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Woz Still Misses Homebrew Computer Club and Apple 274

Posted by Zonk
from the enjoy-a-good-thing-while-you-have-it dept.
UtahSaint writes "The Electronic Design site has nabbed a short interview with the Woz, where he waxes poetically about his time growing up as an Engineer and founding Apple. Even to this day, he says, he still misses the Homebrew Computer Club and his days running around Apple leading the technical teams. 'I miss the technical camaraderie ... The whole feeling of being on a revolution, on the edge. I miss the intuitive philosophies.'"
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Woz Still Misses Homebrew Computer Club and Apple

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  • by syrinje (781614) on Friday October 19, 2007 @06:36PM (#21050487)
    Not unusual for most people to remember with inordinate fondness the times past that they have lived through. I doubt that WOz would be waxing poetic if he remembered the jockeying and bickering and the easing out of the scene that happened when Jobs effectively obliterated him from the pantheon. Jobs was arguably better suited to "lead" Apple beyond it's enbryonic days - but still.....
    • by Paul_Hindt (1129979) on Friday October 19, 2007 @06:48PM (#21050611) Homepage
      No matter what Apple appears to be on the surface, they are a much different company than they were back then. They do still have a lot of creativity in their designs, but they have slowly turned into a personal electronics company, no matter how much they say that the Mac is still their number one priority. I'm not sure how much of an impact Woz could make at Apple these days. Apple has the hardware up to snuff now, but I would argue that they could do a lot more fine-tuning on their operating system. Some of the design choices they are making with OSX seem kind of odd to me.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mrsteveman1 (1010381)
        I like Apples hardware but the artificial restrictions on how you have to work in OS X still keep me away from it, part of that is being comfortable with windows all the way back to 3.1 (if comfortable is the right word...), and part of it has to do with Apple making choices for the entire user base regardless of what people ask for, in the past it has gone so far that Apple has tried to prevent people from even making changes at all in certain areas.
      • Unless he has learned to play the political game, i would imagine he would have almost zero impact.
    • Not unusual for most people to remember with inordinate fondness the times past that they have lived through.

      Is this a sly comment about the 10th /. anniversary coverage?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      I doubt that WOz would be waxing poetic if he remembered the jockeying and bickering and the easing out of the scene that happened when Jobs effectively obliterated him from the pantheon.

      I don't think Woz cared that much about rising higher into management for fame and fortune. He's more like *us* in that regard.
           
  • Considering that Stave Jobs ripped him off in 1975 when he got the Woz to help him optimize Breakout at Atari, and then paid him 7% of what he made, instead of the 50% they had agreed on.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      Considering that Stave Jobs ripped him off in 1975 when he got the Woz to help him optimize Breakout at Atari, and then paid him 7% of what he made, instead of the 50% they had agreed on.

      I've never heard Jobs' side of this story. In his writings, Woz seemed bothered more by the fact that allegedly Jobs lied to him, not that he didn't get the money. He said something like, "I had a good job at HP but Jobs was broke, so I can understand the money situation, but I wish he had asked directly instead of played
  • What Woz... (Score:5, Funny)

    by nebaz (453974) on Friday October 19, 2007 @06:42PM (#21050559)
    Watch Woz, wanting what Woz was, wax wistfully.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by geekoid (135745)
      Whoa.
    • by sessamoid (165542)

      Watch Woz, wanting what Woz was, wax wistfully.
      What a wicked Woz witticism!
    • by Atario (673917)

      Watch Woz, wanting what Woz was, wax wistfully.

      Should be "wax wistful".

      wax 2 /wæks/
      -verb (used without object), waxed; waxed or (Literary) waxen; waxing.
      1. to increase in extent, quantity, intensity, power, etc.: Discord waxed at an alarming rate.
      2. (of the moon) to increase in the extent of its illuminated portion before the full moon. Compare wane (def. 4).
      3. to grow or become: He waxed angry at the insinuation.

  • by monopole (44023) on Friday October 19, 2007 @07:01PM (#21050771)
    ...If he didn't totally trash it [technocrat.net]

    The homebrew computer club was pretty close to the current Open Hardware movement.
    • by RalphBNumbers (655475) on Friday October 19, 2007 @07:35PM (#21051079)

      ...If he didn't totally trash it

      The homebrew computer club was pretty close to the current Open Hardware movement.


      Quoth Woz in the the article you refrenced:
      "There's always a group of people that wants to undo the forces of industry that have given us so much in terms of wealth, and there's always people who want things to be free," ... "The open-source movement starts with those sort of people. But it still has such good points that have nothing to do with whether it's free or not. The idea of developing something and then making your solution known. Spread the information so the world can grow from it."

      It sounds to me like he loves the idea of open source itself, and just takes issue with a lot of the other ideologies that are lumped in with it these days (anti-capitalism, the "free" software movement, etc). That sounds pretty reasonable to me, and certainly isn't "totally trashing [open source]".
      • Er...not quite.

        But it still has such good points that have nothing to do with whether it's free or not. The idea of developing something and then making your solution known. Spread the information so the world can grow from it.

        That's not *just* Woz saying he likes the idea behind sharing source code and the like, that's Woz using the word "free" in a different way than the way it's used by the "free software" people. He's suggesting that, in spite of all these cranks who want to not pay money for solu

      • It sounds to me like he loves the idea of open source itself, and just takes issue with a lot of the other ideologies that are lumped in with it these days (anti-capitalism, the "free" software movement, etc)

        Lumping things you don't like onto something that treatens you is little more than name calling. The Woz is either misguided or malicious to say things like that. Software Freedom is something he does not understand at all.

        Too bad for him because that's where the camaraderie is today. Suck holes

        • Too bad for him because that's where the camaraderie is today. Suck holes, like Apple and M$, are more about denying user freedom than they are about technical progress or excellence. They get to use great free tools like GCC and X but don't get to pass them and other along to their users. Places like that can't be fun to work for

          Oh yeah... please. Open Source really means build systems being closed because they are web based or internal to corporations, as opposed to distributed software. There's nothin
        • by Macthorpe (960048)

          Ignorance or Malice, Take Your Pick.
          I pick the hidden third option, which is "Opinion".
  • SuperHappyDevHouse (Score:5, Interesting)

    by commonchaos (309500) on Friday October 19, 2007 @07:04PM (#21050803) Homepage Journal
    SuperHappyDevHouse [shdh.org] is an event in the Bay Area that is trying to "resurrect the spirit of the Homebrew Computer Club". I think that we are doing a decent job at that.

    I've talked to someone who used to attend Homebrew Computer Club. He says that SuperHappyDevHouse has a similar feel. Among differences: There was only one electrical outlet in the space used for Homebrew Computer Club - Woz supposedly monopolized that outlet. And people couldn't bring computers to Homebrew like they can (and are encouraged to) at SuperHappyDevHouse.
    • by dew (3680) <<gro.ylkeew> <ta> <divad>> on Friday October 19, 2007 @07:39PM (#21051119) Homepage Journal
      As one of the co-founders of DevHouse, we are definitely trying to honor and encourage the spirit of Homebrew. In fact, Lee Felsenstein, who ran most of the Homebrew meetings, is now a regular attender (along with his lovely partner) and helps us shape the meetings to be maximally functional and useful. In a business cover article in the San Jose Mercury News, DevHouse was described as "resurrecting the spirit of the Homebrew Computer Club" (digg [digg.com]). We were flattered.
      • by catch23 (97972)
        As a regular attendee of SHDH, I really have to thank you for making this happen, and for the poor homeowners that have to deal with a hundred geek shoes all over their carpets all over the house.
        • by dew (3680)
          Thank *you*! Nothing a steam cleaning can't fix, anyhow. And the carpets look nicer brown than white. Really.
  • by blind biker (1066130) on Friday October 19, 2007 @07:07PM (#21050831) Journal
    This might look like atangent to some, but bear with me for a moment: how did the world change in just a few short decades. The 70s and 80s were years when a skilled individual, perhaps with the help of a peer, would be able to project and implement his/her idea of a computer. You had a flurry of various hardware and software architectures, most richly in the "home computer" market, but not only.
    For an example, the S-100 based computers definitely were in the professional segment, and yet a lot of hardware accessories existed, designed and produced by small workshops.

    Fast forward to today: what can an individual do, today? Electronic components are integrated to the point that you can't even assemble them without special and very expensive equipment, not to talk about the motherboards. Not to talk about the difficulties of prototyping. The bar to entry has been set incredibly high. So high, in fact, that the world of microprocessor architectures has significantly shrunk, and basically the only computer designed, produced and sold is based on an intel processor.

    It's a word where only multimillion dollar corporations can implement visionary ideas - but them being corporations, it's an idea that usually doesn't excite the developers, only the product managers. It has to be profitable, that's the only relevant angle. In this world, the ideals Wozniak is after, are dead.
    • by Rick Genter (315800) <rick.genterNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday October 19, 2007 @07:21PM (#21050951) Homepage Journal
      The last thing this comment should be moderated is Offtopic. This is one of the more insightful comments you'll find.

      My first computer was an IMSAI 8080 [imsai.net]. I built it from the kit, as well as the Lear Siegler ADM-3A [old-computers.com] terminal I connected to it. This was in 1976, and I, too, miss those days. While we can do some cool stuff today with 3-D graphics, multithreaded and multiprocessing operating systems, networks, etc., there was still something about building everything from scratch.

      I'm with Woz on this one.
      • by John Miles (108215) on Friday October 19, 2007 @07:31PM (#21051035) Homepage Journal
        Well, it might have been insightful, but it certainly wasn't right. Surf through eBay's electronic components and equipment categories sometime, and if you don't come away with more cool ideas for stuff to build than you will ever live to try, you're not much of a hacker.

        Sure, the barriers to entry are high if you want to mess with FPGAs or do microwave engineering in your garage, but at least it's possible for you to do that kind of thing if you want. There are probably a hundred times more opportunities open to the hardcore amateur electronics buff nowadays than there were in Woz's day. You can bitch and moan all you want about how "hard" it is, but I can remember when a 6502 was a pretty intimidating thing to deal with, too.
        • by Animats (122034) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @02:33AM (#21053501) Homepage

          It's actually possible to do far more with electronics at home today than in the 1970s. But the amount of information you need to do it is much greater.

          If you want to play with microcontrollers at the bare machine level, you can get something modern, like an ATMega 128. The entire tool chain, which is gcc plus a rather nice interactive development environment from Atmel, is all free. Development boards with lights, buttons, and a little LCD display are about $55. The only extras you need are a 12VDC power supply and a JTAG to serial converter.

          If you want to have PC boards made, it costs about $50 to $75 to have a small one made. Free design software is available. This is all much easier than it used to be; no more mailing transparent films around. You just upload the files. They even drill the holes and plate them through.

          Soldering, though, is much harder than it used to be. Soldering fine-pitch surface mount parts requires special tools, which aren't cheap, and much skill. And there are harder parts, like ball grid arrays. Worse, soldering is going lead-free. This is good for health, but means a narrower temperature range between the temperatures for successful soldering and part damage. Soldering is now a temperature and time controlled process. It can be done by hand, and there are hobbyists who do it, but it takes practice, skill, good vision, and good fine motor coordination.

          Getting parts is far easier. Everybody serious uses Digi-Key. They have data sheets on line for most of the parts they sell, reliably ship within hours of ordering, and will let you order one each of fifty different small parts. But if you don't know much about electronics, the Digi-Key web site and catalog will be very intimidating.

          The real problem with hobbyist electronics today is that expectations are so high. In the 1970s, you could build stuff cooler than other people could buy. Today, consumer electronics is so sophisticated that there's little hope of beating what somebody can buy at Best Buy. The payoff isn't there.

      • The barrier is set very high in hardware. So people innovate in software: see Google, YouTube, MySpace, Ebay, Craigslist, Wikipedia, ... All started basically in a garage. There is always a cutting edge that is accessible -- it just keeps moving!
    • Two words for you... (Score:4, Informative)

      by PaulBu (473180) on Friday October 19, 2007 @07:31PM (#21051037) Homepage
      1) FPGAs,

      and

      2) Software (on network-connected rather powerful boxes).

      You go second route, you can become the next Google (well, become => become part of :) ), you go the first one, you can become the next Apple (no, they did not start with replicating MOS Technologies fab line and taping out their own chips). If you have good ideas about processor architecture, prototyping them on $200-$1000 FPGA demoboard might be an interesting option nowadays.(Here I should probably quote the not necessarily reality supported, but popular meme how modern algorithms on ancient hardware run faster than ancient algorithms on modern hardware). Sky is the limit! :)

      Paul B.

       
    • by iamacat (583406)
      Here we go, this should help you make a homebrew device of your choice way more powerful than what you did in 80s [xilinx.com]. Given that the price of the kit is fairly low, there is nothing stopping you from selling programmed devices as accessories for commercial products.
      • A DDR2 interface devkit? I guess you had something else in mind, this won't provide you with much fun, at all.
    • True about electronics, but not in general. 20 years ago a visionary individual could create brilliant PC software. Lotus 1-2-3? Doom? 5 years ago it was all about web start-ups. The party's just moved elsewhere.
    • by pipingguy (566974) *
      As an "old school" draftsman, 20 years ago all one needed to create a convincing technical drawing (a representation of something that could actually be built or fabricated) or participate in a large, multi-m/billion dollar design project were tools that cost about $1000. Now, one needs a suitable computer, an OS, a CAD platform, specialty software to run on that platform. These costs can easily reach $50K just to be able to bid on a job.

      So in some ways talent and ability have been downgraded and ownershi
  • by blake182 (619410) on Friday October 19, 2007 @07:26PM (#21050997)

    ...though today you can find him playing polo on a Segway, working at Jazz Semiconductor, or off promoting his autobiography. "I miss the technical camaraderie," Wozniak says. "The whole feeling of being on a revolution, on the edge. I miss the intuitive philosophies."

    Is that really the case? Like Woz is a high profile technical multimillionaire, an inspiration to an entire generation of geeks, and he misses the thrill of being on a revolution and can't figure out how to recreate it?

    If that's really the case. I mean, if he really and truly misses it, why not just contact pretty much anyone over the age of 30 in any field he wants:

    "Hi, my name is Steve Wozniak"
    "Holy shit! I know you! I learned assembly language on an Apple //e! How's it going?!?"
    "Not bad, I really like the stuff you do. Do you mind if I come to work and hang out and be a technical comrade?"
    "Shit no! Christ, it would be an honor."
    "You don't have to pay me, I mean, I'm a multimillionaire."
    "No, that's cool, come on over."

    Maybe I'm oversimplifying. But I personally am not a multimillionaire, and I know a lot of people, and I have literally done jobs for $0 just to hang out at places and work with cool people.

    Make the world what you want. It seems that this is especially easy advice to give to someone who is financially independent.

    • Woz needs... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by StreetStealth (980200)
      ...a protegé. Or a dozen. What could be better for an aging tech maverick than mentoring the best and brightest of the next generation?
    • It sounds like an excellent idea. Maybe he misses part of the culture that might not be easy to recreate?

      Maybe it's trite or overcommercialized, but a club in the vein of "Make" might be doable. People make interesting projects with things available around the home, that might be novel or practical, but usually fun. There are some Make Faires that look like they'd be fun to go to, I just don't want to do a road trip out of state.
      • by blake182 (619410)

        Maybe it's trite or overcommercialized, but a club in the vein of "Make" might be doable. People make interesting projects with things available around the home, that might be novel or practical, but usually fun.

        TechShop [techshop.ws] is an effort to do exactly that. They're already in Menlo Park and I went to a presentation in Renton, WA about their expansion into the Seattle area.

        • That's very interesting, though not quite what I had in mind.

          I wonder how well that system works. Knowing how much I have to charge for operator & machine time on a commercial project, their rates are almost impossibly low. A one hour training session on all that equipment is impossibly short in my opinion. The safety training required before allowing an employee to use much of that equipment is considerably longer. And then there's the liability concerns as well. If that really works like they say
  • by SystemFault (876435) on Friday October 19, 2007 @08:29PM (#21051557)

    I was a teenager back in the early microcomputer days and built one of first kit machines, an IMSAI 8080. It was great fun and more educational than any number of college course I took thereafter.

    Those days are long gone now. But could something similar return? I think that the next tech revolution has already started, and it's the hacker's auto fabrication machine ("fabber").

    Example: http://reprap.org/bin/view/Main/WebHome [reprap.org]

    Right now these aren't much more than 3-D printers that squeeze out plastic goop under computer control. But if the rate of progress of this field is anything like that seen with microcomputers, then small scale manufacturing will be totally changed in a few years. Who will be the Woz (and the Jobs and the Gates) of this new endeavor? Maybe they're already out there, but we just haven't heard of them yet.

  • Technology work really has changed over the last 30 years. Back in the beginning, it was totally exciting just to get something working. Now it's still fun, but a lot of the tough problems are solved or abstracted away from the end user.

    I wonder what it's like for total newcomers now -- there's no easy way to throw someone into modern software development like you could by handing them a BASIC manual or an assembly language guide on the IIe. There just isn't as much "brand new stuff" to explore.

    I still like
  • Woz needs to figure out how to combine epigenetics with peer-to-peer file sharing - and then not only will he have a cure for cancer and a consequent Nobel Prize (which he'll share with me for having given him this idea now), but he'll have that whole cutting edge running-around-the-lab-like-a-turdorken-with-his-head-cut-off thing goin' on.
  • Despite Wozniak completing the standard 796 rounds of interviews and 14,327 pop quizzes and tedious logic puzzles filched from the back pages of Scientific American, a Google spokeswoman announced that the Internet advertising company had finally rejected him for being "Just this really, really, really ridiculously old geezer, you know?". Taking some time to look up from her playdoh, the spokeswoman added, "And he didn't go to Standford!"
  • by 5Wresistor (659626) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @01:20AM (#21053177)
    I have firsthand memories of the homebrew computer club. As others have mentioned, Lee usually was the man with the stick (moderator). It was a live crew that showed up at SLAC. In fact, my first engineering mentor would show up from time to time. Most/many of us were "paid hobbiests" that did it both for fun and bucks. I don't believe that I was around Woz as I was a smoker and we seperated the two sides of the meeting to smokers and non smokers (a different era). There were many "famous" folks who regularly showed up at club meetings: Lee, as mentioned developed the first Osborne. Our librarian later developed Dr. Dobbs Journal.

    Yeah, as mentioned earlier, the Apple I did tie up the only electrical outlet in the front doorway. If memory serves me correctly, Apple Basic didn't come in until Apple II's. It was a video octal/hex debug tool in the Apple I. Indeed, I remember wooden sides and a plexiglass top panel, so you could see the motherboard.

    Many of us were interested in the 8080/Z80 systems of the Altair/Imsai/etc/etc/ systems. Indeed, I was there when the club coined the term S100 bus. My little piece of history. A "big" system had 16K RAM, usually an audio cassette mass storage device, an old RS232 terminal (mine was first a Textronics, later a Lear Sigler ADM3, which I still have in my garage and still has the best keyboard "feel" that I have ever run across). If you were real lucky you had one or more floppy disk drives (8 inch Sugarts were favorites). CP/M was the "big time" operating system of choice. The Apple was more of an "interesting" device, not mainstream for the hobby at that time. The 6502 was certianly cheap enough!

    I can still find some of the camaraderie at the local Linux UG (LUG). However, I don't find the "rough edges" and cutting edge technology. Really, it was more of "damn, I wonder if this will work" rather than some "intuitive philosophies". Smoke was not your friend then as it still isn't your friend today, but you sure saw a lot more of it in those days...... Our LUG still has the geeks show up and we have interesting lectures, but even the open source stuff is getting pretty cut and dried, relatively speaking.

    The internet is great for technical correspondence and "group" software projects, and althoug h we have worldwide contributers, we can't all go to the meeting, then to pizza and beer afterwards.

    So yeah, I agree with Woz. I'm typing with my peep, not chillin' with my peep.

    Cheers!
  • Woz wants to go back to tinkering with electronics? What, did he get tired of tinkering around in Kathy Griffin's pants?
  • Poor... (Score:2, Funny)

    by dbc23 (1161569)
    He's like a big...really big lost puppy who just wants love (and maybe steve jobs to stop breathing).
  • by Nazlfrag (1035012) on Saturday October 20, 2007 @05:00AM (#21053979) Journal
    They don't make nostalgia like they used to.
  • Most of really dislike what the market has become today: "Commodity toasters" operated by the clueless with no appreciation of what they have in front of them ( this includes 90% of current day 'techies' too )

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