Archive for October, 2015

Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak in Steve Jobs

October 26th, 2015 9:01 AM
by
Filed under Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak;
Comments Off on Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak in Steve Jobs

The third Steve Jobs film in two years opened nationwide this past Friday. Having just seen the Steve Jobs documentary last month, I wasn't inclined to consume more history of Apple's co-founder — not to boycott his deification or the potential misrepresentation of Steve Wozniak, but due to an oversaturation of the topic.

In fact, this past August, I emailed my freelance employer, Computerworld, to ask which they wanted me to review: the documentary, or the drama? They responded with the former. I assumed this was because every media outlet was going to review the Michael Fassbender movie, whereas the documentary was more likely to fly under the radar; Computerworld could stand out by being one of the few sites to cover it.

Then they emailed me this month to ask that I review the Fassbender film anyway, with the thinking being that, if everyone else is reviewing it, Computerworld would be remiss to not also do so. I guess it works both ways: if no one is doing it, you should; and if everyone is doing it, you should!

My review was published last week, but here's a summary: of the three films, Steve Jobs is the least historically accurate — and the most enjoyable. I was surprised how much I liked it, though I think it helped that I knew not to expect it to be true to life. For example, the character Seth Rogen plays is not Steve Wozniak — but he is a good character who serves a narrative purpose and drives the plot forward. It's a good story, and a good movie.

Seth Rogen admitted that, despite meeting and studying the real Woz, the script made any adherence to Woz's personality almost impossible:

… the character wasn’t really written that much in the voice of the actual Steve Wozniak, in my opinion. I think the themes are real to Steve Wozniak, the things he cared about, but the way he presents those ideas and the way he literally just interacts with people, from what I see, it’s not an incredibly realistic interpretation.

The cinematic and actual Wozes recently appeared together on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where they played the game "True Confessions". Woz, Rogen, and Fallon each wrote a truth and a lie about themselves: one was then chosen at random and shared with the other players, and they had to guess if it was the truth or the lie. Woz went last, with his turn starting at 6:11 in this video:

They obviously had fun playing this game — just as I enjoyed Rogen's spin on Woz.

Look for Eric Shepherd's review of Steve Jobs in the December 2015 issue of Juiced.GS.

(Hat tip to Seth Sternberger)

Woz's TED talk on the early days

October 19th, 2015 10:22 AM
by
Filed under Steve Wozniak;
Comments Off on Woz's TED talk on the early days

I'm a fan of TED talks: the 18-minute presentations by experts in technology, entertainment, and design are both entertaining and educational, giving us opportunities to learn from industry leaders for free.

While participating in or attending official TED talks is an exclusive affair, smaller TEDx talks are more accessible, being hosted throughout the country and allowing community members to share their ideas. TEDxBerkeley held an event this past February, for which they invited one of their distinguished alumni to present: Rocky Clark, aka Steve Wozniak.

Woz shared his familiar formula for happiness, one seemingly inspired by a McDonald's commercial: Food + Fun + Friends. But his earlier iteration on this equation was even simpler: Happiness = Smiles – Frowns. It's a theory echoed by another TED talk by Jane McGonigal: "If you can manage to experience three positive emotions for every one negative emotion over the course of an hour, a day, a week, you dramatically improve your health and your ability to successfully tackle any problem you're facing. This is called the three-to-one positive emotion ratio."

I've heard Woz speak many times, including as at KansasFest 2003, but this TED talk was the first opportunity I've had to listen to him in the year or two that I've started performing at Moth StorySLAMs. One of the rules for a Moth story it that it must have a beginning, middle, and end. TED recommends a similar structure: in the TEDx Speaker Guide, they suggest outlining an introduction, body, and conclusion. Given the Moth and TEDx frameworks, I've finally realized that these storytelling qualities are something Woz lacks: his presentations usually consist of discrete anecdotes that aren't strung together into a cohesive whole. They might have a connective theme, as his TEDx talk did about his time at Berkeley and pranks he pulled there, but they don't build to a conclusion that ties it all together. Remove any one of his anecdotes, and you don't end up with a weaker thesis, just a shorter presentation.

Woz is a genius who applies technology to making the world a better place; he's in it for the philanthropy, not the profit. He's a hero to geeks and should be an example for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who are too often focused on getting the customer's money instead of giving the customer an experience. If Woz had the same genius for storytelling that he does with computers, I think he could be a powerful and visible role model not just for engineers, but for businessmen as well.

(Hat tip to Southgate Amateur Radio News)

Reflecting on my past & do-overs

October 12th, 2015 10:23 AM
by
Filed under Musings;
1 comment.

After a six-month hiatus, I recently resumed guest-appearing on the Retro Computing Roundtable podcast. As always, this multi-platform show leaves this Apple II-only guy little to contribute, but I'm happy to listen and pipe up when called upon — as in episode #106, when host Earl Evans asked: what do you wish you'd done differently in your history with computers, and is it too late to do so now?

I really had to think about that one! There are so many things I don't regret that stretch back so far: going to KansasFest every year since 1998; being editor of Juiced.GS for a decade; subscribing to Softdisk GS until the end. I made some mistakes in those years, often surrounding business transactions that went foul, but the loss of a few dollars or some minor hardware didn't ultimately have any significant, long-term repercussions.

In the grand scheme of things, the only regret I may have is not pursuing a minor in computer science. I'd started my undergraduate career as a CS major, but after two years, I switched to technical, scientific, and professional communications (TSPC), or what the school now calls professional writing (PW). The only career I felt qualified to pursue with that degree was one in tech writing, which I believed meant documentation. In fact, I nearly got a contract to write the manual for a cell phone, and later interviewed for a documentation position at Mozilla, neither of which in hindsight would've been that scintillating.

It wasn't until I got to Computerworld that I married my TSPC degree with my concentration in CS. As a Computerworld editor (and then as a freelancer), I wrote about enterprise IT and other technical subjects for an audience that was focused on CIOs and CTOs but which could include software developers, helpdesk technicians, and curious consumers.

Still, at some point in my career, not having any formal degree or certificate in computer science felt like an oversight — and while my undergraduate school's name carries weight in the local IT industry, having the words "Computer Science" on my actual degree would help solidify my strength and in that area.

But, as Earl pointed out, its absence didn't stop me from ending up at Computerworld — and I now have a portfolio that speaks for itself. Perhaps a minor wouldn't add much to my credentials. Even at the time I switched majors all those years ago, I was so disillusioned with CS that I never wanted to take another course; pursuing a minor might've been intolerable at the time.

So maybe I did make the right decision, after all.

Thanks for helping me come to peace with my past, Earl and RCR!

Charlie Kellner of alphaSyntauri

October 5th, 2015 1:37 PM
by
Filed under Hacks & mods, History, Software showcase;
Comments Off on Charlie Kellner of alphaSyntauri

Were it not for the Apple II, Apple would've made no other machines; consequently, when telling the story of the Macintosh, historians often include segments of interest to the Apple II user. Such was the case with the 2008 documentary Welcome to Macintosh, which showed enough interest in the Apple II (including an interview with Vince Briel) that it was reviewed in Apple II magazine Juiced.GS.

Now the identically named but unrelated podcast Welcome to Macintosh has another serving of Apple II goodness — one that ties in with one of my all-time favorite movies: TRON. I knew the Apple II had played a role in other films of the era, such as WarGames, but I didn't realize it'd also contributed to the soundtrack of TRON — or that the software with which it did so was played by its developer at Steve Wozniak's wedding.

It's all courtesy Charlie Kellner, inventor of alphaSyntauri, one of the first digital music synthesizers.

Welcome to Macintosh host Mark Bramhill interviewed Kellner about how he created the synthesizer not as a commercial product, but as something he wanted for himself. It nonetheless then caught the interest of Apple, musicians such as Stevie Wonder, the Dolphin Research Center, and more. At a time when personal computers were new and their functions not yet widely understood, Kellner successfully demonstrated the Apple II's utility to a diverse range of professionals in a variety of fields.

Although the interview focuses on this particular application, Kellner likely has many more stories from the dawn of personal computing. His résumé reads like a who's-who of developers and publishers: Apple, Lucasfilm, Epyx, and Isix in the 1980s; in later decades, Viacom, Microsoft, Wizards of the Coast, and Nintendo. But you can find out about his earliest success by downloading the interview in your favorite podcatcher, or streaming it below: