Woz's modern optimization of the Apple II

November 17th, 2014 10:58 AM
Filed under Hacks & mods, Steve Wozniak;
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I've never been a hardware hacker, but I have enough programming experience to appreciate optimized code. I've written some programs that were serviceable but kludgy; had they been meant for widespread distribution and deployment, I would've taken more time to reduce the number of lines and variables, and hence, the execution time. It's one of the challenges I love most about the Apple II: doing as much as possible with as little as possible.

Nowhere is that principle more effectively demonstrated than in the designs of Steve Wozniak. Before he co-founded Apple, he took Atari's BREAKOUT coin-op and reduced the number of chips by fifty. The brain that mastered this design is still at work, as evidenced by a recent email exchange.

Apple-1 cloner and Vintage Computer Festival East alumnus Mike Willegal recently had some questions about the Apple-1 power supply — so he emailed Woz. Tacked onto the end of Woz's reply was this remark:

I awoke one night in Quito, Ecuador, this year and came up with a way to save a chip or two from the Apple II, and a trivial way to have the 2 grays of the Apple II be different (light gray and dark gray) but it's 38 years too late. It did give me a good smile, since I know how hard it is to improve on that design.

How much different a world would the Apple II community be, if this minor change had been made? Probably not very. But it's good to know that, while many of us are preoccupied grafting modern USB and Ethernet ports onto the Apple II, the original genius is still contemplating how he could've laid for us a stronger foundation.

(Hat tips to Luke Dormehl and Greg Kumparak)

Steve Wozniak at the Children's Discovery Museum

February 17th, 2011 10:09 AM
Filed under History, Mainstream coverage, Steve Wozniak;
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Steve Wozniak is admirable not just for his inventions or even his stature as a geek role model, but also for his philanthropy. Consistent with his childhood dream to be a fifth-grade teacher, a dream he realized for eight years after leaving Apple, he also founded the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose — hence its location on Woz Way.

Furthering the cause of creativity and childhood education, on February 1, Woz sat down with CBS journalist Dana King at the Bay Area Discovery Museum to talk about his life, education, and accomplishments. The audio is marred by the sounds of the lunching audience, but it's worth tolerating for the opportunity to hear Woz speak.

The full interview is 1:05:15 long. Here's an excerpt from 32:01 into the video, where Woz describes how he introduced color to the Apple II:

One of my favorite questions to Woz was, "What's it like in your head?" His rather humble reply should surprise nobody. He also makes an observation that will resonate with Apple II users: "I'm glad I had a part in this: Computers are not just the work tools, but they're fun."

The full video is available at Fora.TV or after the break.

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