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The Beginnings of Apple Computer 181

Posted by Soulskill
from the as-yet-unripe dept.
John Burek points out an article written by Stan Veit, former editor-in-chief of Computer Shopper magazine, and one of the first retailers to deal with the fledgling Apple Computer in the late 1970s. Veit describes his introduction to the Apple I and his early interactions with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak as they developed their early models. Quoting: "After Woz hooked his haywire rig up to the living-room TV, he turned it on, and there on the screen I saw a crude Breakout game in full color! Now I was really amazed. This was much better than the crude color graphics from the Cromemco Dazzler. ... 'How do you like that?' said Jobs, smiling. 'We're going to dump the Apple I and only work on the Apple II.' 'Steve,' I said, 'if you do that you will never sell another computer. You promised BASIC for the Apple I, and most dealers haven't sold the boards they bought from you. If you come out with an improved Model II they will be stuck. Put it on the back burner until you deliver on your promises.'"
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The Beginnings of Apple Computer

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  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @01:34PM (#26014277)

    So I called the number listed in the paperwork and asked for Steve.

    "Which one?" the young man at the other end asked.

    "The fast talker," I told him.

    "Oh, Steve Jobs. Wait a minute."

    Priceless

  • by Samschnooks (1415697) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @01:35PM (#26014291)
    FTFA:

    When Apple went public, Jobs would not give stock to several employees who made the Apple possible. My son gave them stock out of his allotment, or they would have never benefited from the long hours and devotion they put in to start the company. If you had given Jobs the money, he would have found a way to keep you from getting the stock.

    I guess Wozniak is a class act. And as far as Jobs is concerned, well; I guess he and Gates are similar people. Actually, I don't think I've heard of Gates screwing employees out of stock.

    • by maxume (22995) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @01:45PM (#26014359)

      Paul Allen got pretty sick during the early years of Microsoft. According to Cringely, Allen overheard Gates and Balmer scheming to re-capture the portion of the company that he owned:

      http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/2006/pulpit_20060330_000890.html [pbs.org]

      • by Chapter80 (926879) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @02:24PM (#26014547)

        Paul Allen got pretty sick during the early years of Microsoft. According to Cringely, Allen overheard Gates and Balmer scheming to re-capture the portion of the company that he owned:

        You left off a significant detail. Allen overheard Gates and Balmer scheming to re-capture the portion of the company that he owned if Allen were to die.

        From the link in your post:

        During one of those last long nights working to deliver DOS 2.0 in early 1983, I am told that Paul Allen heard Gates and Ballmer discussing his health and talking about how to get his Microsoft shares back if Allen were to die.

        Small and mid-sized companies with large non-involved owners who inherit stock are poorly structured. Any founders with a little experience or a little forethought set up buy-sell agreements for exactly this eventuality. Sounds like they didn't have the forethought to set it up at the time of the founding. And so they were working on how to deal with the reality that one of their largest shareholders was facing the real possibility of death.

        Bill Gates has done some awful things, but I don't think this is one of them.

        • by mikael (484)

          In one of the startup companies I worked for, three of the founding directors attempted a coup to throw out the fourth founding director- they wanted to spend profits on new product areas, he wanted to concentrate on core business. Using the assistance of a lawyer, they worked out a way of forcing him to leave and hand over the shares in the company that he owned. So they launched their scheme. Unfortunately for them, the shares had been signed into ownership of his wife, and so he didn't have to hand them

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 06, 2008 @01:56PM (#26014415)

      Actually, I don't think I've heard of Gates screwing employees out of stock.

      Tell that to all of the MS permatemps before Vizcaino v. Microsoft.

    • by westlake (615356) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @02:14PM (#26014509)
      I guess he and Gates are similar people. Actually, I don't think I've heard of Gates screwing employees out of stock.

      From 1986 to 1996, Microsoft's stock soared more than a hundredfold as the company's Windows operating system and Office applications dominated the PC industry.

      That explosive climb made millionaires of employees who had accepted options as a substantial part of their compensation for 60-hour workweeks fueled by a diet of Twinkies, Coca-Cola and marshmallow Peeps. The sudden riches led many to refer to themselves as "lottery winners.

      "While the exact number is not known, it is reasonable to assume that there were approximately 10,000 Microsoft millionaires created by the year 2000," said Richard S. Conway Jr., a Seattle economist whom Microsoft hired to study its impact on Washington State. "The wealth that has come to this area is staggering."

      The Microsoft Millionaires Come Of Age [nytimes.com] [May 29, 2005]

      _____

      Not everyone draws the winning hand, of course - some simply come into the game too late.

      The Few, the Tech-Savvy Few: Option Millionaires [npr.org] [Feb 11, 2007]

      For comparison's sake, Microsoft currently employs about 90,000 world-wide.

      In 1990, around 6,000.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @02:39PM (#26014637) Homepage

      My impression of Woz is that what he is at heart is an engineer. He wants to make stuff, and make stuff work, and make stuff do really nifty things, and create jokes and pranks. I think in his mind being rich is nice and all, but there are much more important things to worry about, like helping other people out and teaching kids about technology.

      Hence his gift of stock to other employees: he has plenty for himself, so he decided to do the decent thing and help out some other folks he knew.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by BobReturns (1424847)

        My impression of Woz is that what he is at heart is an engineer.

        I get the same impression - Jobs is the 'suit' and Woz is the 'Beard'. Yes, I've been reading Stephenson again this week, so sue me.

    • Actually, I don't think I've heard of Gates screwing employees out of stock.

      Not sure how much of a personal involvement Gates had with the Microsoft permatemp fiasco [nwsource.com] but at the very least you can say that HR tried their darndest to keep deserving people from getting stock.

  • by m.ducharme (1082683) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @02:27PM (#26014563)

    "'...You promised BASIC for the Apple I, and most dealers haven't sold the boards they bought from you. If you come out with an improved Model II they will be stuck. Put it on the back burner until you deliver on your promises.'"

    And lo, the hardware/software upgrade cycle was born.

  • by B5_geek (638928) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @02:27PM (#26014565)

    The movie "Pirates of Silicon Valley" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0168122/ [imdb.com] does a great job of showing the dynamics involved at the birth of the 'Personal' computer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ecuador (740021)

      Hmm, good movie, definitely worth a watch by all geeks, although the actor playing Gates looked way too sleazy. Whatever you think about Gates, at least on the outside he looks just nerdy and certainly not dangerous or sleazy - which I guess is an advantage if opponents lower their guard ;)

    • by derinax (93566) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @03:13PM (#26014851)

      No, "Pirates of Silicon Valley" gave far more credit to Apple than they deserved in the early days, and is an example of some outrageous revisionist history. Remember that the battle was between Commodore and Radio Shack at the time. Apple was constantly playing catch-up, and by the end of the 70's remained far back in third place in terms of volume and sales in spite of their marketing claims.

      Wozniak, Jobs, Peddle, and Tramiel all discussed a Commodore buyout of Apple in '78. The Steves were receptive, were it not for Tramiel's stubborn and short-sighted decision to walk away from the deal.

      Apple has had some brilliant people in marketing and many of them are guilty of revising history to suit the company's expected image.

      If you have any interest in the origins of personal computing, you should read about Chuck Peddle's first-hand account of the relationship between the Steves and Commodore in "On The Edge" by Brian Bagnall. It's an amazing account of those years.

      Apple makes some great products, and there are some incredible engineers who have been with NeXT and Apple. But let's be truthful about the origins of the Personal Computer. Apple and Microsoft were sideshows at the time.

      Oh, and apropos TFA: this guy misspells Mike Markullas name repeatedly. Not sure where that comes from; hopefully it's not in his book.

      • by samkass (174571)

        Just to get your last "fact" out of the way first, Mike Markkula [wikipedia.org] isn't spelled how you think it's spelled.

        Secondly, while Apple's market share in the late 1970's was low compared to the PET and the TRS-80, it's influence was substantial. Which is why Apple rapidly gained market share and was ahead of them by 1981. The VIC-20 and C-64 borrowed a lot of ideas from it when they came out in the 80's, but when the IBM PC came out it rapidly took the market share lead and never relinquished it.

        • by derinax (93566)

          Just to get your last "fact" out of the way first, Mike Markkula [wikipedia.org] isn't spelled how you think it's spelled.

          Touche; I was actually looking at his correct damn name when I wrote that. Age is a bitch.

          Secondly, while Apple's market share in the late 1970's was low compared to the PET and the TRS-80, it's influence was substantial. Which is why Apple rapidly gained market share and was ahead of them by 1981. The VIC-20 and C-64 borrowed a lot of ideas from it when they came out in the 80's, but when the IBM PC came out it rapidly took the market share lead and never relinquished it.

          I don't believe you are contradicting anything I've written, except perhaps you are suggesting that Apple had a very substantial influence back in the 70's. This seems to be Cringely's and Apple's opinion, which no one else seems to be able to corroborate, either in terms of eyewitness accounts to computer faires, or in raw sales figures.

          • by Tablizer (95088) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @04:46PM (#26015335) Journal

            My understanding by reading "On the Edge" and looking at some microcomputer sales charts that used to be on the web is that Apple was in 3rd place behind PET and TRS-80 *until* the spreadsheet started to take off, around 1981.

            This happened largely out of happenstance. The budget-tight VisiCalc programmers simply couldn't get access to PET's and TRS's at the time, but an Apple II was available for their use. Thus, they programmed VisiCalc on and for the Apple first. When VisiCalc started selling well, Apple was the only computer VisiCalc ran on. This is when Apple pulled ahead of PET (and prompted Commodore to produce the C-64).

            VisiCalc was eventually ported to other computers, but Apple got a big boost for being first with it. VisiCalc (and later clones) had a huge influence on turning microcomputers from hobby machines into a serious market. Apple probably would not have the funds to produce the Mac if not for spreadsheet revenue, and flounder like most others when IBM PC clones commoditized the market. Apple is the only proprietary microcomputer vendor from the early years I know of to survive this commoditization. (There may still be some very nichy vendors around.)

            Apple also rode a second software revolution: Desktop publishing. Commodore Amiga narrowly missed this opportunity.

            Thus, luck played a large part in Apple's survival.
                 

            • by initialE (758110)

              It's a good thing then that Visicalc didn't come with any severe logic bugs, like the kind that would do equations improperly. Something like that would majorly set back the case for computerized finances.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by samkass (174571)

            It's funny that after the Apple II, all the other computers looked like an Apple II. The Apple II was the first to use molded plastics instead of metal, and its technical design was ahead of its time. Don't get me wrong-- I owned the VIC-20, C-64, and even C-128; I didn't own an Apple under the Mac Plus. But considering most people my age got their first exposure to computers through their school's Apple II's, it's hard to underestimate its influence.

      • But let's be truthful about the origins of the Personal Computer. Apple and Microsoft were sideshows at the time.

        Microsoft was never a side show.

        The PC without high level programming languages is the side show.

        Microsoft was selling BASIC to clients like GE and Citibank in 1976. Applesoft BASIC, and BASIC for the Commodore PET and TRS-80 ship in 1977. MBASIC defines the eight-bit micro.

        April 4, 1979, Microsoft 8080 BASIC is the first microprocessor product to win the ICP Million Dollar Award. Traditio

      • by HonkyLips (654494)

        Yes you are absolutely correct.

        The incredible irony is that the only reason Apple are still around today is because they were so unpopular back then. Their computers were so overpriced compared to similar models - especially the Commodore PET - that they were simply not being bought or used. No-one wanted an Apple, everyone wanted a Commodore PET. To put this in perspective you need to understand the computer market of the late 70s, when they were being bought by students and hobbyists with super-low bud

    • As usual, though, the book is better. The Pirates of Silicon Valley is based on Fire in the Valley: The Making of The Personal Computer by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine. It's out of print but your library probably has a copy. It's a very fun book.

      The movie focuses on Gates/Jobs (because, hey, movies have to do things like that) and... well, not exactly "stereotypes" them, but certainly streamlines the personae. It also underplays the Digital Research history, for one thing.

      But one of the illuminating

      • "I assume y'all know about the upcoming Rebooting Computing summit, which aims to put the magic back into our field."

        Wonder if the founders of the canning industry could put the magic back in their profession?

      • by Wolfrider (856)

        --Wow - I haven't seen your name in years, but I do remember reading your articles in CS. :-) That mag is only a -shadow- of its former self now; back in the day, you almost had to have a special mailbox for it.

        Hope you're doing well - best wishes!

  • I liked my old Apple II. Then one day apple was all about MAC and those of us who already spent a lot of money and time on the Apple II were left behind with no upgrade path, as though we were nothing more than garbage. That is why I have been a PC user ever since.
    • by squiggleslash (241428) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @02:54PM (#26014735) Homepage Journal
      What are you talking about?

      The Mac released in 1984. Several Apple IIs, including the relatively sophisticated IIGS, came out after the Mac was released, and Apple continued making the IIGS until the early nineties. If you'd complained about buying an Apple I, Apple III, or Lisa, I could have agreed with you, but the Apple II continued to be made long after it was effectively obsolete. Of the old eight bitters, only the Commodore 64 lasted longer, and the Commodore 128 was never nearly the upgrade the IIGS was.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 06, 2008 @03:06PM (#26014815)
      The nice thing about their path is that they're not afraid to cut off backwards compatibility. That's pretty much the biggest flaw with Windows. A lot of the security issues in Vista today are there because drivers used those holes to work. People still use hardware that uses those broken drivers, and the companies who released the products stopped supporting them years ago.

      Microsoft knows they can't go "We no longer support anything from before Windows 2000" because EVERYONE will be pissed. From corporate accounts who can't use their ancient printers to Joe Sixpack who has a scanner from 1992.
      • by weicco (645927)

        A lot of the security issues in Vista today are there because drivers used those holes to work

        Well, you are right and you are wrong. Wrong thing is that me and my customers really get advantage of backwards compatibility. If I write my stuff following the rules written in MSDN, my apps work just fine on (almost) any Windows version.

        Where you are absolutely right is this driver thing. I've written NDIS intermediate network drivers for Windows 98, NT, 2000, XP and CE. I did everything by the books and the dri

      • by Whiteox (919863)

        You've raised something I've been wondering about for years.
        I don't understand why MS hasn't developed a current multitiered approach to OS development. The old NT/Xp should be kept going for what is now becoming legacy systems and something like W7 or better with no backwards compatibility for newtech systems.
        There would be a clear choice for consumers. It's almost there now with the infamous Vista Ready and Vista capable hardware.
        I suppose pressure from manufacturers to provide 2 classes of hardware may b

      • by ocbwilg (259828)
        The nice thing about their path is that they're not afraid to cut off backwards compatibility. That's pretty much the biggest flaw with Windows. A lot of the security issues in Vista today are there because drivers used those holes to work. People still use hardware that uses those broken drivers, and the companies who released the products stopped supporting them years ago.

        If you had said that about Windows XP I would agree with you, but Windows Vista has a different driver model that is focused around
      • by Bungie (192858)

        A lot of the security issues in Vista today are there because drivers used those holes to work. People still use hardware that uses those broken drivers, and the companies who released the products stopped supporting them years ago.

        Actually Vista addressed the driver issues with new driver models and which broke compatability [microsoft.com] with many older drivers. The link has the details but a lot of restrictions were created specifically against older drivers and holes. That's exactly why everyone so pissed about Vis

    • Yes, it would have been so much better if Apple had decided to preserve backwards compatibility at any cost and ended up with a "turtles all the way down" situation like the PC!

  • by circusboy (580130) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @02:42PM (#26014657)

    The Apple users were much more oriented toward software and graphic applications. They were more interested in what a computer did then how it did it.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      and it still is that way to this day...

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by BobReturns (1424847)
        This is not necessarily a bad thing. To most people (The 99.whatever% who don't use linux) a computer is a tool, not a project. There's nothing wrong with either view to be perfectly fair, but it's unfair to come down on people just because they want to get things done (or don't - whatever).
        • by hitmark (640295)

          meh, i prefer to look at them as a toolbox. the programs installed is the real tools.

          if you want real computer tools, you go for single use appliances (very rare these days of value add via software feature creep).

          • by abigor (540274)

            Depends on whether you are just a home hobbyist or someone who needs to actually get work done. There are places for both types in the world, luckily.

            • by hitmark (640295)

              true, i just wish that big papa corp didnt try so hard to turn one of them into the other all the time...

        • This is not necessarily a bad thing. To most people (The 99.whatever% who don't use linux) a computer is a tool, not a project. There's nothing wrong with either view to be perfectly fair, but it's unfair to come down on people just because they want to get things done (or don't - whatever).

          You don't need to be a mechanic to get your driver's license...

    • by Whiteox (919863)

      The Apple users were much more oriented toward software and graphic applications.
      Partially wrong. What you say only happened when Macs started to replace the Apple series. This was because Mac Basic was hard to get. Borland and other development houses turned Macs to C at a very expensive price. Other programming languages like Hypercard, Logo, etc didn't cut the cake. It was because of this that a lot of in-house development slowed to a crawl and there was a movement away from Apple to the PC as the prog

  • by SteveWoz (152247) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @03:35PM (#26014953) Homepage

    The Apple I and II BASIC were basically the same thing and the project was never put on hold. The Apple II had very little extra code, only for handling character I/O differently, some color graphics commands that I added, and the slot-directed character I/O commands (PR #6). If there was some trying to back out of implementing this BASIC on the Apple I, it was never communicated to me. I never spoke to Stan Veit myself about this.

    In fact, I definitely had the completed Apple I BASIC running Star Trek on a dozen Apple I's in a store in Orange County, long before BASIC was adapted for the Apple II.

    Bottom line is...it's news to me although it makes some sense (the push to support the Apple I).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mzechner (1351799)
      steve wozniak himself commenting and nearly nobody noticing it? why doesn't everyone go apeshit as it happens when carmack posts? but then i might be just to new here...
    • Steve, Don't think I'll ever get a better chance to directly communicate with you--and I'm too disorganized to ever write a letter. But I thought you'd like to hear that after reading "iWoz" my 11-year-old son developed a massive interest in electronics. Since then we've been busily hacking away at building kits, and he's learning a lot. I bought him an Apple IIgs, and we're working on designing an interface card to let him control a robot from it. This contrasted with school where "Computer Science" m
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mr Z (6791)

      Have you ever considered publishing the Integer BASIC source code? I remember reading the system ROM source code in my old Apple ][ manuals, but I don't recall seeing Integer BASIC.

  • Woz impressing? Hmmm (Score:2, Informative)

    by Tablizer (95088)

    TFA: "When Wozniak came over, I was a little more impressed with him than Jobs."

    That's a shock. Woz tends to be overly frank. But based on the article, Jobs acted in an impulsive kind of way, and stuck the author with big shipping bills without asking.

  • Replica 1 (Score:4, Informative)

    by allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @04:05PM (#26015121) Homepage Journal
    I read about this awhile go ago and thought it was relevant. For those that are still addicted to the Apple I, there is a functional replica with a few extra features. http://www.brielcomputers.com/replica1.html [brielcomputers.com] Just thought someone might get a kick out of it.
  • by macraig (621737) <`mark.a.craig' `at' `gmail.com'> on Saturday December 06, 2008 @04:29PM (#26015249)

    Wozniak just wanted to innovate and see how he could push the technological envelope. Jobs just wanted to see how far he could push his financial envelope... at the expense of the Woz and anyone else he could manipulate.

    The glaring contrast between Wozniak and Jobs was one of the earliest influences that led me to despise manipulators of all varieties. I admired Woz and hated Jobs.

    • But people like Jobs start industries which lead to cool toys for good prices, available for the masses.

      • by macraig (621737)

        No:

        Those industries exist to concentrate wealth into the hands of people like Jobs. The fact that we get new toys to play with is almost incidental... witnessed by the fact that CEOs routinely jump ship from one corporation and even one industry to another! The primary purpose of "industry" is to concentrate wealth for those who control and operate it; the product is merely the vehicle that enables the concentration to proceed. Captains of industry don't care what product or service "their" companies off

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Raenex (947668)

          Those industries exist to concentrate wealth into the hands of people like Jobs. The fact that we get new toys to play with is almost incidental...

          They go hand-in-hand.

          Economy of scale. Hobbyist pursuit vs wide-market pursuit. The fact is Woz hanging out at a computer enthusiasts group doesn't get his machine into millions of homes without somebody like Jobs to expand the vision, get investment, hire other people, etc.

          I know it's easy to hate rich business people, and there's a lot of bad with the good, but there are tangible benefits.

          because of his leech-like attachment to Wozniak and his ability to manipulate him.

          Woz made his choices. He was an adult. He seems to have done ok by Jobs. Maybe you should ask Woz himself if he a

          • by macraig (621737)

            Maybe you should ask Woz himself if he agrees with your sentiments.

            Since he clearly pays attention, I expect that if he disagrees strongly and thinks it's worth the time to set me straight, then he'll do so. I didn't mean to imply that Wozniak was oblivious to the manipulation; he was no doubt aware of it and tolerated it when it suited his goals. Nevertheless, the conclusion I draw from Jobs' behavior over the last four decades is that he takes more from the world than he contributes to it personally;

    • Without people like Jobs, Woz would have been "that guy who built his own toy computers" and we'd probably still be using remote terminals to telnet into some gigantic mainframe.

      And lest anyone think I'm leaning too far the other way, without people like Woz, Jobs would have been "that asshole who used to hack the phone system" and we'd also probably still be using remote terminals to telnet into some gigantic mainframe.

      I don't understand at all why you call this a "marriage made in hell". Seems to me that

      • by macraig (621737)

        I can't cite some dubiously funded study to prove it to you, but my intuition screams that this is not a wise arrangement long-term and that in the end we all lose a little bit more ground to a controlling minority.

        What good does all this mass-produced stuff do us if we're increasingly unable to afford to possess it because the predominant flow of money and resources is IN TOWARD that wealthy controlling minority and not OUT FROM them? The majority is slowly but increasingly disadvantaged to their benefit;

        • What good does all this mass-produced stuff do us if we're increasingly unable to afford to possess it because the predominant flow of money and resources is IN TOWARD that wealthy controlling minority and not OUT FROM them? The majority is slowly but increasingly disadvantaged to their benefit; though it's happening so slowly that many people are oblivious to the effect, it's significant and detrimental and something Hari Seldon would recognize. It's what causes exoduses and revolutions.

          I have to wonder if you're living in the same world I am. Computers and electronics in general have become steadily more accessible and more affordable over the past decades. In the 70s only big companies, universities, and crazy hobbyists had computers. In the 80s, people with a lot of money and a real need had them. In the 90s owning a computer ceased to be a mark of wealth or a technical trade and became somewhat commonplace. Now, not owning a computer is nearly as bizarre as not having a telephone.

          You c

  • by meburke (736645) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @05:16PM (#26015499)

    An associate of mine opened the first retail computer store in Anchorage selling the Apple II and the Commodore PET and hired me (supposedly on a share of the profits) to run it for him. I could have sold at least one Apple II each day, but the distributer in Seattle was hording the inventory and distributing it to local stores. I could only get one Apple II per week. I called Apple, talked to Steve Jobs, and he passed me off to someone else who flat-out told me they depended on the distributor so much that they couldn't do anything to make the distribution more fair, and I couldn't order directly from Apple because they had a territory agreement with the distributor. (I felt that orders should be filled on a first-ordered, first-filled basis, and we were paying cash up front for our inventory, so there was no credit problem. Dumb move; the distributer was probably using the money we sent with the order to finance their friends' stores.) It got worse when Apple came out with the hard drive. I was selling accessories, but they weren't moving very fast when nobody could get the computers to attach them to. I remember ordering a digitizer tablet from Houston Instruments, and how surprised I was that I couldn't just plug it into the computer and make it work. There was no interface, and I ended up buying the parts and soldering them together to make a serial port. (Lucky background in connecting modems, teletypes and CDC 160A and 160G systems earlier in my career.) Then I had to write the software: I tried to write it in the BASIC that was included on the Apple, but a couple of conversations with Bill Gates and he convinced me to write it assembly language. I spent many hours after work writing, first the communications code (which we would now call drivers), and then a small application to draw geometric shapes using the tablet. I had some help from Steve Wozniak and a lot of help from a guy named Chris Espinoza who was absolutely brilliant at explaining things over the phone. I was also lucky that I had a good background in assembly language programming from the Army and subsequent stints with CDC and Honeywell writing things like light pen interfaces. I managed to write the software and sell both tablets and two Apple II's to a couple of Burroughs guys for enough money to keep the store open a little longer.

    As bad as my experience with Apple was, my relationship with Commodore pissed me off each time I had to deal with them. We had to buy 5 Commodore PET systems at a time. We had to put up $5000, which gave us a "credit line" of $5000 dollars, and which was enough to buy 5 systems (which sold retail for $1499). However, the manufacturing of the PET was sloppy, to say the least. I've had as many as 4 of the 5 in my order come in DOA. So I had to RMA the defective systems for repair. Then, in order to get more inventory, I had to put up another $5000 to "increase my credit line". In order to keep enough stock to sell, we ended up letting Commodore have $15,000 of deposit money. This shouldn't have been news to me: Before I worked for Honeywell in 1968, I sold business machines in Minneapolis. The guy I worked for sold Commodore calculators. Commodore actually came out with the first truly programmable calculator, which used a Nixie-tube display and magnetic cards to preserve the programs. (Marchant and Friden also had "programmable" calculators, but neither of them did recursion and both of them were twice the size of the Commodore.) My boss used to complain about the way Commodore treated him, for the same reasons. In 1990, in Houston, the vendor I worked for who sold the Amiga was still complaining about the same problems. (Rumor has it that Commodore was a Mafia-owned company and very risk-aversive while not being particularly customer-sensitive.)

    Eventually, the owner/investor of the store decided that there was no point in keeping it open since there was not enough saleable stock to satisfy the customers or make a profit.

  • by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @06:24PM (#26015837)
    This is from an excerpt from "Stan Veit's History of the Personal Computer," published in 1993. You can buy the hardcover version here: http://www.amazon.com/Stan-Veits-History-Personal-Computer/dp/156664030X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1228605724&sr=8-1 [amazon.com]. I have the softcover version. Just thought I'd point that out.
  • by xororand (860319) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @07:31PM (#26016217)

    In 2004, Woz gave a great presentation about his early work at Gnomedex 4.0.

    "The Gnomedex Geeks-Gone-Wild crowd was fixated on this rare and brilliant presentation by Steve Wozniak, a true geek's geek. His playing started with games and pranks, crystal-set radios, reading Popular Electronics. Then he met Captain Crunch and got into telco-busting Blue Boxes.

    Woz wanted to be an HP engineer forever and never thought he'd start a company, but his friend, Steve Jobs, said, "Let's sell it!" at every opportunity. Good thing he did, and good thing HP turned down Woz's offer for the rights to build what would become Apple's first computer. You'll enjoy this -- one of the best from Gnomedex 4.0."

    The recordings are still available in MP3 form:

    Part 1: http://itc.conversationsnetwork.org/shows/detail214.html [conversationsnetwork.org]
    Part 2: http://www.itconversations.com/shows/detail215.html [itconversations.com]

    Direct links to the MP3s:
    http://itc.conversationsnetwork.org/audio/download/Steve%20Wozniak%20Part%201%20-%20Gnomedex%204.0.mp3 [conversationsnetwork.org]

    http://itc.conversationsnetwork.org/audio/download/Steve%20Wozniak%20Part%202%20-%20Gnomedex%204.0.mp3 [conversationsnetwork.org]

  • I am sure there are quite a few of us that had unknown roles in the birth of the personal computer industry. I for one wrote the driver for the BritePen (the first light pen for the Apple ][). Also I interfaced the Genie hard drive for the Apple ][. Knowing too little about stock, fortunes were made without me. But I am just like a million others who preferred to write code instead of attending MBA classes. I find this thread very painful though, and I feel bad for others who participated and didn't get rem
  • The Apple I was introduced around 32 years ago at the Stanford SLAC auditorium. It was a just motherboard. The Steves brought it in a *wood* box to show how it connected CPU, TV and keyboard together. A lot of people in club, including myself, worked with computer with more primitive interfaces like dipswitches and punch tape. Some of us thought it would "all the fun out of it" to have a turn-key computer you could take out of a box. We were wrong. There are some grainy movies of us in Revenge of the Nerds

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