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Ontario Technoblog

Ontario Emperor technology blog.

This blog has been superseded by the mrontemp blog
Location: Ontario, California, United States

Sometime audio artist. Email comments on this blog to the gmail account mrontemp.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

All Those Years Ago...And Then Some (the story of two garages)

Moving on from Jef Raskin.

On the occasion of Apple Computer's 30th anniversary, I was curious if anyone had tried to interview Steve Wozniak. Turns out that the San Jose Mercury News did. If you don't know the difference between Steve and Steve, Woz wasn't the one who thought he would change the world.

We did believe that computers would fit into every home because of the price and some of the things they did. We thought people would use the computer in the home for normal home things: You have a kitchen so you keep recipes on it. You have a checkbook and you can have the computer do the subtraction for you. We didn't realize what having a computer in virtually every home would be like -- how you can make a decision and a million lives are affected....

I didn't think, I'm going to change the world. No, I'm just going to build the best machines I can build that I would want to use in my own life. Steve [Jobs] was much more further-thinking....

It's ironic that Steve Wozniak wasn't good enough to design computers for Hewlett-Packard.

As soon as Steve Jobs suggested, ``Why don't we sell a PC board of this computer,'' I said, `I think I signed something, an employment contract, that said what I designed belongs to Hewlett-Packard.' And I loved that company. That was my company for life. So I approached Hewlett-Packard first. Boy, did I make a pitch. I wanted them to do it. I had the Apple I, and I had a description of what the Apple II could do. I spoke of color. I described an $800 machine that ran BASIC (an early computer language), came out of the box fully built and talked to your home TV. And Hewlett-Packard found some reasons it couldn't be a Hewlett-Packard product....

[B]y the time I was working on the Apple II, and we were selling the Apple I -- and I was working at Hewlett-Packard still -- they started up a project on my floor without telling me. . . . I asked to be on the project. I really wanted to work on computers. And they turned me down for the job. To this day I don't know why. I said, ``I don't have to run anything,'' even though I'd done all these things and they knew it. I said, ``I'll do a printer interface. I'll do the lowliest engineering job there is.'' I wanted to work on a computer at my company and they turned me down. When you think about it, every time they turned me down, it was fortunate for the world and it was fortunate for myself.

And being Steve Wozniak has its benefits:

I was in Boston once. I needed two AC adapters. I ran into this new Apple store. I went up to the counter, ``I'd like two 65-watt AC adapters.'' I didn't say anything about who I was. And they bring them out. I say, ``How much?'' They say, ``We are expensing it.'' I said, ``Yeah, but how do I pay for it?'' They said, ``No, no, no -- we are allowed to give gifts to special people.''

Back to Hewlett-Packard, which eventually released the Hewlett-Packard 85. Here's how they got there (remember, however, that history is written by the winners):

1972: Hewlett-Packard pioneers the era of personal computing with the first scientific hand-held calculator, the HP-35, which makes the engineer's slide rule obsolete.

1973: Stephen Wozniak joins HP.

1976: Steve Wozniak proposes that HP create a personal computer. He is rejected.

1976: October - Steve Wozniak remains at HP, but is soon convinced that he should leave and join Apple Computer.

1976: HP begins Project Capricorn, to build a computer-like calculator.

1980: January - HP completes work on the Capricorn project, producing the HP-85. With a 32-character wide CRT display, small built-in printer, cassette tape recorder, and keyboard, it sold for US$3250.

And before you criticize HP as an old dinosaur that couldn't recognize talent, don't forget that HP, like Apple, started in a garage:

The morning of December 6 dawned crisp and clear, defying earlier predictions of imminent rain. Sunlight sparkled on frosty lawns and the sky above the tiny 12x18 foot garage on Addison Avenue seemed especially blue.

CEO Mark Hurd hosted the founders’ families, HP employees — several of whom had worked for decades with Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard — Silicon Valley notables and historians. Even Apple Computer co-founder and HP alum Steve Wozniak came to pay homage to the humble garage in its restored glory.

In brief remarks of appreciation for those involved in bringing the preservation and rehabilitation efforts for the iconic garage and adjoining buildings to its completion, Mark appeared to respond in the way most folks do who stand before the spot where the founders began their work 66 years ago.

“It’s kind of a humbling thing,” he said....

Following the ribbon cutting and reception, the property transformed to the temporary site of tours that included the recreated three-room flat where Dave and Lucile shared the first years of their married life; Bill’s bachelor quarters — really little more than an un-insulated hut — and the preserved garage with a recreated workbench.

Anna Mancini, HP’s Corporate Archivist, made sure that the reconstructed tableaus in all three buildings contained the touchstones that conjure familiar refrains of Silicon Valley legends so often repeated nowadays — the oscillator on the mantel; an upright typewriter; Lucile’s stove with an oscillator panel suspended in the oven; Bill’s cot out back with a shirt hanging on a nail; and, of course, a drill press like the one Dave brought from Schenectady in the rumble seat of his car.


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