CNET News Video
Wozniak on designing the first Apple computerApple co-founder Steve Wozniak discusses how he knew home computers were going to empower people and how he designed the first Apple computer.
We're low level, not executives in companies, 500 people every 2 weeks would meet in an auditorium and they all wanted to talk about the social revolution. We wanted to feel that we were leaders of something. We were the spirit. The big computer companies didn't realize that a computer in the home, a computer in your own possession, was gonna be so valuable, worth so much, so meaningful and emotional, so they started saving their money and only a few of the people in the club, even after half a year, were able to afford their own little machines that were sold as kits of parts. You got a kit of parts and some instructions, you started bolting it together, soldering things like I did to my ham radio in 6th grade and you'd wind up with a little working device you could pulse which is up and down ones and zeroes. You could push buttons and those ones and zeroes would go into a little area called memory and it's very important. Now, what we talked about these machines would be used for? They were gonna empower people. We were gonna-- We young people that knew how to program the computers were gonna become masters within our companies. We'd go into our company, put a computer on our desk, type in the command, the company's financial data, and come out with the output as to what the company should do next, how it should use its money and we were gonna beat their million-dollar computers and their high-paid programmers just on our own. We were gonna be able to type messages into one computer and a hundred people would read it an hour later and we could communicate in ways that have never been imagined before. Young children, we're gonna be giving problems to solve and their solutions would be judged and they would be told if it was right or wrong and their brains were gonna be accelerated 10 times more than normal brains and we had all these great ideas that inspired us and I said, "I have technical skills and I want to donate my technical skills to this effort," so I built an Apple I computer, by hand, all myself, all the hardware, did all the software. Bill Gates had written a basic. I said basic, you need basic on a computer to make it really usable, so I wrote my own basic. You need enough memory so I used the right type of memory that was affordable and the Apple I was not exactly completely built, like a HiFi, you pull it out of the box and use it, but it totally gave away the formula that you should type on a small keyboard that's not here, a human keyboard like a typewriter and see your answer on a video display that that was the way to make a computer affordable and other computers that we passed already followed in that model once they saw it. Now, I didn't design this computer to make a lot of money to start a company. I wanted to accelerate the world's advancement in the social revolution it would cause so I gave away my designs for free. I passed them out on xeroxed sheets and gave them out to everybody at the club that wanted them and I said, "Look, it's so easy, you can build your own," but eventually Steve Jobs came and he said, "Why don't we build it for them," and start a company called Apple and after Hewlett-Packard turned me down 5 times on the idea. This device, the Apple I computer, was done very quick-- in a very quick time, just a few months, but the key to it was I already had a device, I had most of it already designed and built and working so I could talk to computers across the country. The early inspiration for today's internet was the ARPANET. It was an inspiration that gave us the ideas of connecting faraway computers together and I liked being at home and I could type on a little keyboard and on my TV screen that wasn't playing Pong anymore, I could see a list of computers across the country and I could log on to MIT, and then it would have things, I could log in as a guest, and I could run some programs that were available to guests and it was an amazing experience. I just said why don't I put the computer, a microprocessor chip, these microprocessor chips were new, we didn't have very many transistors in those days, and why don't I put a little program that when you start up, it watches for you to type things like our calculators at Hewlett-Packard and that was really the formula to make a computer more like a calculator, something a human being turns on and starts to use right away without having to go through the steps of building it, understanding the technology, knowing about even ones and zeroes, and the Apple II was really a more thorough job of a beautiful computer but this wasn't designed to be a computer, it was designed to be a terminal, to talk to a computer in Boston and I modified it to be a computer and that was the Apple I and I look at-- if anyone looked down in those days and saw these fewer chips that were on a much smaller board, they would say that's all you need to be able to type a computer program and run a computer game, it would really be an amazing experience, so, there aren't very many of these Apple Is around.