this *was* true - you had MS going after the business market, Apple going after the home & publishing markets, Commodore not really going for anything, but somehow stumbling onto the desktop video, home & hacker markets.

    Now, the thing is, Apple & Commodore machines were more expensive because they weren't based on "open standard" hardware. Apple kept the designs closed, and while Amiga designs were published, only Commodore could supply the Amiga chipset.

    To make a long story short, there was a market failure in that no company supplied an OS as "cheap" as DOS for hackers to the "open architecture" x86 PC market.

    Even if Mac was open & had a competitive hardware market, MacOS *does*not* target hackers!!!! There would be a few of us dicking around on DOS, Amigas, and, yes, I'd bet some insightful person would release a hardcore technically advanced OS for the open M68K Macintosh hardware market. (Heh but maybe it would have been "ARP" :)

    So no, I don't think hackers would flock to Mac OS if it was open.

  • We're not going to have a sane society (as in less paranoid and less ignorant of its own flaws and strengths) until we separate advancement from socialization. And yes kids do need to socialize. They're human beings. They're in school so they can someday be successful human beings. They're not there to stroke some teacher's ego. They're not there to become productive members of society. Society is us; get used to it. Our ancestors are responsible for the mess we're dealing with. And we are responsible for the mess our kids will have to deal with. I don't want to even hear about kids saying Sir or Ma'am when they should be asking, "How come the text is so confusing, it says in my Physics book that reflection is caused by a wave reflecting at the other end on a rope." The difference between a kid who can succeed and one who can't is the one who can spot garbage in a page full of text, or even more challenging, a page full of colorful graphs and charts. You can't get that kind of skill if kids don't have the confidence to challenge their teachers. All you get is the fool getting Kool Aid points for saying I love Kool Aid in public five times in a row and then sending a taped recording to the company.

    The people calling for the end of recess periods and breaks and the ones segregating kids into different special groups are completely wrong about their approach, and some don't even care.

    If we separate advancement from socialization but still need to have it happen in the same place, then one or both of these have to become transparent. The people asking for uniforms, dress codes, and rules on top of rules, aren't just in denial and seriously don't get it, assuming they're not doing it on purpose as some are.

    Learning should not stop period. Dividing time for learning and playing is at best masturbation, and at worst a way to keep future generation from being fully aware of their potential.

    The goal of education should be to maximise potential, to teach kids individuality, to teach them not only how to fend for themselves but the value of being independent and unchained from the wolves running rampant. Most of all they should be taught how to to recognize those "wolves" and handle them with good judgment, as opposed to the uniqueness crap they sort of teach, but then penalize kids for.

    The day a kid says, "I don't care about being special, consoled, comforted, but only somewhat supported and encouraged," is a day you can hope for the world to take a positive turn.

    So what's this got to do with computers? Just take a look at the potential kids have when they go exploring the Net learning Java, HTML, C++, MIDI for crying out loud, poetry of all kinds and most important of all, freedom, to kids who only write papers and cut and paste pictures from a degenerate encyclopedia like Encarta which has no more content than to hype up the future which in reality is in dire straits.

    The choice you have is: a kid who becomes a CEO at 17 or one who ends up flipping burgers, and if you think a college education prevents that, YOU ARE SERIOUSLY IN D-E-N-I-A-L.

    Which one of those kids is more prone to pr0n breaks (pun intended)? And equally important, which one having seen pr0n can behave in a socially responsible manner, and which one will be so media addicted by Encarta, Saturday cartoons, and TGIF, that the sight of a fraction of the explicit content the other kid was exposed to would make them into serial killers?

    If that destroys, maligns, or in any other way disturbs your rosy simplistic picture of the world, you're welcome. And as hard as it may be for some to accept, all the above statements are based on the same logic and are consistent.
  • by CdotZinger (86269) on Friday January 07, 2000 @09:50AM (#1394672)
    I think that computers made great educational tools back when Woz designed them, but that they've become pretty much televisions with keyboards. Or at least that's the impression a schoolkid is likely to get these days.

    I consider myself very lucky to have gone to elementary shool in a "backward" place like North Carolina, because as late as 1986, the state's shool computer labs still were filled with Apple ][s. And our "computer class," in the "gifted and talented" school, consisted of just one (that's right, one) day (that's one day--total, ever) of making the Turtle move. And the only way to make the Turtle move was by writing a BASIC-ish program telling it where to go. No mouse, no animated nothin'--just tell it what to do, type RUN, watch it do it. And by the end of that one day, a couple of us had made the Turtle do some cool shit. I wrote what today would be called a screensaver--a kind of butterflying perpetual motion thing that impressed the teacher a lot. But not because it was cool-looking (which, for the time, it was). It was because I'd applied reason to manipulate an utterly unfamiliar device semi-competently. And I learned something else that no one I know who went to a less impoverished shoool did: Computers are tools that do what you (yes, even you, first-day user) tell them to do.

    I didn't go on to a career in computer science--though I use computers for all my work in music, art, and writing/publishing, and for some goofing off, too--but I did recently think of something my computer doesn't do that I wish it would, and instead of waiting for it to figure out how by itself, I went to the bookstore, bought the hardcore programming books, and...well, I'll get back to you in a year or so.

    A lot of my friends, however, went to "good" schools. Windows everywhere. "Educational software" (silly games) up the wazoo. Used computers every day of their pubescent lives. And they can't do a damned thing with them, but they like to "watch" them. Everyone here knows the type; this doesn't need to get insulting.

    But this has gotten too long, so, the point is:

    I kind of disagree with Woz, though I admire the guy like almost no one else. Artist and tool, the former using logic and reason to manipulate the latter--that's the level on which a child should meet a computer. Maybe later they can be friends.


  • by Maeryk (87865) on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:18AM (#1394673) Journal
    Wow.. this man is truly impressive. I had never really realized the depth of passion and forethought he has/had in the industry, and in creating what we now take for granted. a hearty THANK YOU! to him, and to /. for teaching me something about someone who is (now) one of my heroes. what a guy. (no sarcasm was used in this post)
  • by jpallas (119914) on Friday January 07, 2000 @10:32PM (#1394674)
    A library represents everything which is proprietary and wrong with the information distribution of the world.

    I think you may be undervaluing some aspects of the physical library that go beyond the mere organization of information. Libraries include a social aspect, for one. Having a place that's just for reading says something important about the value of information and education in our society. Also, encountering other people who take information seriously has a strong benefit.

    In addition, the physical and logical organization of a library is powerful. We separate fiction from non-fiction (as best we can), which the net doesn't even attempt to do. We find related information nearby, but there's no search engine I've seen that understands how optics and quantum mechanics are "close" to each other. And, finally, we meet people who are interested in the same things we're interested in, which is a little hard to do with search-voyeur functions.

    Finally, libraries have the physical persistence that bits lack. Perhaps, someday, there won't be such a thing as pages that disappear and servers that are recycled. Until then, you can be confident that sufficiently popular work was preserved in a library. And you won't have to worry about never being able to find the first version of something that's now in its twenty-third.

    One last thing: serendipity. The library is likely to have "recent acquisitions" section, and a pile of books waiting to be reshelved. These allow you to discover things you didn't know you wanted to know.

  • by 348 (124012) on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:36AM (#1394675) Homepage
    Good observation.

    I worked fairly extensively with educators,(K-12) on a pilot program on PC's in every classroom etc. The main reason I see why the efforts failing is that the kids know more about technology than the teachers and the teachers feel outgunned. This is really too bad.

    As those teachers retire and newer ones are hired (or not, depending on whether your community believes in passing school levies), this problem should diminish, slowly, iff the new teachers understand that the computer is nothing more than another tool to be put to good use.

    If the computer as a used tool is ever going to have success in the classroom:

    1. The teachers need to be trained better
    2. The courses need to be better defined and managed
    3. The government and other entities need to get out of the way and just let it happen. Get over or better manage the "The kids might see pron" Crap
    4. Business needs to step in and help with funding and help build the infrastructure. These kids will be their employees soon.

  • by Rupert (28001) on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:24AM (#1394676) Homepage Journal
    Woz (of course) makes a good point regarding teaching of Linux/*BSD. Before you get to that you actually need to teach computer science. OS design is only a small area of the discipline, albeit an important and (currently) popular one.

    I don't think most children will benefit greatly from being taught with free software as opposed to Mac or Windows programs. Obviously taxpayers and future programmers and OS designers will benefit. But most students are going to be using computers as tools, sealed boxes, and they need to learn different lessons. Like don't forward the hoax virus warnings you get in your email. Don't run cute executables from people you don't know. And don't believe everything you read on Slashdot, even if it is from a karma whore with a +1 bonus.
  • by Maul (83993) on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:15AM (#1394677) Journal
    It's actually somewhat nice to hear the POV from someone who isn't directly associated with Linux.

    This gets me to thinking what would have happened if Apple had not made the marketing mistakes it did and MacOS became the mainstream OS (instead of Windows)?

    MacOS is seemingly more stable that Windows (I'm not entirely sure, I've never done anything that has crashed a Mac, though), so if MacOS were the #1 mainstream OS right now, would Linux be doing so well?

    Isn't part of the Linux hype the fact that it is something that is not MS? Dont' get me wrong, I love Linux, but would we have all flocked to it if the mainstream OS was MacOS? It's hard to say, but I think not.

    "You ever have that feeling where you're not sure if you're dreaming or awake?"

  • by bons (119581) on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:59AM (#1394678) Homepage Journal
    Today Wired has an article [wired.com] about Apple creating web based products designed to attract new users to the apple and making them only available to apple users. It includes comments like:

    In announcing the new suite Wednesday, Jobs said the company had looked at the fact that it owned proprietary software on both ends of a Web visit to the site. "We realized we could take unfair advantage of the fact," Jobs said.
    The panel generally said the approach just made it more compelling to buy a Mac for consumers seeking Internet access, and that Apple was smart to leverage it.

    I would have liked to have asked Woz what his take on this would be. We all know how much we love pages that need AOL or internet explorer or some other non-universal technology.

    With Microsoft slowly going the route of open source [technocrat.net] (also this [salon.com]) (it's only disclosed source but it's a start), I wonder if this is a wise move or a fatal mistake. I only wish I had known about this in time.

  • by cgcra (129070) on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:22AM (#1394679) Homepage
    It seems odd to me that on one hand, Steve was saying that varying manufatures of hardware/software lead to systems that are less stable (ie x86 systems). How can he then turn around and say that open sourced software will be better? Wouldnt this lead to a less homogenous os/system? Just wonderin' -Chris
  • by Hrunting (2191) on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:37AM (#1394680) Homepage
    I think it's important before questioning mainstream qualities of an OS that you remember how it became mainstream. One of the reasons that Microsoft was so successful is that it didn't have to worry about hardware. It just made software and let other people worry about selling the actual computers. It just made sure that its software would run on anything sold. Microsoft didn't become mainstream because of anything that it did. It became mainstream because of the way in which PCs were sold.

    Apple, on the other hand, maintained vigorous control of everything and so you didn't have fifteen companies selling and touting something that was essentially the same, flooding the market with a very similar product. While this led to tighter integration of the OS and the hardware and more controlled innovation, it didn't actually do a good job at selling a product, which is what one needs to become 'mainstream'.

    I think that if Apple had become mainstream, we either would've needed to have an industry in which clones weren't sold (highly unlikely) or Apples themselves would've been cloned, and then I think you would've seen a degradation in product similar to what we have with Windows. Then, I think our empathy would've been just as great to Apple.

    And remember, the Macintosh for years wasn't exactly an open system (and it still isn't for that matter, despite recent changes like Darwin). I think a lot of the fascination with Apple in the past five years is for the same reason that we currently obsess over Linux: it's a challenge to Microsoft. If you look at the MacOS before version 8, it was total and utter crap, despite it's GUI. I can honestly say that I would receive at least two calls a week from my father about his Macintosh crashing or locking up or getting a weird error. I never had those sorts of problems with my Win95 machine.

    But then again, I think that Apple's strength has always been innovating, and with innovation comes trials and tribulations as you 'feel' solutions out. Certainly, the makes Apple a bit more gallant than Microsoft, which has the same trials implementing what aren't exactly new features.

    But, replying to the original post, yes, I think we would've disliked Apple as much as we dislike Microsoft, but then again, Apple most certainly would've become a far different company from what it is now.
  • by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:21AM (#1394681) Homepage

    This is definitely one of the best interviews so far -- it touches on technology, social and legal implications, and even some history.

    It's nice to read from someone who doesn't complain, doesn't blame people for anything -- he just says what he'd like to happen, where folks fell short, and how we can step up to the plate.

    So of course being cynical, i have to notice that it's kinda like politics -- anyone you'd want to be president is too smart to run for office. Similarly, i guess there's no reason for Woz to WANT to be involved in the daily rat race of tech companies, but it sure would be better for us all if he were.

    Has anyone noticed that Woz and Paul Allen, the two "second-string" guys who actually did all the work, are the ones who are out there making the world a better place while Bill and Steve fight over pissing rights? I guess it's like Jimmy carter -- he's the best "ex-president" the country has ever had!...
  • by devphil (51341) on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:22AM (#1394682) Homepage

    (Why should you listen to me? All of the jobs I held while in school, from high school through college, were technology-related jobs working for the school itself. My mother is currently the director of education technology for the city school system, and she and I talk shop when I go over to visit (which hasn't been for a while, sorry Mom). I'm very familiar with how technology is viewed at different stages of the cirriculum.)

    While he is correct in saying that the educational software needs to be as friendly as possible, there is a more serious problem that, frankly, Woz and you and I can't do much about. The teachers in early education need to understand, use, and appreciate the computer as well.

    Currently, far, far too many teachers view computers as either:

    1. A glorified Game Boy, good for nothing but entertainment.
    2. A replacement.
    I won't tell any horror stories here because I've been typing all day long and I'm tired, but the current generation of teachers are not happy about the computer "taking over" their classrooms. As those teachers retire and newer ones are hired (or not, depending on whether your community believes in passing school levies), this problem should diminish, slowly, iff the new teachers understand that the computer is nothing more than another tool to be put to good use. It can't replace them. (No, "iff" isn't a typo.)

    We'll get very limited returns on improved software if the people being taught to introduce that software belittle it.

  • by WombatControl (74685) on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:16AM (#1394683)
    I've always admired Woz for his commitment to computers in education. While I don't think computers will ever replace flesh and blood teachers, (A computer can't be as passionate about a subject as a real teacher, but it can be an excellent tool to reinforce teaching.) I do think that his support of computers in education is A Good Thing (tm).

    Also, his comments on the Macintosh are extremely interesting. With MacOS X, I have a feeling that Mac may yet manage to flourish - especially if they can leverage all the software available for BSD/Linux, etc... I don't like the fact that the hardware is closed, but Woz does have a very valid point that Apple is more free to innovate with hardware than the PC world.

    All in all, a very enlightening interview. Thanks Woz for your comments!
  • by eshaft (82430) on Friday January 07, 2000 @08:31AM (#1394684) Homepage
    It's great to give kids a head start on life by intriducing them to the world of computers and the internet, but no one really considers the consequences of taking kids from their active lives and introducing them to these pseudo-lives in computers. Computers are NOT good teachers when it comes to things like violence, play-time, and human interaction. If a kid's going to play Quake rather than go out in the schoolyard and see what a fight really feels like, he's going to grow up with misconcieved and possibly fatal preconceptions of just how fragile human existence really is. And what about all of those "educational" programs that show little kids outdoors, exploring these cartoon worlds. That's all fne and good, but we forget that these are kids, and most don't really understand the world around them. I personally know teahcers, especially in the inner cities, that have brought in pictures of REAL LIFE animals and scared the hell out of kids. They didn't understand that these things really existed in nature, they were so used to cute little cartoons. It's a dangerous for them to only understand this computerized, filtered world around them, and probably even more dangerous for the natural world around them. And I wouldn't replace up close, person to person communication, with IM for kids.

    And, most important, anyone who sits in front of a computer for hours at a time knows that they are the most ergonomically incorect devices this side of a guillotine. My back, wrists, and eyes are all damaged on a continual basis from these unnaturaly devices. Do we want our kids growing up with bad posture and carpal tunnel syndrome? School desks and video game consoles at hmoe are bad enough - do we want them to think that bad posture and continuous back pain is the norm?

    Invest in better teachers, more teacher training, better facilities to learn in. Computers are only tools, and undeveloped tools at that. We shouldn't be testing them on our children.

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