He’s talking about his childhood. How his father managed to get him transisters and diodes because he worked at Lockheed Martin. He did a lot of electronics. He didn’t know was a computer was for a long time because he was afraid to ask. Eventually in high school he got a chance to program a computer. His first program was knight’s tour in chess. It turns out the computer was too slow and would take 10^25 years to complete. Oops.
In high school he ran across a book called the “small computer handbook” about the PDP-8. He says he designed (on paper) a PDP-8 based on that manual. As he learned of new chips, he kept refining the design.
He taught himself coding by sneaking into the Stanford Linear accelerator library and looking at the books and manuals and magazines. He kept refining his paper designs. Trying to break his old records. Going from 65 to 64 chips, etc.
When he went to college, there were no undergrad classes about computers. He had to take a graduate class on the subject. In his zeal for programming, he managed to run the computer program 5x over budget for the year.
He’s talking about meeting Steve Jobs now. They went to the same High School but apparently met while Woz was in college at Berkley. In his 3rd year he was taking all graduate classes. After his 3rd year, he took a year off to go earn the money for his 4th year. He ended up working for HP’s calculator division. Despite working on calculators all day, his hobby at night was electronics.
He’s now talking about seeing his first pong game. At that point, games like pong weren’t software, they were hardware. He had no money and couldn’t afford a pong game but he could design one himself.
Steve Jobs went to Reed college (in Portland, OR) where he skipped most of his classes. After that, he came back and got a job at Atari. They offered Woz a job designing games there. Woz was happy at HP and didn’t want to leave but he was willing to take the challenge of designing games for them. He designed a Breakout game in 4 days and 4 nights.
Woz observed someone using a teletype machine on the arpanet and wanted one. Again, he couldn’t afford one but he could design one. He used his TV as the output device. At Jobs’ prompting, he sold his design.
He went to the Homebrew Computer Club and discovered that microprocessors had advanced. He went on to build his own computer, starting with his video terminal. After he had one, he needed a language so he wrote a version of basic. He says writing basic was the hardest part of the Apple I design. He couldn’t afford an assembler so he wrote by hand and then hand-translated it into the 1s and 0s. Again, Steve Jobs encouraged him to sell his design. The name wasn’t Apple at the beginning. Woz tried to get HP to produce the computer but they refused. Because of that, he was able to use the design himself.
The first Apple was priced at $666.66. They sold about 150 of them.
The Apple // cost $250 to build and they wanted to sell 1,000 of them. That’s $250,000 in capital. Apparently Woz tried to sell the design to Atari and Commodore and were turned down by both. They tried venture capital but couldn’t talk business enough to get the money.
They found a source of funding–Mike Markula. He said he would give them the money but Woz would have to leave HP. A friend talked him into it because he could stay an engineer. Sales exploded once Visicalc came out.
That’s the end of the speech. Fun. If you have a chance to catch him at a book signing during this tour, do it.