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Ask Steve Wozniak Anything 612

He co-founded Apple Computer, he's a programmer and engineer who invented the Apple I and Apple II computers, he's one of our most influential readers, he is known simply as Woz. To kick-off our 15th anniversary month, Woz has agreed to take some time to answer a few of your questions; as with other Slashdot interviews, you're invited to ask as many questions as you'd like, but please ask them in separate posts. We'll be running a number of other special interviews this month, so keep your eyes open.
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Ask Steve Wozniak Anything

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:25PM (#41514367) Journal
    In your mind, where is the heart of today's computer hobbyists. I read Make magazine, I own an Arduino, some Raspberry Pis, a couple XBees, etc. I'm probably too young to remember the glory days of machines you could actually open and tinker with so could you tell me today where I can find the closest thing to that? Or at least where you go to satiate your inner tinkerer?
  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:26PM (#41514385) Journal
    I've played a bit of Tetris in my day and was reared on Gameboy Tetris, Tetris 2 on the SNES and Tetris Worlds for the Nintendo 64. I've since played a few other versions and remembered you being an avid submitter to Nintendo Power. So, Evets Kainzow, what's your opinion on the current state of Tetris (if you still play). Have you enjoyed the permutations on tetromino scoring and function in some of the later titles or do you see them as a tainted form of a pure game?
  • New stuff? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 19061969 ( 939279 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:26PM (#41514393)
    What new stuff excites you most now?
  • by HerculesMO ( 693085 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:28PM (#41514415)

    With iOS6 and it's very evolutionary nature, and with Google's Android and MS's Windows Phone as competitors, plus the fact IDC and Gartner both put iOS as becoming less relevant with time... what does your gut tell you about the landscape? And what do you think about the competitors to iOS? I would say "iPhone", but my interest is more in the software than the hardware.

  • Why Freemason? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:28PM (#41514425) Journal
    Your wikipedia page says you're a member of the Freemasons. As an open source fanatic, freemasonry has always rubbed me a little the wrong way. It's fine that people want to have a club and do their own thing in private but what bothers me is that they might be more likely to do business with other Freemasons and that they have these requirements to be a Freemason like belief in a Supreme being. It also bothers me that it's so pervasive. I understand enjoying the comradery and brotherhood of it (I'm an Eagle Scout myself) but what purpose does being a Freemason serve in your life and what do you enjoy most about it? If you're purely doing it to spend time with your wife, does any aspect of it bother you?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:29PM (#41514437)

    How do you feel about the way Apple condcuts themselves today? They're the most powerful company ever now and yes they make a pretty good phone they're pretty evil too! Suing competition claiming they can't compete yet they have a huge selection of market share and dedicated user base and Apple has claimed this for decades of lawsuits and it hasn't stopped them from innovating :) Not to mention the incredibly overpriced products and support/repair!

    In your opinion, are you happy with the way your baby has matured?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:30PM (#41514441)

    And living hand-to-mouth with little or no savings, what kinds of work do you think you'd be doing?

  • by Lucas123 ( 935744 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:33PM (#41514481) Homepage
    The last time Apple lost Jobs, its vision and profitability went down the drain. What's different now?
  • My Question (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:34PM (#41514493)

    Do you think that apple nowadays is more focus on patents than innovation and users ?? And whats your opinion about patents & innovation ?

    Carlos B

  • by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:35PM (#41514515)
    I have been in this industry for long, but not as long as Mr. Wozniak. I get my teeth cut in the Spectrum ZX 48, and frankly nowadays just to do a simple program the task, tools and amount of literature to digest in daunting.... never mind about understanding the hardware and specially the OS, not much more than a big black box. My questions is what Mr. Wozniaks thinks about programming or tinkering with current computers nowadays?
  • Questionsl for Woz (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:37PM (#41514553)

    - Are personal computer glory days over?

  • by thrill12 ( 711899 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:37PM (#41514559) Journal
    ...the short end of the stick where Apple is concerned - why so or why not ?
    In other words: who is the genius ?
  • 3D printers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by medcalf ( 68293 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:37PM (#41514561) Homepage
    Do you think 3D printers can rejuvenate the electronics hobbyist market, or that the increasing sophistication and miniaturization of electronics makes that a forlorn goal?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:37PM (#41514573)

    In a similar vein to HerculesMO, how do you feel about Apple's transitions to closing their platforms, starting with the iOS products, and most recently, the Mountain Lion restriction on application downloads (which, to be fair, can be disabled). Do you feel differently about this for handhelds/tablets/phones versus more traditional computers? What about Apple's opposition to "jail-breaking" iPods and iPhones? Is that a legitimate concern, or should Apple back off?

    capcha: penguin
    Is /. telling me to switch to Linux? Because my Linux box is downstairs, and I'm lazy.

  • Space Race (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ashenkase ( 2008188 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:37PM (#41514575)
    Asteroid Mining, Moon Colony or Mars Colony, which do you see as our next best foray into the solar system.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:39PM (#41514617)

    I'm really curious to know, in what ways do computers today conform to your vision or expectations of computers from the days of the Apple I and II?

    I mean, at that time, what did you envision the future of computing to be and in what ways are you surprised or not surprised?

  • Education (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Killer Instinct ( 851436 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:42PM (#41514655) Journal
    What changes would you recommend to fix the K-12 education system in the u.s. ?
  • by kbahey ( 102895 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:42PM (#41514657) Homepage

    Why have you taken steps to immigrate to Australia, rather than Canada?

  • Segways (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:45PM (#41514723)

    Hi Woz!
          I was the manager of Segway of Long Beach and led you on the huge group Segway tour of Long Beach a few years back during the national Segway convention that we hosted. As an early adopter of new technologies and a supporter of products such as Segway, how do you feel regarding perceived (social/financial) failure of such technologies? Do you think America will be ready to accept radical new modes and concepts of transportation, such as the Segway, after self-driving cars become common place?
        Still riding your segway packing a pocket mega-laser? We certainly enjoyed your visit. Thanks for signing my book!

  • by fgrieu ( 596228 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:46PM (#41514733)

    My favorite is the Apple ][ disk controller, most notably the read synchronization and decoding achieving 5, then ultimately 6 useful data bits per raw 8 bits, using little discrete logic and a small (P)ROM.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:46PM (#41514735)

    Simple question: Would you ever consider Open Sourcing the original Apple II? The hardware and software (ROMS).

    Modern computers offer a lot of features. But for folks studying or learning, a simpler machine lacking virtual memory and all the modern complexity, a machine where students can really understand everything that is going on right down into the CPU, well it seems like it could be educationally useful.

    What do you think?

  • by Antipater ( 2053064 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:48PM (#41514771)

    ...if ever, that you punched someone in the face? Was it a bar fight? High school bully? Someone hitting on your girl?

    I know I'm supposed to be asking techie stuff, but I just like the idea of Woz flipping out and decking someone.

  • Cloud computing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Arumator ( 2742973 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:49PM (#41514791)
    What is your feeling about cloud computing and the way it is being hailed as the future of the IT industry?
  • by doctechniqal ( 516085 ) * on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:50PM (#41514817)

    Woz, you no doubt get asked countless questions, by countless numbers of people, some of which you have been asked and have answered multiple times to the point where you're sick of continually having to answer them (or don't even bother). Conversely, I imagine there's something you'd love to talk about if only someone would ask you about it, but no one has. What I want to know is: what question has no one ever asked you, a question that you wish someone would finally get around to asking you and that you would love to respond to, and what is the answer you would give to that question?

  • by AdamnSelene ( 2183372 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:54PM (#41514867)
    Steve: What was the best practical joke you ever played and how much tech know how was involved?
  • Your influence (Score:4, Interesting)

    by U8MyData ( 1281010 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @12:56PM (#41514897)
    Mr Woz, Can you characterize your current and perhaps even future influence with Apple? Like many here, we are curious where Apple will go from here now that Mr. Jobs has passed. He was the persona of the Apple brand and without something or someone providing that edge I fear difficult times ahead. I don't need to remind anyone about the recent Maps issues. Where might you fit in to that realm? After all, you are the other half (Ying? or Yang?) of the apple legacy.
  • Re:Why Freemason? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @01:16PM (#41515213)

    We are an organization with secrets, not a secret organization

    So you're saying the real organization is secret? OK then.

    I'm the first in four generations not to be a mason. And with the advent of the internet there are really no masonic secrets anymore. And the topic is pretty interesting to me so I've struggled thru the Manly P Hall and friends books. The secrets are certain interpretations of some pretty esoteric stories along with some pretty impressive stagecraft and staged drama. Also I guess you could say some "inside jokes" but not really jokes. Also its historically been kind of a foundry / framework / startup for historical conspiracies, which does not mean your local temple is trying to take over the world or ever has. Stating this in the absolutely nicest way possible, its pretty much aesops fables for adults, in that its all about morality plays and ethics lessons but on an adult level. An inherently classist outlook in that the idea that 3rd level cannot even be interpreted until 2nd level is mastered, which depending on your outlook on life is either obvious (in which case you're a good masonic candidate) or horrible (in which case you're a good anti-masonic conspiracy theorist candidate). Probably would make a hell of an anime series.

    "Ask a mason" would make an interesting /. interview, but making it more specific to Woz I really donno what to say.

    Here's a fun one for "ask a mason" or "ask Woz about masonry". The requirement for belief in a supreme deity or whatever is a simplification of the long form and the long form seems to boil down to if I believe in physics and some philosophy I technically can fit. Analysis? Most opinions are probably going to reflect the responders biases more than being real analysis, but its something I've considered occasionally.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @01:36PM (#41515493) Homepage

    If I recall correctly, one of Woz's favorites involved placing fake brochures at a trade show to convince Jobs that there was another company with some fantastic tech gadgetry that could blow Apple out of the water. Jobs took the bait, including holding strategy sessions to figure out what Apple needed to do to defend itself against the competitor. He only figured it out several years later when Woz gave him the original as a birthday present.

  • by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @02:30PM (#41516195) Homepage

    Most powerful? Or most valuable? And in adjusted dollars, IBM was triple the size. Remember that IBM sold 30,000 1401's at the equivalent of $25M of today's dollars. Do the math.

    The concept is that power and wealth often lead to corruption. Business ethics are not the same as personal ethics. But that is not your main question.

    I wish that instead of all these lawsuits Apple was sitting down and cross-licensing with the other players. They have come up some very good features without complicating the UI. Things like a palm swipe to take a screen snapshot. I would like my iPhone to be the best it could, even if someone else did some of the things first. And Apple could license iTunes perhaps, or help the other platforms develop it. The market shares would probably remain the same but we consumers would all win.

  • by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @02:38PM (#41516311) Homepage

    It's wrong to look back. It's not scientific and testable. But I saw for the last few years one small screen in the midst of a lot of large screen and felt myself, as countless others must have, that the larger screens had more value. Blame me for taking the leeway to suggest that this was the one door Apple left wide open. iPhones are not inferior to other smartphones, and the cost is similar. iOS 6 is not inferior to Android. We could all get by with either of them. I never said this sort of thing about Windows. So there has to be some reason that Apple lost so many sales to other products. It may not be screen size as much as the number of players and products in the market. But are we saying the rest of the world has better marketing than Apple?

    As an Apple shareholder, what matters is not sales or market share. It's profitability. Apple seems to stand alone in profit market-share. So the course they are taking is a good one. It's hard to guess whether profits would be greater or lesser under hypothetical scenarios.

    The app store has changed our lives. We depend on Apple leadership. Most of the software I feel is in apps. You speak of iOS becoming less relevant as though other platforms are as good but I think of it more in terms of the fact that for all major platforms, there are more than enough apps and they are generally the same quality on each platform.

    It's better to think constructively about what can be done with our mobile platforms to improve our lives more, rather than trying to throw darts and insults.

  • by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @02:45PM (#41516401) Homepage

    Who knows? Back then we knew how to make good new versions of our computers to satisfy the needs of our Macintosh market. But we didn't do radically different things until the iMac. We should keep a watch for Apple returning to just milking its existing markets and not astounding us with new categories of products, or totally astounding ones. There is always a danger. And my personal opinion is that if it goes sour, it might have gone sour with Jobs there so conclusions should not be drawn. That is not constructive for Apple.

    Apple was a one product company back then. Now we are very diversified and strong. If one product suffers we can recover based on the income and profits from our other sectors. We have computers, laptops, iTunes, iPods, retail stores, online Apple Store, iPhones, iPads [and Apple TV?]. We also have a strong culture of innovation that is well understood, not only by those in control but by our customers, who set a lot of our direction in terms of their expectations.

    We did go through a period of introducing a lot of key younger talent when Steve Jobs returned. One suggestion is that we look at doing that again.

  • Re:Thank You (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @02:46PM (#41516425) Homepage

    So many say it and I feel that logically it's incorrect to thank me. Like in early Apple days I could not understand why anyone would ask an engineer for an autograph. I made it a point to remain an engineer rather than run a company. But your thank you's mean that you are happy with what technology has brought to your life. In that regard I have to thank myself too, ha ha.

  • by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @02:48PM (#41516439) Homepage

    Maybe because I'm too close to things I just think of my computer needs and desires being satisfied now by devices that are computers in portable packages. The days of being fixed to a larger machine are over. It's easier to throw an iPhone out the window than a Macintosh!

  • by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @02:51PM (#41516485) Homepage

    Our union was very lucky. I think it was luckier for Jobs since I had strong internal philosophies that didn't connect my happiness with business success or money or power. I built projects for myself and the Apple ][ was the 6th of those that Jobs saw (when he got into town) and said we could sell them. We always split the money evenly as far as I knew but money is not my thing in life. My best days were in the lab building things for myself. But I'm so nice that I give almost all my time now to young people and fans that I can help. I love my life the way it is and told that to Jobs in one of our last phone calls before his death.

  • by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @02:57PM (#41516555) Homepage

    I am a technologist and don't like being a sociologist or politician. Words can be abused in those field but our code works or it doesn't work.

    At first it seemed that our digital life would make us freer to be masters at getting what we needed solved, due to costs per application. But it led to digital codes which blocked our ability to copy things. The deep value is that you can record any TV show you watch but when they block the digital copying, you have to point a video camera at your TV screen. Of course these digital restrictions are much deeper than that but it seems that the companies and powerful win and the consumers lose in this game of civil rights. I worry that it will get worse, not better, over time.

  • by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @03:03PM (#41516641) Homepage

    There is no one right opinion. I'm for more openness. I believe that you can create the best most innovative products even when they are open. But I could be wrong. Open products tend to seem more complex. I suggest that maybe 80% of us or more are technophobes and scared to admit how little we know. I'm thinking of our moms and dads a lot in this thought. Apple is the safest haven for them not to get confused.

    So much of me lies in the Linux and open source thinking. It's where I'd be if I were young and finding my technology way. Some say that Apple iPhones are closed but there is a different view. They are closed as to methods of sale and delivery. You can create any app you want to and have the ability to on your own on the iPhone. You just can't distribute it to huge numbers of people outside the app store of Apple. So young developers are not hindered totally. Yeah, on Android you can do anything for fun and announce it to the whole world and that's very motivating. So keep it up. I have always given my support to the jailbreak community because they remind me of myself when I met Steve Jobs and how we were, then and for the years leading to Apple.

  • Re:Space Race (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @03:05PM (#41516679) Homepage

    All of them. The question is one of priority and ROI. I say develop technologies for a long time until the cost is very reduced and then go on such long missions. It's not easy but we'll get there. No need to waste resources getting there before the right time.

  • by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @03:08PM (#41516715) Homepage

    My visions of the computer were in terms of what it would do for users. We have taken great strides in the directions I hoped for but many things I never imagined or thought about came to be. Most of what is precious to us today I never imagined. The amount of computer in our phones. But then again, I didn't envision cell phones. Or the full blown internet with broadband.

    The steps we have taken have been ones that made the computer more and more a part of ourselves, like a 'friend'. This human quality I expect to get better over time. I do envision conscious computers but I think we'll stumble onto the formula (circuit of a brain) by accident, the way we came upon Google replacing smart people for answers, but not by trying to create a brain.

  • Re:A simple questin (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @03:27PM (#41516993) Homepage

    My greatest happiness is in my feelings about all people of this planet. I'm not part of any religion but life is very happy and the greatest experience of life (word play intended). But the worth of my life, especially conflicts and resolution, would not be possible without every single person who plays a role in this game of life. I walk through airports and look at everyone there, smiling, knowing that their existence somehow is part of the greatest thing to me. Even if someone came up and robbed me or killed me, I know that I'd consider that part of this great game of existence.

    But this game would be nothing without a lot of jokes!

  • by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @03:32PM (#41517049) Homepage

    I am so much a pacifist.

    But once when I was very young, and I don't remember it directly, there was a bully and he chased me off or hit me. My mom said to fight my own battles. I misunderstood and came up and punched him. I did wind up with a black eye. I did not learn any important life lesson.

    I believe in using brain to influence people, not braun.

    Since my youth, I can't even remember having animosity toward any person. If we disagree, that's all. I can think my own way but never have to convince others. Dave Mason sang "there ain't no good guy, there ain't no bad guy, there's only you and me, and we just disagree." That means a lot to me. A lot of my personality and values comes from songs. Dylan sang "you were right from your side, I was right from mine, we're both just one too many mornings, and a thousand miles behind."

  • by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @03:35PM (#41517083) Homepage

    Tons of possibilities.

    What was my favorite toy? Probably my erector set, but it might have been a toy gun when we were young and played cowboys and indians. It was fantasy and i was fun.

  • by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @03:38PM (#41517119) Homepage

    There are too many answers to this. I have put a lot of time and energy and money into practical jokes. Different people would enjoy some more than others. I had some great ones with Jobs too. But I'll go back to one that I hadn't thought about for 45 years that came to me recently. As electronics club president in high school I would submit notices for the daily announcements, read at the start of each school day. I submitted a phony one, sure it would be caught, but it got through. Something like a meeting at 3:00 PM in room B25 - Stanford's head janitor will speak on higher custodial education. The students would laugh and the teachers would tell them it was serious.

  • Re:Your influence (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @03:40PM (#41517151) Homepage

    Apple is very complex. I like personal simplicity. I like to do what I'm good at, which is enjoying technology. I don't honestly feel I could do better than anyone reading this at a role in Apple. Jobs had the drive to run things and influence things. If there was something for sure where I'd be a great help to Apple, I'd be there in an instant, as Apple is #1 in my heart.

  • by martin1b ( 2743117 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @04:36PM (#41517857)
    Do you still actively program or build new hardware? If so, what are some projects you've recently worked on? Can you tell us some details about it? What hardware or software and or programming language did you use? Also, do you feel the increasing complexity of technology slows innovation or accelerates it? -Bill
  • Raspberry Pi (Score:4, Interesting)

    by psergiu ( 67614 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @04:39PM (#41517901)

    What's your opinion on Raspberry Pi (the $25 computer) ?

  • by rbanffy ( 584143 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @04:40PM (#41517911) Homepage Journal

    What would an Apple II look like if it were built today?

  • by rbanffy ( 584143 ) on Monday October 01, 2012 @04:51PM (#41518035) Homepage Journal

    Or, better, if Apple convinced you to design the Apple IV as an intellectual successor to the Apple II, completely ignoring Mac and iOS ecosystems (and the Apple III, which we all understand as not being your fault) and building it for hardware and software hackers, without losing the kitchen-table-friendliness of the II, what would it look like? Would it be a self-contained box with internal slots? Would it be beige?

  • by stetho70 ( 2743865 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @04:25PM (#41530299) Homepage
    The first time Steve Jobs left Apple I was an Apple employee. The change in the company was almost immediate and felt everywhere but this wasn't because of Jobs going, it was because of what was left. I've also had the privilege of being a Research In Motion employee and watching them do exactly the same thing Apple did - releasing hundreds of products to match their competitors instead of being different to the competitors. Woz is right (as always) about Apple being a one product company back then but at the time we had about 30 different versions of the same product. One of the first things Jobs did upon his return (after I'd been made redundant - boo) was to get rid of the crap and make something that people wanted to own, not something that you had to own if you wanted to use Photoshop or Illustrator. Or Quark Xpress. Anyway - my point is Apple are very good at making products people want to own, not products they need. If they carry on like that they'll be fine.

User hostile.