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CNET News Video: Wozniak's computer history tour

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CNET News Video: Wozniak's computer history tour

5:18 /

While touring the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak recounts his connection and contributions to the development of personal computing, including his early days working with Steve Jobs.

-One of the big steps in my life was my first transistor radio. First time ever I held a gadget in my hand that I love what it could do. It brought me music. It opened my world up. I could sleep with it. You hear music all night long and music has become such a big part of my life and I looked at my little radio and it had 6 transistors in, hand-built in Japan but hand-built. And my dad worked at Lockheed. The only people that can afford the early chips and really support this chip industry was the military and the very largest corporations, their needs for computers. So my dad had access to the companies in Silicon Valley that were about to make the first chips ever. And he took me to a show when I was, maybe, 8 years old, and I went there and I saw a gentleman presented a picture that showed little blocks and said, "This is a picture that will gonna turn into a chip with 6 transistors on 1 chip, one piece of silicon." And I went home and I just went to my dad and I said, "Well, so they're gonna make better transistor radios?" He said, "No. No. No. These chips cost way too much. Only the military can afford them." After a number of years, there's surplus if they don't need anymore and that's what people get. And I always felt darned, you know, the needs are real people for things on their home to bring them enjoyment should be pushing our industry. Well, what is pushing the state-of-the-art in the silicon industry nowadays? Personal computers, and now, games. The highest most powerful chips that are made on earth are made for game machines, so the legacy of the little personal device has come true. I found a way to get the manuals for all the mini computers when there were no stores that sold such things. What I would do is go to Stanford Linear Accelerator Center on Sundays with a friend and we drive in thinking nobody's there, and the smart, smart people that work there, they always leave doors unlocked. So we'd always get in to the main building. It had a library and I go to the library and read Net Computer Magazines you could never find in local magazine stores and with little card you could fill out and order the manuals for almost all the mini computers you see here. I'm a good designer. I designed my own 28 little $1 chips on a board. I had Pong playing on my TV set at home. I snick the cable in and figured it how to do it. Eventually, Steve Jobs came back and he took my game down to Atari and he got a job. Atari was in Los Gatos, California where I live now. I'm very proud of that. So I used to go in and visit at night. They have Steve working at night, so he wouldn't be around with other people, and then he got us a job. I designed the first Breakout game for Atari. -Yeah. -So I didn't really work there. They tried to hire me but I said, "Never leave Hewlett-Packard. I love my company. I'm loyal." Yeah. -You built that in one week, didn't you? -Breakout, 4 days, 4 days and nights. It was [unk] your job. I didn't think I could do it and we stayed up all night, all day long, all night long. We both got the sleeping sickness, mononucleosis. Steve Jobs and I both got it doing that project to deliver a working Breakout game and it was one of the highlights of my life because I love games. I love things that young people do, children do in related to my interesting education. And also- Yeah, the big impact in how I design those game-like features into the early Apple computers especially the Apple II because games we're gonna come into computers, game equipment like knobs and paddles and buttons and sounds were gonna be an important part of computers and I hope I got a little part of history in accelerating that. And then the computer gaming- As games become software. They took off to what we have today. And then Breakout gave me a starting point to build a little machine that could type, talk, talk to computers on the ARPANET back on those days and then that plus my own little microprocessor made the Apple I computer. So it was a real important step. I'm sure there would never been an Apple company. Breakout, I designed it, hardware, that just means the chips were hardware. -Uh huh. -Chips connect voltages to each other and the voltages go high and low and high and low. And if you set them up in ways that they go high and low at exactly the right times, you can cause dots to appear on a TV screen. So there is no software. You couldn't write a program to do it. You had to know how all the chips and the voltages worked to make a game back then. So Breakout was a hardware game not a software game. So a lot of us are doing software, you can do it, you know, if you already know it, I think you can do it in half a day. If you take up the introduction to computer courses in a lot of colleges, you will program Breakout in that course. If you think about these early computers we saw that they've made very few of it that cost in billion of today's dollars, for the military, those were very important steps to them, and all of a sudden, we've lost a lot of control. We can't turn off our internet. We can't turn off our smartphones. We can't turn off our computer. How would we live a life without any of those things? You know, for the next 6 months or something, how would we, you know, cars without computers. So all the sudden technology we've just built in to help us, we're depending on it. And eventually, we're gonna have it doing every task we can in the world, so we can sit back and relax, but now, we're not needed as much as the technology. So who's the master and who's the slave I always think? But it's not like we design these machines that would be intelligent enough to take over like it happens by accident without knowing what we're doing.

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