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Interview: Steve Wozniak Unbound

Roblimo posted more than 14 years ago | from the don't-hurt-your-back-bowing dept.

Apple 384

I personally consider Steve Wozniak the biggest "star" we've ever interviewed on Slashdot. I was s-o-o happy when he agreed to do this interview that you wouldn't believe it. Many excellent questions for him were submitted Monday. Click below to read answers to the 11 questions we felt best represented the hundreds y'all sent in.

1) LinuxPPC?
by UM_Maverick

What's your take on the use of LinuxPPC vs. the MacOS? Many people say that Mac hardware is (and always has been) better than x86, but it's been held back by the OS. Do you think that LinuxPPC can change that?


Many of the hardware advantages that Apple has is due to it's being more tightly controlled by Apple and in it's being more tightly integrated with the software. That allows Apple to make hardware changes and decisions that are more reliable than in the Wintel world. This has nothing to do with Linux and everything to do with MacOS. The basic plumbing is superior to Intel hardware in some ways (firewire on the motherboard for example) and a bit lacking in others (3D rendering hardware) but the basic performance advantage goes to the RISC architecture of the PowerPC processor. Intel's response to this is that even if RISC is 40% faster, that only amounts to a few months lead, according to Moore's Law.

If you consider attractiveness and other external qualities, you can't find any hardware that comes close to Apple's. That's because even companies like Sony, that truly care about the user experience, can't do much about the internal hardware (buying it from Intel like every other manufacturer). Also, companies like Sony are in competition with many very cutrate prices in a commodity market. The internal hardware supplier can't do much about the external quality either.

LinuxPPC certainly has the capability of improving the hardware efficiency and preventing some very bad things from happening and allowing software to behave in more expectable ways. It's hard to say that a great deal of the buyers are much influenced by these things or we wouldn't have so much successful crap around. The Macintosh market would probably be prime and ready for LinuxPPC but it probably needs more ease of setup. Also, other UNIX variants (Like Mach Ten) are available already and only marginally used by Macintosh owners. The performance of MacOS X Server is already quite incredible, and the [largely] Open Source MacOS X Client is coming in the summer.

2) Open-source and free software questions
by papo

Do you think open-source and free software is really a revolution or only a hype? How do you think things will become in the software industry in the future with open-source variable inserted in their middle? And do you think this model could lead to a more competitive and less monopolistic market?


I definitely think that open-source is a revolution and not hype. I could have chosen to say that it's both.

There have always been people that believed strongly in free software. They are mostly people that have developed something rather good and even sellable, but small and of limited market potential. I support these people. It's little known, but the schematics of the Apple I were actually handed out at the Homebrew Computer Club before we started Apple.

But there are so many large bucks available just to companies that get people using their software because software is like a portal. It's hard to have a clear advantage in getting software widely accepted just because it's free. That's because Microsoft can distribute a lot of good software, like browsers and email clients, for free, making money in less direct ways. The main attraction to open source software may not be it's advantages (price, functionality) but the fact that some people don't want to support the big successful proprietary companies. There's good reason for fear of monopoly stagnation too. Look at ATT. When I was in school there was only one phone in one color. You couldn't buy an answering machine or any of the neat phone stuff that abounds today. ATT was the only phone company and didn't want any change to their guaranteed business due to competition.

3)Ease of Use vs Level of Control
by _J_

Apple has long been noted for having the most (or among the most) user friendly stuff around. What do you think of the trade off between ease of use and level of control? Is there a trade off?


In a lot of cases there is a trade off here. In the case of applications, Apple primarily appeals to a market that wants things made easy. That means hiding functionality and control. It bothers people like ourselves. But Apple could say that programmers have as much control as they want, but that certainly isn't true of its hardware. The rule is "keep out" and "don't do it unless you are an expert." You won't find much at all in the way that individual techies can design and use their own boards with a Macintosh, the sort of thing that I always wanted to do.

Then again, Apple is the leader (for decades) in providing user interfaces and hardware interfaces that are easy, like plug and play (and install and pray) yet which can do as much anyway. This is the hardest thing to do in software and hardware and only the greatest artists can do it. It takes a mind that keeps searching for a better way that's unknown, and not stopping at the first few working results.

4) Did/do average people need a computer?
by Otter

In the days of the Apple ][, did you believe the average American household needed a personal computer? I remember being told that computers could balance your checkbook, keep your schedule and store your recipes and wondering if that was a cost-effective solution for people, or just an expensive, if fascinating toy. It's my impression that it's only now with consumer Internet access that a home computer provides value for most people.

What do you think?


Even as a toy, I believed that every home needed a computer. This was even though I thought the computer would remain expensive and small, sans Moore's law. Also I believed it before the first killer app, Visicalc. I believed that people would become programmers and not need companies as much. You can see how laughable that was.

Although I never talked to Steve Jobs directly on this issue, I never heard him predict outright some things that are very obvious today in the internet days. But he was more forward looking and interested in making computers palatable for people and finding ways that computers could help them, not as computers but as tools to balance checkbooks, etc. The Apple ][ was just a start in gaining acceptance for computers in the home.

In Junior High School I assumed that transistors were being developed so that people could use them in transistor radios. But my father, who worked at Lockheed, corrected my by saying that they, and the early chips, were designed only for the military, and the consumer market just fell out. This bothered me. I was a person after all. I wanted consumer products to drive the chip market. Around 1969, when I could design any minicomputer made, I knew that I wanted one for myself. I told my father that someday I'd buy a 4K Nova computer and he said that it cost as much as a small house (in those days). I said I'd live in an apartment then.

By the way, the Data General brochures that I ordered came with one of two posters. One showed a commercial looking rack mounted computer. But the other showed a Nova in a sculpted shape on a glass table. It made a huge impression on me that even commercial looking computers with dozens of techie switches and lights, could go into a home. At least one other person believed this, since Data General had the poster.

Well, when we had the Homebrew Computer Club, we all talked of this revolution in the sense that it was empowering people without the companies owning the computers. A lot of people were planning to buy an Altair kit computer but a few started designing ones. The designs were a mixture of surplus store hobbiest and putting microprocessor into the existing commercial looking boxes, doing the same things, expecting the same plug in boards to do anything useful. I was in a perfect position to conceive of the computer in a different way, a personal (not commercial) way. First, I believed only in designing products for the average person. That's the exact phrase I always used. it was hard to stick to this thinking when everyone else, in 1975, was going a different way. I thought out what I wanted to do with my own computer and went for it.

I had an advantage in being good at reducing chips. I could conceive of an entire finished usable computer and design it in few enough chips to be practical. My philosophy of fewer chips led me to dynamic RAMs when all the other hobby computers were going with static RAMs. It just took a bit more design work.

But the biggest advantage of all was that I worked in Hewlett Packard's calculator division. Our calculators were basically computers, yet they were totally human and usable by normal people. They didn't have binary switches to toggle and boot up procedures from a teletype. The had a small amount of code in ROMS (under 1K 10-bit words in the HP 35) and a human keyboard. The ROM program merely watched the keys and responded to whatever key was depressed. So it was quite obvious for me to think of the keyboard and some ROM as integral parts of the computer. From there it's easy to see it in normal people's hands, whereas all the other commercial looking machines had no chance except in the hands of techies.

5) What would an Apple II 2000 look like?
by Croaker

The Apple II was the original "geek dream machine." I mean, the Apple ][+ we got back in 1982 or so came with schematics! Talk about an open system!

Pretend that Apple (or some other company) came to you and asked you to design a PC that would "fill the shoes" of the Apple II line. What do you think you'd put in it?

From reading your website, I know you're pretty pro-Macintosh... is that the ultimate in what you'd want to see in a personal computer, or would you do some things differently? Where, do you think, that current PC's (not meaning just WinTel machines) reflect the philosophy of the Apple II, and what do you think they have missed?


First, my thoughts on what a modern computer would be can't be superior to anyone else's. But, in the light of the Apple ][, I'd choose the best processor that I could in terms of package size, performance, integrated I/O, number of leads, etc. I'd prefer unseen advantages under the hood, like RISC architecture. I'd design a board with very few chips that did a lot. The display would clearly be VGA and only standard ports would make sense. This is different than with the Apple ][. But the computer would have very few chips and would have high level languages and low level debugging and coding support too. I would try to offer high level GUI ability in the high level language. The schematics and all the code would come with the machine and would be open source (unless someone like Steve Jobs convinced me to sell it). I would treat the most important aspect of this machine as it's being an example to others of ways to design and code. There are a lot of people that want to learn in this way, on their own. Sometimes it's their desire, sometimes they can't find other sources easily. I'd also try to write some articles with small examples for others to learn from.

6) Teaching the children
by tweek

Do you feel that operating systems such as Linux/*BSD are a viable option for teaching those children who have no previous experience with a computer? Certainly the cost factor would be a great motivation for choosing these over other operating systems. It seems to me that it is more difficult to train those who are set in one GUI than those who have no previous experience whatsoever. I really have an interest in this kind of community service and felt that someone like you with experience (and albeit alot more money ;) could provide some insight and advice.

Woz: I think that the greatest need of children is to use computers to help do their homework and to make it look good. They are basically using apps and not an OS.

I personally think that our schools should change and teach real computer science from 5th grade on. You don't need higher level math or calculus or biology to start learning logic design. In this regard, Linux or BSD or even other UNIX variants, or simpler microprocessor Operating Systems, would be required in order to have a greater understanding of the machine and it's innards.

7) the Steves
by Skyshadow

What advice can you give the new innovators? As someone who would like to start a company, I can't help but notice that most truly innovative companies tend to boom then bust, either fading slowly into obscurity or being assimilated by some larger company.

Do you have any ideas for avoiding this fate? Is the only alternative to make some money and become a predatory company yourself? Or, alternatively, is this the eventual unavoidable fate of all idea-driven companies (Netscape, SGI, Apple, etc)? Or, to sum up the question: Can an Apple ever defeat a Microsoft?


Apple made too many marketing mistakes early on. These were hard to see because we were extremely successful anyway. But we really went from first to second in the early 80's. It wasn't to Microsoft, it was to IBM PC's (and all the clones). Only recently did the world find out that Microsoft was a sleeper and was really in first place. Software made the bigger difference in computers and was what really changed the world more than hardware.

As a computer supplier, Apple is still huge. Our recent model computers still have the greatest market share of any manufacturer. So we must be doing something right. Apple is the only manufacture that is still in control of its future and changing computers and advancing the world and leaving the past behind. Every other one is a slave to Intel and Microsoft and competitive prices that don't allow for much R&D. They are the ones that have been assimilated. I'd rather be Apple. I believe that Apple's turn around is just starting. But it's not a matter of 'defeating' Microsoft. It's only a matter of building the best stuff we can. If Microsoft creates such good things they should be successful too. But there's always the luck of the right approach, even though no successful company will admit it.

8) Have you played with the BeOS?
by RavinDave

Have you ever had a chance to play around with the Be operating system? Since its developers were part of the Apple culture, I thought I might find a blurb or two on your page. What sort of advice would you offer Gassee? Is the proprietary aspect an albatross (should they opensource the OS and concentrate on apps)? Are they trying to get into the game too late?


I have one and always wanted to play with it but just don't have the time yet. I like interesting people that can make your work fun, and Jean Louis is like that. But he had the same proprietary thinking that almost all key Apple execs shared, including the avoidance of licensing the software. BeOS would need something very special to rise above the noise, with Linux and open-source being so popular.

9) A question
by jd

Once upon a time, garage developers were considered the mainstay of the computer industry. Later, either you or S. Jobs said that the days of garage developers was over, forever. Later still, the Open Source model rewoke the Garage Developer philosophy with a jolt.(Or a Mountain Dew, depending on taste.)

Today, do you feel that garage development still has a place in Computing? And, if so, would it be in software, hardware or both?


There were a couple of factors that helped a garage startup succeed in the late 70's. Before that time, computers were physically quite large and expensive and were developed by large teams. Now computer projects, even games, are worth so much $ that they are developed by large teams. Around 1975 and 1975 there was a window in which a person or two could develop a good complete computer.

Also, in the early days the computers weren't really personal computers, they were hobby computer kits. You would typically build them yourself and had to operate them at the binary switch level. It was more like ham radio than today's computers. Many big computer companies predicted no future for this hobby market. That's because all their market research was among existing computer customers, those buying the big $M machines. Those customers had no need for a 4K machine that could only run BASIC. But the market research didn't touch on non-computer users like dentists and schoolteachers and kids. So they missed the boat. Apple tried to rise above the hobby type machine and approach homes with a 'personal' computer. Only then did analysts and computer companies start to see things in a different light.

Today, look how many successful startups there are. These often come from a couple of young people with good ideas and not a huge amount of money. I'm on the Board of one such company now. So it must be happening all over the place, just one step above a garage. It's hard to happen in the garage, because the Apple story is not forgotten. A lot of investors missed out and want to jump at anything having to do with computers that looks like it might succeed. So a couple of people like myself and Steve Jobs would be consumed very quickly today, unless we almost deliberately remained hidden or found a perfect investor like Mike Markkula.

Now that I think about it, we had to grow out of the garage to build more than a couple of hundred computers. So today, many that get funded for a startup really developed something in their homes, in their garages to speak, anyway.

10) Idealism today
by Ledge Kindred

You seem to be one of the most "purely" idealistic people in this industry. (i.e. RMS is idealistic in the sense he wants to push GNU, you are idealistic in that you just want to help kids get a leg up and generally be An All-Around Good Guy.)

Do you ever look at the industry and get depressed over what's it's become with companies with virtually no product and running deep in the red but who have "e-" or "dot-com" in their names pulling off ridiculously huge IPOs, companies patenting obviously unpatentable concepts and ideas apparently for the express purpose of suing the pants off of competitors instead of competing with the quality of their products, companies like Microsoft going beyond the boundaries of the law and way, way beyond the boundaries of ethical behaviour to get a step up on the competition, the industry lobbying government to pass laws that would create an entirely unregulated industry, including things like legislation that would legally disavow software companies of any responsibility for creating shoddy products that don't even do what the box says they will do, employees floating with a company just long enough to vest and then bailing out without a backwards glance so they can go to The Next Big IPO, etc, etc, etc.

What do you look at in this industry to remind yourself that computers and the computer industry can actually help make the world a better place?


That's a lot of questions. I don't get depressed at all over anything. I do happen to think that companies that look like the big dot-coms of the future deserve their successful IPO's. I guess that they sort of sell out early to finance their guaranteed dominance. Investors take advantage of this too, knowing that the IPO financing will guarantee that these startups don't lose their early lead. Many see this as a situation where the great wealth being made is being lost somewhere else but I don't. I see it as truly new wealth that's being created due mainly to an accelerated economic system. Regardless, this wealth gets trickled down to all of us to some extent. Eventually, it all gets distributed. As the wealthy approach death, estate taxes will be due. Any large amounts of funds have to be transferred into foundations whose purpose is to distribute them to tax free organizations. Otherwise the government gets half the money. It's just the only efficient way to go. It's in the tax laws.

Some patents are for truly clever things but some are for simple things that every single person would think of if there was a need for it. Wealthy companies patent such things early, when these things are not yet viable, when they are too expensive to market. For example, I used a chip in the Apple ][ called a character generator to convert characters to dots that could be displayed on a CRT or TV. It turned out that RCA had patented it back when almost nobody could have afforded to put characters on a CRT. Such a simple concept does not help us respect the patent system.

I truly wish that companies would be liable to consumers for products that don't do what the consumer reasonably expected, or that don't include the sort of service that the consumers reasonable expected. I'd like more truth in advertising. I'd like speedy remedies for people that are injured. We need regulation in a lot of technological industries, including cellular phones. Not in order to keep prices low, but to assure that powerless people have recourse and can get things corrected. Most of all, companies should be required to give straight answers. Too many ISP's and phone companies and computer companies and software companies and hardware companies dodge helping in order to save costs. Only a few are very good, and they don't always remain that way. I'd much rather that another person be honest with me than that they sell me something at a good price. This industry will provide service as cheaply as possible due to competitive factors that can only be overcome by regulation.

11) The Future of Education
by moonboy

From what I've read, you are very involved with children and their education and technology seems to play a major role in the basis of that education. Personally, I think that next to being loved adaquately, education is the most important factor in a developing child's life. In America we seem to take education for granted and are very far behind other countries in regard to the quality of the education that our children receive. Technology in general and more specifically, computers and the Internet, are fantastic tools with a great potential for drastically improving education.

My question: How do you see education making better use of technology and technology making education better?


Personal love is certainly the most important thing. To some extent, a teacher offers this, but only to each student 1/30 of the time. 30 computers could become like 30 teachers, but they have to become as personal as possible. They need realistic graphics like games have. They need realistic sounds. They should be voice operated, especially since very early elementary students can't type well. Every time a computer program gets more human-like, it attracts better student attention. But the software needs to be many times as deep as it is today in terms of a personality. It needs to be more like a real person, with many ways to present the same subject, backtracking intelligently, even to the far past, following a student through years of education. The programs should tell lots of jokes as well, and play occasional games too. Today the class presentation is fixed. Each student hears the same presentation in the same time frame. Then a test is given and the varable is the grade. But with 30 teachers, the presentation can be variable, with students going at different speeds in different courses. The student can pick their grade in advance, with the grade now being fixed.

It's too hard to predict that schools will disappear as rapidly as many stores and newspapers and other things of the physical world. Schools currently serve as a parking place for the kids during the day and, even when everything is available at home on the web, parents will still want their kids in a socially healthier environment during the day.


Next week: Larry Augustin and Chris DiBona of VA Linux Systems. AND, at the same time, another,very special interview guest: Leon M. Lederman, Nobel Prize Winner, internationally known specialist in high energy physics and director emeritus of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois.

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We like Woz! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394311)

Here at the ACM Retirement Home in Guelph, Ontario, we are immensely pleased that THE WOZ HIMSELF agreed to a Slashdot Interview!!! Popsicles for everyone!! Mr. Wozniak, if you ever decide that the climate of Canada is acceptable, the citizens of Guelph would be proud to welcome you to their midst!!! And we have, of course, The Best Health Care System In The World!! That is exciting!

Open Schematics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394314)

". It's little known, but the schematics of the Apple I were actually handed out at the Homebrew Computer Club before we started Apple."

BEFORE is the key word in that sentence. Why didn't apple continue this? Could it be that it didn't make any business sense to do so?

Re:Open Schematics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394376)

He did not even think about selling his computers until Jobs talked him into starting Apple. Even then, some of the Apple machines (I've heard) actually _did_ come with schematics!

woz is pretty cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394394)

from ronzo 'having issue with my slashdot account... going back a few years, i would figure maybe 83-84 the Woz came to miami for the talk, sponsored by the local apple group. so we went to the speech and the question and answer session. it went pretty well. afterwards everyone was crowding around him, and myself and a friend asked if he wanted to go to denny's or something. He said yes, so off to denny;s we all went. We got to have some dinner and talk and b.s. with steve woz. He even told us how the original work was done on denny's napkins. Just adding my two cents worth. ronzo

Re:disregard that last one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394395)

Dude, I was sort of caught off guard, I didnt think the Pankin comment was all that bad.

Have a good weekend.

Re:School is socially unhealthy, Steve (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394396)

so is it unhealhty when children play fun games after school too?

Re:of learning young and UI's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394399)

I agree. But the problem is that most kids already have MacOS or Wintel machines, and would probably not be patient enough to learn an "operating system and computer available today to provide a simple,
efficient, open, and functional platform, with an optional GUI". Most kids are too put off by the "education system" to actually enjoy learning, much less teaching them selves.

Most teachers aren't very good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394405)

Most _pre_college_ teachers, that is.

I'd like to hear that this has changed, but when I went to "grade school" as they call it here in the U.S., I had only a couple teachers who knew what they were doing and could teach it at all. Most of the others were inept.

Has this changed? Any teens want to comment?

Re:School is socially unhealthy, Steve (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394406)

No, kids playing together is not unhealthy ... think of how different it is from being in a classroom. You have a hetergenous mix of ages (most of the time), the kids are interacting on several levels, they are doing different things (and normally doing them differently). None of these happens in a typical school setting. -pate (too lazy to login)

Paul Allen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394408)

Has anyone noticed that Woz and Paul Allen ... are out there making the world a better place

Could you give examples of how Paul Allen's making the world better? If I remember correctly, he's the one behind the TicketMaster monopoly.

Get a life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394409)

Snooty spelling fanatics are just people with low self esteem who want to feel superior to others. Focus your anal retentive criticisms on yourself for once. Then maybe people will stop thinking that you're a pretentious little prick.

Re:Woz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394410)

Great comment. I sincerely hope that Apple goes back to its roots and ships their development tools (Project Builder, Inerface Builder, GNU Tools) with MacOS X Client.

Woz is a toy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394412)

Even as a toy, I believed that every home needed a computer.

Woz is a toy! A fuzzy little wozzy bear, I'll bet.

Re:Hacker God (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394413)

If you compare yourself with others, you will become vain or bitter, for there will always be those greater and lesser than yourself.

someone forward this to Tom Christiansen who thinks he's better than most. In reality, he's a fucknut.

Re:School is socially unhealthy, Steve (0)

cHiphead (17854) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394423)

If anybody tried to take away my playtime, I'd have to kick some ass. :)

Re:Scott Pakin (0)

eshaft (82430) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394426)

so what if when i rant it comes out like a standard, high-school essay? that's what bad english teaching get's ya. i should have got kicked out more than i already did, what can i say?


Re:We like Woz! (0)

ArtPepper (106669) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394428)

*And we have, of course, The Best Health Care System In The World!!* This MUST be another Canada, because the Canada north of the United States has extremely long waiting periods for most non-emergency treatments. And, in Quebec anyways, hospitals are closing "left and right". Outside of that, it probably is the Best.

Re:Computers hurt kids, too (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394434)

Ahh.. developmental psychology. What Woz is suggesting is not delving children into a world full of dangers and pitfalls (which the internet is) but leveraging them up to a point where they do not view a computer with suspicion. Using computers on a regular basis and having knowledge of computers is currently considered a geeky endeavor, and people who participate in those activities are many times abused (see the insightful series of Hellmouth articles). What Woz is saying about computers is indeed viable, and even necessary, to compete in the world of the future. Let children get exposed to the outdoors by regular field trips, and then have them take a test on a computer built into their desk at school. Teachers ARE NOT necessary in a GRADE SCHOOL environment. At that level of learning, all that is being taught is the very basics, and the best way to teach that is without prejudice or bias, which only computers are capable of doing. At the college level and above, it becomes a different story since you need opinion and bias to properly teach the material. But no secondary school system NEEDS children being taught by biased, irrational, and oftentimes angry teachers. Computers are the future in that end, but it will not be accepted easily. Exposure to real life and wilderness is no fault of computers, it is the fault of a poor educational system which does not provide a large enough budget to its districts to let them do anything creative, or lazy administrators or teachers who do not want to go through the trouble of exposing children to the outdoors. I was a boy scout for several years, have seen Yellowstone, Glacier, been to alaska, seen brown, black, and even a polar bear, I own a siberian wolf mix and have plenty of exposure to the outdoors, yet I am majoring in computer science /and/ spend much of my life on the computer.

In addition, the future mobility of computer systems will allow them to be used with ease in the outdoors. Imagine a system resembling the popular anime 'Pokemon' with the 'Pokedex' being able to be used on actual creatures in the outdoors. That would be wonderful.

Chason Chaffin University of Houston

Hacker God (1)

Indomitus (578) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394437)

I cannot believe what a cool person Steve Wozniak is. From the first time I heard the story of him figuring out how to build the first Apple when everybody else thought it was impossible he's been my hardware hacker god. Between him, John Carmack, and various kernel hackers I know, it's a wonder I have any self-esteem left when I look at my own stuff. :)

Re:yay woz! (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394439)

This is Woz, not Jobs, we're talking to.

While I believe Woz has some influence at Apple still, it's nowhere near that of Jobs. We'll be VERY lucky to see the non-BSD layers. Even if Woz is fanatically committed to Open-Source, I don't think he has enough influence in the current Apple (esp. with Jobs solidifying his dictator-for-life power) to make the changes you propose.

Re:Hacker God (1)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394441)

Hey man, don't put yourself down. All of the people you mention are mere mortals also, and although their accomplishments may be great, there is nothing to say that, given a different situation (say, your own), they might not have accomplished what they did, or that if your situation were different (say, you had the same opportunities and experiences they did), you wouldn't have accomplished what they did.

Not to put anyone on your list down, but I don't think idolization of anybody is particularly healthy, beneficial, or even justified.

Just remember -

If you compare yourself with others, you will become vain or bitter, for there will always be those greater and lesser than yourself.

Open Source = Homebrew Software Club (1)

tallpaul (1010) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394442)

I don't know if this comparison has been made before but it seems to me that the Open Source movement is much like the Homebrew Computer Club.

The ideals in the case of the Homebrew Computer Club (as described in the interview) were: "empowering people without the companies owning the computers" only in this case it is software. We are in a better situation today -- almost anyone can be "hardware empowered," but if you want to be software empowered -- forget it.

Keep in mind that when you buy a piece of software like Windows or Office you are actually just buying a "license to use" the software. The software itself is *owned* my Microsoft (or Large Company of your Choice). You don't own it any more than people in the 70's owned the large computers that they rented/begged time on. Closed source is just one way that this non-ownership and disempowerment is enforced.

Re:Computers Don't Belong in Schools? (1)

LetterJ (3524) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394452)

I saw him on CSPAN-2 a couple of weeks ago. He was talking about his book. Many of the people in attendance were teachers. I think he might make an interesting interview here on /. as well. He has a really interesting perspective and his delivery is entertaining and energetic. It was fun to watch someone dig in their backpack for visual aids. I'll check to see if they are planning to reair it. I know they sometimes do.


Re:Hacker God (1)

Bad Mojo (12210) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394467)

It's good to see others picking up on similar traits in important people. Wozniak, Linux and Carmack have a similar, even, levelheaded approach to everything. This makes me value their opinions and decisions above other peoples. I think this attitude is paramount in being a good role model for other hackers trying to grapple with the tough decisions.

Bad Mojo

Re:yay woz! (1)

Sleepyguy (12339) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394468)

um woz has about zilch to do with apple these days. I don't think his opinion has anything to do with apple strategies anymore.

Re:Agreed:BRAVO!! (1)

bruceg (14365) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394471)

Not to make a political gesture, but Al Gore wants to pay teachers more, specifically for what you cite here. We are talking about the future of our country here! I can only hope that out next president will make this a priority.

Jimmy Carter--off-topic, sorta... (1)

Ensign Nemo (19284) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394479)

Agreed. Carter is the only ex-Prex doing something good for society. Habitat for Humanity is an awesome organization.

Why is it the people who do the actual work, don't get the credit?

Wouldn't it be nice if we had more people in power who were actually honest hardworking folks.

Like Linus, (don't worry, no hero worship here, just observations.) Family first, then everything else. No power-trips, no monster ego, but a guy who actually rolls up his sleeves and breaks out the elbow grease (ok, finger grease in this respect)

Re:"I don't get depressed at all over anything." (1)

blixco (28719) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394491)

If you were Seve Wozniak, would *you* be depressed about anything? Seriously, I think he looks at everything with the same engineer / hacker eye: everything can be broken down into logical elements and solved to your satisfaction....everything. Any problem.

I thknk if more geeks put the same problem solving skills to work on their personal lives (and the society around them) there would be slightly less geek angst. I mean, the typical hack / geek / engineer has more non-linear problem solving ability than the average psych(ologist)(iatrist). And it sounds like mr. wozniak is content with his place in life, as well.

Re:Computer Science (1)

henley (29988) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394492)

But most students are going to be using computers as tools, sealed boxes, and they need to learn different lessons. Like don't forward the hoax virus warnings you get in your email. Don't run cute executables from people you don't know. And don't believe everything you read on Slashdot, even if it is from a karma whore with a +1 bonus.

These are all great things to learn, sure. Especially the last one. But do they count as computer science education?

I just wonder where in a child's education the above fall. "Communication Skills" springs to mind to describe the topics, rather than computer science, and I dunno about the rest of the planet but here in the UK that's not a formal topic for education until you get to at least tertiary level (but, hey, my company *does* send me on tree-hugging courses in this so you can get some of that stuff).

I think Woz was addressing the "this is a computer, this is what it does, this is how it works" side of things, rather than "this is a computer, this is how you use it". Choice of OS, regardless of merit, is irrelevant.

From my own experience, and with regards to CompSci itself rather than the usage-and-social-rules side, I learnt just as much - if not more - from writing asm card-reading sw on bare metal microcontrollers as I did from playing with SPARC systems & VAXen.

Indeed, from the ground-up perspective, one of the best learning tools I've seen has to be a lego-like construction kit which snaps together. Each component is a logic gate or similar - you build up your own circuits (up to adder / counter level, for instance). Big, chunky components, just about idiot (if not child) proof, colourful, das blinkenlicht... if something like that can't get a kid interested, I can't see what they'd learn from sitting down in front of a VDU with a penguin on it (or flying window).

Re:Computers hurt kids, too (1)

SparkyB (30171) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394494)

I agree. People always seem to think computers are a quick fix for everything. The scary thing is kids are starting to believe that. Kids have forgotten the value of a library because they can just browse the internet. Everyone sees computers as so important and so they believe that the most computer educated kid will do the best. However, we forget some basic predicate knowledge that is neccessary.

Kids need to be taught how to learn and not just to be sheep. I saw it in high school in my programming classes. They couldn't learn C++ because they didn't understand logic. I give Woz major kudos for his statement that we need to start early teaching logic and the like on which learning higher skills are based. Give a man a fish he can eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he can eat his whole life. Teach a kid to use Word he can type a paper, teach a kid to use logic, to reason, and to learn and he can figure out whatever obstacles arise. I think I lost my train of thought so I'll stop rambling now.

People today are lazy (1)

SparkyB (30171) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394495)

nice idea but I dont think it would work to have an optional GUI because people these days are getting lazy. they'd probably rather use the gui and then demand that everything is centered around it. There are certain people who are original and inquisitive who want to learn and understand thing, use logic and reason, and are mindless sheep in society. These are the ones who go on to be nerds, geeks, and hackers. People with brains. The number of these seems to be decreasing. I wonder why that is? Also I wonder if it is genetic or societal, and if societal what can we do to teach and promote thought, reasoning, and individuality?

Re:Education tech: the problem isn't the software (1)

annarchy (31562) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394500)

Good call -

I've worked with high school teachers, helping them integrate the Internet in their classroom, and doing other technology consulting. Virtually all of the students seem to know more about how to operate the computer and the internet than the teacher. I've seen teachers get really flustered when there is a problem and a student steps in and solves the problem. It's embarrassing to have a 9 year-old help you...I suppose.

It's pretty sad how terrified of technology some of these older teachers are...can't get overhead projectors to work. But change is difficult.

However, several of my friends just graduated from Oregon Teacher Programs, some of the toughest in the nation and had to study many ways the computer can be used in the classroom...Several of them even took some basic computer programming classes.

More good news for Oregon, US WEST gave 25 million dollars to Oregon high schools to get them Internet Access and computers.

There is great possibilty with these new young teachers and corporate sponsorships (a whole other can of worms) to open up computing for school children.

Re:Fun games after school (1)

rocketjesus (32378) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394501)

Today's schools are utterly strapped by misplaced priorities, high turnover, and lack of ability to properly discipline children due to all the lawsuits that have been filed against schools that effectively discipline their students.

You forgot "Some of" in front of "Today's schools..."

Unless you're just trying to spread FUD.

If that's the case, then by all means carry on.

School is socially unhealthy, Steve (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394510)

Sorry, Steve, but school is socially unhealthy. It's a very unnatural environment -- to be surrounded by so many people of exactly the same age as you, with very little adult supervision.

Re:We like Woz! (1)

gonzocanuck (44989) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394519)

*g* come to Alberta, you easties! We're falling apart more than you can imagine. We left one doctor, disgusted after he mixed up my dad's and brother's charts. He told my brother he had high blood pressure (!) and that an incidence of flu might have been a brain tumor.

To keep it OT, I really enjoyed reading Woz's answers! He's always been a hero of mine :-)

Re:Just some thoughts... (1)

sonoffreak (60226) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394526)

I've never actively crashed a Mac either, but I've seen them go down all the time.
In the lab I have to work in at school to make spare cash, its half Mac, a quarter NT, and a quarter 95. I would say that the 95 machines and the Macs go down about the same amount followed by the NT machines, which are newer and haven't been messed with/up as much. It's all due to various software problems, usually Netscape, Cricket graph, or MS Office on the Macs and almost always Explorer on the PC's. These machines take a real beating, being used from 7:00am to 2:00am by a lot of different people who tend to know little about what they are doing.

My point here? People dispute whether or not the MacOS or Winders is better (in this case crash less), but in a real world situation they perform about the same for average users. Of course this is different if you're a graphic designer or programmer or whatever but I'm talking average Word Processing/Email/Web browsing, AOL instant messenger is really cool, type users.

Now, if only they'd let me throw Debian on those PC's :-).

MacCrash (1)

veldrane (70385) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394536)

The only real common times I had crashing Macs was when the "brand new" 1st generation PPCs came out (6100/7100s I think).

I think it was that they didn't have all the bug ironed out of their emulator for 68k programs.
(The natives ran fine.)

Every once in a while, I'll get the bomb on the iMac. Usually its because I'm playing with beta software tho...

(Sorry about OT)
I've managed to click my way through a Win98 upgrade only to have it freeze on bootup. Apparently, when it went through to find/install the drivers for my hardware, it reinstalled all the drivers so I had multiples of all my drivers on my system. Fixed that and no serious hang ups yet.

Nothing has frozen my Linux box yet and RH6.0 installed nicely with a win partition....even with a kernel recompile.


Another question on education and computers (1)

The HaikuMaster (71554) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394538)

I wish I'd asked my question on computers in education. Woz must have a great point of view about the subject.

He talked about how educational software could be made better, but as the poster above points out, the teachers need to be able to use it effectively.

A great deal of teachers I know are technophobes. They work exhausting hours and have no time (and little incentive) to learn how to use computers. I'd love to hear what role Woz thinks computers should really play in education.

Re:yay woz! (1)

technos (73414) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394539)

Mr. Wozniak hasn't been 'Apple' for quite a while. I'd go barking up another tree.

Re:Just some thoughts... (1)

Eponymous, Showered (73818) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394540)

I can say that I got interested in Linux, not because it was not Windows, but because is was/is Unix (like). For someone who taught himself computing and programming just by buying TRS-80s and 8088 PC clones, etc, it was a chance to open up a new world where I had no access to SparcStations or HP-UX boxen.

I still like it for that reason. Unix is elegant and deep and rich. Windows (NT, anyway) is a great desktop system.

MacOS X looks super - I may have to save my pennies for a G4

Re:Just some thoughts... (1)

eshaft (82430) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394546)

If you've never done anything that crashed a mac, you've obviously not tried very hard. Ever use Netscape? :)

But seriously, I can't wait for OS X, it's about time they added useful Unix networking tools to the core of the OS! It was blantatly lacking them before - that's why I'd always pick windows above mac. Well, that, and the lack of a starcraft battle chest for the Mac platform...

disregard that last one (1)

eshaft (82430) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394547)

oops, thought that was a reply to me. sorry for wasting bandwidth!!

Re:Just some thoughts... (1)

Maul (83993) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394549)

Well, I've never crashed it with Netscape.

I've never actively attempted to crash a Mac though. I don't use them enough. I do know that I've seen Windows (which I use about as much as MacOS) crash more that MacOS.

"You ever have that feeling where you're not sure if you're dreaming or awake?"

Re:of learning young and UI's (1)

mr (88570) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394554)

The point is that children, if they are curious and determined, can overcome a command line in just a week or so.


The skills to interact with a machine are learned. Period. Sometimes the machine is a hand planer, other times it is a fighter jet.
Sometimes the skill is reading. (how many of you remember mastering that skill?)

But overcome? You make it sound like a command line is some big smeging thing, worthy of praise if you somehow manage to figure out how to type something that gets you a desired response.
By painting a command line as an obstacle, you make it so.

Think back to the 1950's (not that many of you can). When making silicon transistors was considered impossible. No EE felt it was possible. Yet, Willis Adcock did it. Why? Because he didn't KNOW it was impossi ble [eet.com].

An interesting "con" to computers in schools (1)

Tim Behrendsen (89573) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394555)

I was listening to the radio one day, and this guy came on who was very against using computers in the early grades. Being a computer geek, I was generally for it, but I have to admit this guy made some sense.

His argument was that if computers are used too much in the early grades, there is a risk of the child not developing proper spacial senses, since they are only looking at a 2D screen. We don't really think about it, but there is a huge amount of coordination developed between 5 and 10 years old and just the act of holding pencils, holding books, turning pages, etc is what helps develop them.

I thought it was a really thought-provoking argument for not going overboard with computers in the early grades.


Re:Government Seizing Wealth !Proper (1)

gid-foo (89604) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394557)

I was disappointed as well. The government should tax half your assets if your in upper income brackets well before death. Every year in fact. Between January and April.

Re:Just some thoughts... (1)

meloneg (101248) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394564)

These days I'd agree. Win95 and MacOS 7.5+ are about the same. However, in the old days (MacOS 6.x and earlier vs Win3.x or Win95) the Mac was a lot more stable. I've never locked or crashed my SE or my LC. Netscape on my iMac crashes about as often as Netscape or IE will lock up on NT.

Re:yay woz! (1)

348 (124012) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394580)

I definitely think that open-source is a revolution and not hype. I could have chosen to say that it's both.

Sounds like a pretty * Up Front* comment to me.

I don't think Apple has better hardware (1)

fastpage (125435) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394583)

If you check out the specs on a Mac G4, it has the identical specs as any Intel computer. It uses the same SDRAM, the same UDMA hard disk, the same PCI/AGP slots, the same graphic accelerator chip (Rage 128). It has the same front side bus (100mhz). The only real difference is the CPU. And really i think part of the speed difference is the L2 cache, the G4 processor has 1MB of L2 cache. Besides the processor I would call this more of an Intel computer then an Apple. In fact Apple is falling behind because the PC has moved on to 133 MHZ FSB, and RDRAM. I think at one time Apple made better hardware but that is not true today. I think their strength lies only in thier their software and APIs. What will happen to Apple when Intel (eventually) comes out with their RISC processor?

I think it's funny (1)

jimbobborg (128330) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394586)

Someone asking an old Apple employee about companies suing other companies over patents on software, considering Apple sued everyone who had a GUI (this was in the mid-eighties) to maintain a monopoly on this type of user interface.

I would like to add this thought (1)

dzimmerm (131384) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394591)

I can understand your comment but would like to add this thought. Public schools are designed to handle the 75% of people who are extroverted. The goal is to give this majority the basic education that they need. For the most part they succeed in this. The problem is that the remaining 25% of us who are introverted are badly mauled in the school system. An extrovert can not understand an introvert and visa versa. My wish would be for all children to be given the best education posible by sorting out the intro's and extro's into 2 groups that do not have to follow the same course of education. A computer with some good software would be perfectly acceptable for the introvert. A teacher and masses of other children would please the extrovert. I was a square peg being mashed into a round hole in school. I did well in the classroom but did not want to be put through the B.S. that happens around the school. I do not feel Woz can be branded as harmful, he just needs to be aware ,(and he may be), of the different personality types. His thought of computers to help in teaching would help the intro's get through the school systems with their ego still intact.

Hardware is not software & software isn't hardware (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394598)

Open source software works as those who have the ablity to fix bugs are permitted to do so and either fork off a project or get the fix into the original. And they, and anyone else, can apply a patch or download a new version to get things fixed on thier system in a hurry.

Hardware open source isn't quite the x86 situation. There is competition to fill 'open spec' slots (MCA may be great, but IBM just plain blew it by hoarding the specs, etc.) So what happens is many companies make boards to fill those slots (or systems to fill boxes, whatever)... some use top of the line parts and take time to design right. Others go cheap and throw anything handy together. People are cheap, quality can be inexpensive, but is rarely cheap. Result: A lot of junk gets used and good hardware doesn't sell as well.

Can open source hardware be done? Almost certainly. A person/group(company?) would have to set out a license (insert BSDish vs GPLish flames here, I prefer BSDish, myself fwiw) for it and stick to it. Then hardware hackers would have to be able to see specs and schematics (and protocols and all the software/drivers would need to be open source as well, of course) -- and those who could 'scratch itches' would be able to at least see problems and suggest solutions back, or implement them if they had sufficient capability on hand.

What would happen? The first versions of anything are crude. Anyone running an early '90s linux version? For production? No, of course not. But the 2000 versions are rather solid. The first open-sourced hardware would likely be annoying and buggy as hell. ("This may cause severe problems - we are NOT responsible for burned out hardware, downtime, fires... this is VERY 'alpha' hardware. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK [a handy fire extinguisher is a Good Idea!]") But a few cycles later... it'll be solid.

The real question then becomes, will the open source hardware development cycle be fast enough to keep pace with the lastest and greatest closed source, eventually? Will the costs be low enough to make it workable? Software can be copied easily, I can give you a copy of something and not lose anything but a my time. If I give you a copy of my boards, I'm out a few boards.

If anyone is doing this, or will be starting, Good Luck. Maybe you'll be interviewed here in a few years...

GPL as enabler of Montessori style technical ed (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1394599)

Thanks for the great interview. It's really inspiring to see somebody who started this industry still care deeply about where it may end up.

The comment about unix/bsd/linux style "real" comp sci education at an early age is quite interesting. I think some kind of technological literacy will be necessary in the future, but really, how much of this will be hardware, and how much software, and how much telecom-related? The world is only going to get more networked.

In anycase, I'd like to advocate for the software portion being taught with free tools. I think it makes a lot more sense. I've long worked on GPL'd tools for the free software community, and can honestly say that the things I miss the first time from reading open sources are invaribly pointed out to me by others. It's easier to understand complex systems when you are able to look at all the little bits, even the obscure ones.

Re:Cliff Stoll (2)

Indomitus (578) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394601)

I would appreciate an interview with somebody with a differing view of technology but Cliff Stoll is not that. He has turned distinctly anti-technology in recent years to the point of near-fanaticism. I'm all for controlling technology and using it, not letting it use us, but I'm not going to ditch my computer and go grow apples as I've heard Mr. Stoll say we all should.

Fun games after school (2)

Eric Green (627) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394603)

Fun games after school are generally in mixed-age groups. Even organized sports generally are mixed-age and based on ability -- e.g., a very good 12 year old soccer player may be playing on the "14 and under" team rather than on the "12 and under" team.

I have a certificate to teach Mathematics in the state of Louisiana, but even without that, if it came down to a choice of home schooling and sending my kid to the schools as they exist today, I know which choice I would make. Today's schools are utterly strapped by misplaced priorities, high turnover, and lack of ability to properly discipline children due to all the lawsuits that have been filed against schools that effectively discipline their students. Unfortunately, for most people home schooling is not a viable choice -- it requires altogether too much labor on the part of parents required to be in the labor force in order to make ends meet.


Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" novels (2)

Eric Green (627) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394604)

Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" novels had a Galactic Empire like that, where nobody knew how the stuff worked anymore, "it just works" was their response if asked WHY it worked. As a result, they did stupid things like forward hoax virus warnings and run cute executables from people they didn't know :-). Just kidding on the last, but you get the picture. Dr. A. was commenting upon the fallacy that "children don't need to learn the nuts and bolts of technology, they just need to know how to use it."

I think Woz's point was that children DO need to learn something about the internals of computers -- not just how to be a user of black boxes, but someone who knows what's inside the box. Maybe not in excrutiating detail, but enough to know WHY you don't want to run cute executables from people you don't know.

Of course, I suspect people will heed Woz's warnings about as much as they heeded Doctor A's warnings -- i.e., not much at all. -E

Re:yay woz! (2)

substrate (2628) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394610)

What influence does Wozniak have over whether the carbon UI or any other Apple proprietary stuff is Open Sourced? Apple isn't his company and he isn't even an employee of Apple. He may still be a stock holder but that doesn't entitle him to run the company as he sees fit, if he would even support Open Source in that manner. Steve basically said that the allure of Open Source software in his eyes was the ability to not support the big players.

Maybe Apple will Open Source the UI, but I doubt it very much, I don't see how they'd be a viable company if they gave away everything and the stock holders would thus react rather violently.

I think a better opportunity would be for Apple to make QuickTime available under Linux even if its via the LGPL (they don't own the Codecs which are the merit of QuickTime, they're owned by Sorensen, the parts which Apple does own, which is basically the file format which surrounds the data is as far as I know publically available)

All I have to say is thanks, to both Steves (2)

Rubinstien (6077) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394618)

Woz, you're the greatest, thanks. Thanks especially for the Apple II, the first computer I actually got to touch. I had been coding on paper for 4 years (since I was 10) before meeting my first computer in high school.

I'd also like to thank Jobs for convincing you to box it up and sell it, because I came from a poor family and wouldn't have touched one for several more years if I'd had to buy all of the parts and assemble it from the schematics. It was good to have it encased in plastic and therefore palatable to public schools.

Best Wishes, and thanks again.

Apple en rose... (2)

Rilke (12096) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394620)

The MacOS is definitely not more stable than Windows NT (even though Apple has the proprietary hardware advantage, which helps), and as far as OS basics, it's way way behind (no real multitasking, goofy memory management, etc.) I'm a big fan of the MacOS, but let's view the company realistically.

Apple would likely have been much worse than MS had they become the monopoly OS. Doesn't anyone remember the FSF boycott of Apple products? There was a real reason for that.

The real question is: had Apple won, could Linux have even gotten started? An open and ubiquitous hardware spec was one of the most important aspects of early Linux. Look at how Apple was 10 years ago, not how they are today (when they're starting to slowly embrace open source).

Given their total control over both the software and hardware, and their eagerness towards lawsuits back then, I could easily imagine them crushing Linux back in '92 by setting the lawyers on them (like BSD).

Woz (2)

DLG (14172) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394621)

I appreciated hearing from one of my early day heroes. I own an Apple ][+ and one of the great things about it was that the ROM's were listed in the manual as where the schematics. It let me understand what a computer is, back when I was 11 years old. Further the fact that it included 2 flavors of basic (I had a language card (16k!!!)) and the monitor(programming environment for writing code to memory with hex) and the miniassembler which actually let me use mnemonics, all in the inital box, was great. When the first Macintosh came out, I was very unhappy to see that the schematics were in a 50 dollar book, and there was NO programming language. While I do love the Mac, I have always felt that the difficulty programming it for the begining coder is prohibitive. Where Microsoft gave us Visual Basic, It took years to match that kind of easy novice development system. Microsoft Basic infact was the first language I bought for the Mac. It has always been my feeling that an OS provider had a responsibility to see that there were development tools available to get the greatest application library, and from the Apple][+ with 10000+ programs to the Mac which for a long time had one app in any given category, It is clear how long it has taken for the Mac to really gain market parity.

I do not think that Steve Wozniak has to prove his comittment to hobbyist computing and programming. I think his efforts there made alot of programmers out of kids in the 80's. Whether he has the power to influence modern apple towards his early and it seems current philosophies, he is a real hero in my book and he doesn't need to do a damned thing.

Why teachers don't like tech (2)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394623)

I agree with the main thrust of your argument completely, but I differ on the specifics.

I see the disinterest among teachers in computers as the ultimate result of a time in which bright young men were expected to be doctors, lawyers, or engineers, and bright young women were expected to be teachers, nurses, or housewives. The feminization of the teaching profession led to an environment where teachers (predominantly female, though I don't at all mean to indicate a personal gender bias) saw their profession as being in a sense, "seperate, but equal" from technology.

That view is changing, even among the "old guard" in the teachning profession. But the attitude of most of the people I talk to in this position is one of reluctance, bordering on dismay: they know they should learn how to use computers, possibly even that they must, but they fear and delay the process. Even worse, this situation leaves our schools open to school staff and faculty with "dangerously small" amounts of knowledge, more interested in personal glory than providing technology solutions that work for schools. (Fact: I personally know of a district who's technology director singlehandedly raised the local tax rate by requiring a T3 and two Cisco 7500s. For a high school. Not even a very big one, at that.)

(My credentials, not that you asked: two family members working in the public school system, two years as a systems administrator for an ISP providing access to several districts and private schools.)

Re:An interesting "con" to computers in schools (2)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394624)

Really? I'm a little surprised by that point of view. Given the amount of T.V. watching that most kids have done by the age of 10, I'd think that an hour or so in front of the computer would be inconsequential in comparison.

On the other hand, I certainly haven't actually studied the matter at all, so. Several large grains of salt.

Re:Woz .. Making Programmers out of kids. (2)

richnut (15117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394627)

*raises hand*

I cant put into words how exciting it was to first learn how to print my name on the screen or write a program to ask the user his or her name. Or to draw a low res picture of a house or a rocket. This was earth shaking stuff to a 9 year old in 1982. Thanks Woz.


Re:Agreed (2)

Industrial Disease (16177) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394628)

For a while, I believed that increasing teacher salaries would only attract more lousy teachers to the job, assholes who were only in it for the money. A couple of my worst teachers in HS were people who didn't give a rat's ass about teaching, but who fell into a teaching job for one reason or another. I did have a number of good teachers, however, that I felt should be rewarded, so I found myself rather conflicted on the matter. Once I got out into the real world, however, I met a number of people (and came to suspect that there were many more who felt the same way) who would have loved to teach if the pay wasn't so much lower than their other options. I now believe that there are a lot of people out there who would be great teachers, if only they thought they could earn a reasonable living that way.

Re:Education tech: the problem isn't the software (2)

WNight (23683) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394632)

I personally think computers can replace teachers, for 95% of the teaching that teachers currently do. It's that last %5, where a teacher can take a difficult problem and break it down in different ways, until they find one the student can understand.

I see schools of the future having most people working on the computer, with a few teachers wandering around giving support, and helping with the problems that need human assistance.

Class sizes probably don't need to change. 30 kids aren't too many to handle, if you're not run ragged trying to teach them at the same time. This would free teachers up to do more social teaching, hopefully preventing the uglier aspects of school that all of us remember.

Re:Just some thoughts... (2)

WNight (23683) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394636)

MacOS is fairly stable for low-end usage. I only lock it up when I try to do more than one thing at a time. For an office worker, or a casual user, both it an Win9x are probably about the same.

I'd still want an open OS even if it wasn't MS I was getting away from. Apple's "Users are too dumb to need to see X" where 'X' was most things, attitude pissed me off. I'd have been looking for a replacement even sooner than with Dos/Win3.1 (which is the era I got into Linux in) because the Mac is even more restrictive.

An open OS is also a learning tool. You can view it as the same black-box, running a bunch of black-boxes, or you can look at the source and attempt to understand it. An open OS is *always* preferable to a closed OS, all else being equal.

of learning young and UI's (2)

drenehtsral (29789) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394638)

I had a Franklin Ace 1000 when i was growing up. It was an apple IIe clone, which my grandfather replaced with an IBM XT so he gave it to us. It had a command line, and a basic interpreter and not much else. I learned how to use the command line to launch my videogames, then how to manage files, use the word processor and spreadsheet and database. Then i learned how to program in BASIC so i could write an adventure game, then 6502 machine language so i could put sounds and fast animation into my programs.
The point is that children, if they are curious and determined, can overcome a command line in just a week or so. GUI's primary function is to provide support for legacy wetware (stpuid adults...) I remember my Franklin Ace 1000 fondly, and infact i still keep it running. I remember the day i took it apart and using the schematic and some knowledge of the console device, wired "open apple" and "closed apple" keys onto it so i could boot and use UCSD P-System and run my old Pascal compiler.
I think it would do kids a service if there were an operating system and computer available today to provide a simple, efficient, open, and functional platform, with an optional GUI (for the old people and the mindless television-degraded children).

Re:Just some thoughts... (2)

deacent (32502) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394642)

I've been using the Mac since it first came out. It is relatively stable as compared to Windows (i.e. the OS iteself very rarely crashes). It seems like the larger the marketshare of a platform, the more unstable the user experience is. Sometimes it's due to corporate arrogance (like at Microsoft), but more often it's due to a larger number of low quality developers attracted to the platform for all of the wrong reasons.

The Mac was never intended for the hobbist. It was intended to be used by a someone who is relatively computer illiterate. Even still, I enjoy programming it and find that it's the best choice for me for other productivity.

Linux is a very inviting system for the hobbist, so I think that the Mac's popularity would not have had too much of an impact on Linux, except perhaps on hardware. Windows, however, probably never would have existed if the Mac had dominated the PC. OS/2 also probably would have had a better shot of living. (Hard to picture MS and IBM developing OS/2 as their last, best hope.)


Re:An interesting "con" to computers in schools (2)

devphil (51341) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394645)

Yeah, I am also a computer geek (I posted the parent comment to which you responded), but I will be the first to advocate serious restraint in adding technology to schools. For now, at least.

Reasons include the technophobia of the teachers that other have mentioned. Plus the undeniable fact that the typical "if we through enough money at them, the sudents will get smarter on their own" approach is utter unadulterated bullshit.
The point is to teach the students to THINK, not to just blindly turn to the computer as the Source Of All Knowledge. Spending thousands of dollars on new computers won't do a damn thing by itself. Concentrating their schooling in computers at an early age can easily have this effect if we aren't careful.

Re:The question I wished I had asked. (2)

imac.usr (58845) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394647)

Well, Woz wouldn't have known about the new Apple site stuff unless he was briefed on the MacWorld Expo keynote (not impossible, but still pretty improbable). Here's his reaction to the speech (from the San Francisco Examiner [examiner.com]):

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was spotted walking over to the exhibit hall after the speech. "I cried," said Wozniak, in reaction to Jobs' decision. "It felt just like the old days, with Steve making announcements that shook my world."

Asked if he saw himself returning to the fold in Apple's Cupertino headquarters, Wozniak said, "Well, not really. But who knows?"

Whether or not he's referring to OS X or to the new site stuff is unclear. It should be noted that the reviews and cards sections are largely available for everybody; only the tools and certain customization sections of the cards require the Mac OS, unlike (for example) Intel's WebOutfitter service for P-IIIs, which requires both a P-III and Windows 98.

Re:Open Schematics (2)

technos (73414) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394650)

They did, up until the point the complexity of the machine made them useless to anyone without $20,000 in specialized equipment. I got schematics with my Apple IIe, and I was able to request them for the IIc I have.

referrals to RISC ? (2)

iKev (73931) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394651)

I noticed that Woz referred to RISC designs as an advantage for the Mac..I would have too, if not for the ARStechnica article about RISC/CISC...which makes me believe that we are in a post RISC/CISC era. The G4 has a RISC history, but it has more instructions that some CISC chips! And I'm a Mac user to boot..

http://arstechnica.com/cpu/4q99/risc-cisc/rvc-1.ht ml
Risc vs Cisc [arstechnica.com]

Re:Education tech: the problem isn't the software (2)

Alton (80146) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394652)

My wife is a 3rd grade teacher and this very subject frustrates her every day. She had 3 years of schooling as a Mechanical Engineer at a very good engineering school before changing her major to teaching. She also has me (a computer scientist) as a husband. She goes to work each day and is an instant technical Guru.

MANY teachers are afraid to use computers. Even the ones who realize that children really need to learn about computers, and that computers won't replace teachers are afraid. They are afraid of the technology and of looking 'dumb' in front of their students. Several times now my wife has had to demonstrate to teachers how much easier a word processor is to a typewriter. She has saved several teachers dozens of hours by showing them that they don't really have to re-type their 15 page report on an old typewriter for every revision and proof reading.

It is very sad to say, but too many (I'm not saying all) but too many teachers are not intelligent or ambitious people. They are afriad of learning new ideas. They are the people who get C's in high school math and science.

Just "loving to work with children" like many teachers do, is not enough in my book. I want teachers who want to learn, expand their minds, and share that knowledge with their students. Unfortunately our current system does not provide the funds to attract these types of people and they are instead snatched up by big companies and universities.

Just as a disclaimer, I do realize that there are some VERY EXCELLENT teachers out there. I know several of them personally. I just wish there were more.

WEW! Worth every word... (2)

cribeiro (105971) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394656)

It's good to see someone as Woz interviewed here on Slashdot. And it was even better to read his answers, because it's very rare to see such depth in these days. Everything is relevant - but some point are really precious.

First of all, it's clear that Woz really believes in Open Source. But I found it strange because his answer on Open Source wasn't so enthusiastic as I thought it would be. Seems that Open Source is so natural to hime that he misses some things. For instance, at several points he does mention the value of information for research. It's related to his beliefs about teaching and personal computing. And this is one of the main advantages of the Open Source approach. So it seems that Open Source for him is much more important that even he realizes - up to the point of saying that his Apple ][ 2000 would be completeley documented, hardware and software.

Also it was funny to see his line about designing computers for the average person - he took himself as an example. Steve Wozniak is not an 'average person' - he's way up above the mark - yet somehow he does know what it takes to make something usable for the masses. Ideas that we take for granted - for instance personal computers with keyboards - were perfectly clear for him yet nobody else seemed to catch at that time.

In the end, it was a very good article. It shows that you can have your ideology, live it, and not have an inflated ego as a result. Woz humbleness should ashame some self proclaimed Open Source stars (thansk god he's not the only one...)

Computers Don't Belong in Schools? (3)

seppy (2431) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394660)

I just picked up a book by Cliff Stoll (Known for the cracker non-fiction whodonnit Cuckoos Egg) in which he argues that Computers DO NOT belong in schools in that they are sold as the quick and easy way to a great education, where they only serve as a distraction from the ultimate purpose of educating. A good read, and I'd recommed it to all techies as a viewpoint not often considered. I wish I had it on Monday and would have thought to pose this question to Woz, as it would be interesting to know if he'd heard the arguments involved, considered them, and how he would insure that technology does aid in education and not become a distraction...

One noted example from the book is a school district where the students loved emailing people from foreign countries, while 11 students who were going to the school district from different countries were completely ignored.

I'd recommend this book highly.

Brian Seppanen

Re:Steve Wozniak cannot be stopped. (3)

Shoeboy (16224) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394661)

You fool!
When we built The Woz as part of 'Project Ubergeek', we did it right. Underneath his caring exterior is a pure rubidium exoskeleton encasing the most advanced robotics that the US army has ever developed. He can take a direct hit from a nuclear warhead and still keep teaching and designing boards. He cannot and will not be stopped until we have achieved our agenda of...
Hang on, I seem to have forgotten why we did this...
It'll come to me eventually...

Thoughts on the future. (3)

WNight (23683) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394663)

Woz's take on schools is interesting. In the wake of Katz's HellMouth stories it seems like most people on /. probably assume schools are going the way of the dinosaur, it's interesting to see a different view.

If computers ever get to the point where you can learn 95% of your schoolwork from one, not just the rote work, but the creative, and the whys behind things, then it'll make schools drastically cheaper. A teacher is overwhelmed now with even ten kids to teach; they either have to teach slowly, or leave kids behind. And it's not the dumb ones who get left behind, it's the ones with the different questions. If 9/10 kids don't understand how to multiply fractions, and one kid is interested in finding the LCM in the least ammount of work, guess who's going to get the teacher's attention. Being able to just nursemaid children while the teaching is being done, at their own pace, is likely going to be a revolution. If nothing else, I think grades are going to be a thing of the past. They were useful when you needed to cluster people together with a teacher, but when their teacher is net accessible, and on any terminal in the school or at home, you'll be able to learn at your own pace, being grouped with peers for emotional reasons.

I like the idea of making companies liable for products that don't work as advertised. Not that programmers should be sued for every bug in a non-essential program, but software should do what it says on the box, much the same as you'd expect a frying pan to be watertight, or a CD to be round.

I think we need a Raplh Nader for this industry. Not some arrogrant fat-cat looking for news coverage by advocating government interference in something they don't understand, but an insider, someone who understands the industry, attempting to regulate it in ways that are good for the consumers, above all else.

Few computer programs are in mission-critical roles, like the brakes on a car, but people still need to be able to trust labels. If it says 'x', it should provide 'x', not 'x if y' or 'x maybe'.

It's good to see that Woz isn't depressed by outcome of the apple// and Apple's (in my eyes) spiral from leader to barely counting in the industry. Their success and failure was strongly tied to their policies on information as property. The Apple // was very successful, mainly because it was open. There were a hundred times more addons for the A2 than for the C64 for instance. But the collapse of the A2 and Mac marketshare was largely based on clones, or the lack thereof.

I'm suprised though that Woz isn't more anti-patent, considering the Apple // (and much of PCs today) could have been made impossible if some company back then had patented the use of a keyboard to convey information to a computer, or a device to continually refresh dynamic ram, or similar. Amazon's 1-click patent is about like patenting 'Return' to enter a line of text. It's getting dangerous to innovate today, patents are being used as weapons to force huge payouts, something garage startups can't survive.

It's nice to see that Woz is still where he was in the late 70s though, trying to bring computers to the people. I got into computers thanks to him, and I owe him a lot. My way of paying that back is to support all the open standards I can, GPL, Linux, etc, so that kids will always have computers as computers to tinker with, not just locked up set-top boxes.

Re:Computer Science (3)

WNight (23683) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394664)

A lot of that is social, or will soon be irrelevant.

Who cares about running executables with an OS smart enough to spawn a restricted 'shell' to run the Frog-in-a-Blender of the week in? This is something that's only a problem because of the complete lack of security in Win9x and MacOS, the two most common user-level OSes.

People don't forward around warning in real life, or at least not to the same level as online, partly because they can't just hit 'cc' and select a whole list, but partly because 'real life' isn't something new and scary where they suspect nasty things. When students are raised with computer, and know what they can and can't do, this won't be a problem.

As for open software...

I got into programming because I could list the programs on my school's Apple//. It wasn't just a black box. At the time, it might as well have been, because basic looked like proverbial greek to me, but it gave me an incentive to learn. Without open source (in the form of unencrypted/uncompiled basic programs) I wouldn't have had the incentive to learn, because I wouldn't have known how easy it was/is.

If kids use Win9x/WinNT, everything is compiled and closed, from the OS to the programs. They can't examine any of it. With an open OS, GNU/Linux, or something else later, they'll have access to the source, and compilers, and all the tools it took to write the thing in the first place. And in any decent OS, you can tinker all you want without bringing it down.

For me, MS had little to do with it (3)

jfunk (33224) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394666)

Isn't part of the Linux hype the fact that it is something that is not MS?

Ok, going back to when I first tried Linux...

I used DOS. Windows was something that ran Windows apps. I used it only for word processing. I spent the rest of my time in DOS, learning things about it (Thank you Peter Norton, for allowing me to see deeper into my computer). I learned assembly language, first used the internet (thank you Telemate).

Back then Internet for me was ftp and telnet. I spent most of my time downloading software and mucking about with it, hoping to learn something new. I kept noticing a directory called "linux" on many ftp sites and decided to enter one. I was amazed. A whole tree of apps I never heard of, and tons of text files. I downloaded some text files and read them, finding out that the easiest way to install Linux was by using a "distribution." In the "distributions" directory there were a couple of directories, SLS and Slackware (I think there was another one as well, but I'm kind of fuzzy). Completely randomly, I went into the "SLS" directory and downloaded the installation instructions. I then downloaded boot and root disks, as well as the "A" set.

Then suddenly, I backed up everything on floppy disks and parititioned and formatted my 100MB drive. 20 MB Linux, 5 MB swap, 75 MB DOS. I didn't go to sleep that night. I installed SLS, then DOS.

I read a vi tutorial, learned bash, read all the documentation I could get my hands on, learned how to compile programs in Linux, installed Slackware, and never looked back.

It wasn't MS problems that got me into Linux, simply boredom.

I was too young to have been able to get into Apples like I see many people here have, but I think Linux provided a similar enthrallment to someone who was born a little too late.

I hope that answers your question :-)*

Agreed (3)

dsaxena (57330) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394668)

I think the problem is the clueless education administration that is pushing technology as a silver bullet to repair our educational system. Our governement and the media have mad it seem as if just shoving computers in front of kids will suddenly make them more intelligent. Wrong. The problem is much larger than just technology alone. I'm a software engineer making ~$60K a year, while most teachers earn around half of that. IMHO that is just sick. Teachers should be payed at least around $70-80K/year. They play one of the most important roles in our society, that of making sure that the next generation is well educated and prepared to face tommorrow's challenges. What we need is s total educational reform which puts more money into hiring good teachers and focuses on teaching the students how to learn instead of making sure they pass stupid standardized tests. In my home state (AZ), standardized test scores were low, so the state government is looking into changing our curricillum into one that would focus more on what's needed to do well on these tests. We're going to raise a generation of multiple choice test takers who never understand the value of learning for learning's sake.


Deepak Saxena

Let's Be Honest (3)

mochaone (59034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394669)

Steve Wozniak is cool because his last name can be shortened to Woz. The other stuff is secondary. Check out the derivations:

1) Wozzup man !
2) Wozzie
3) Wozzinator
4) Wozster
5) Woz's Happening


Thanks for the nice interview, Woz !

Making homework look good is not good enough (3)

Rares Marian (83629) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394671)

We're not going to have a sane society (as in less paranoid and less ignorant of its own flaws and strengths) until we separate advancement from socialization. And yes kids do need to socialize. They're human beings. They're in school so they can someday be successful human beings. They're not there to stroke some teacher's ego. They're not there to become productive members of society. Society is us; get used to it. Our ancestors are responsible for the mess we're dealing with. And we are responsible for the mess our kids will have to deal with. I don't want to even hear about kids saying Sir or Ma'am when they should be asking, "How come the text is so confusing, it says in my Physics book that reflection is caused by a wave reflecting at the other end on a rope." The difference between a kid who can succeed and one who can't is the one who can spot garbage in a page full of text, or even more challenging, a page full of colorful graphs and charts. You can't get that kind of skill if kids don't have the confidence to challenge their teachers. All you get is the fool getting Kool Aid points for saying I love Kool Aid in public five times in a row and then sending a taped recording to the company.

The people calling for the end of recess periods and breaks and the ones segregating kids into different special groups are completely wrong about their approach, and some don't even care.

If we separate advancement from socialization but still need to have it happen in the same place, then one or both of these have to become transparent. The people asking for uniforms, dress codes, and rules on top of rules, aren't just in denial and seriously don't get it, assuming they're not doing it on purpose as some are.

Learning should not stop period. Dividing time for learning and playing is at best masturbation, and at worst a way to keep future generation from being fully aware of their potential.

The goal of education should be to maximise potential, to teach kids individuality, to teach them not only how to fend for themselves but the value of being independent and unchained from the wolves running rampant. Most of all they should be taught how to to recognize those "wolves" and handle them with good judgment, as opposed to the uniqueness crap they sort of teach, but then penalize kids for.

The day a kid says, "I don't care about being special, consoled, comforted, but only somewhat supported and encouraged," is a day you can hope for the world to take a positive turn.

So what's this got to do with computers? Just take a look at the potential kids have when they go exploring the Net learning Java, HTML, C++, MIDI for crying out loud, poetry of all kinds and most important of all, freedom, to kids who only write papers and cut and paste pictures from a degenerate encyclopedia like Encarta which has no more content than to hype up the future which in reality is in dire straits.

The choice you have is: a kid who becomes a CEO at 17 or one who ends up flipping burgers, and if you think a college education prevents that, YOU ARE SERIOUSLY IN D-E-N-I-A-L.

Which one of those kids is more prone to pr0n breaks (pun intended)? And equally important, which one having seen pr0n can behave in a socially responsible manner, and which one will be so media addicted by Encarta, Saturday cartoons, and TGIF, that the sight of a fraction of the explicit content the other kid was exposed to would make them into serial killers?

If that destroys, maligns, or in any other way disturbs your rosy simplistic picture of the world, you're welcome. And as hard as it may be for some to accept, all the above statements are based on the same logic and are consistent.

*sigh* yet another "first post" waste of bandwidth (3)

Maeryk (87865) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394673)

Wow.. this man is truly impressive. I had never really realized the depth of passion and forethought he has/had in the industry, and in creating what we now take for granted. a hearty THANK YOU! to him, and to /. for teaching me something about someone who is (now) one of my heroes. what a guy. (no sarcasm was used in this post)

Re:Education tech: the problem isn't the software (3)

348 (124012) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394675)

Good observation.

I worked fairly extensively with educators,(K-12) on a pilot program on PC's in every classroom etc. The main reason I see why the efforts failing is that the kids know more about technology than the teachers and the teachers feel outgunned. This is really too bad.

As those teachers retire and newer ones are hired (or not, depending on whether your community believes in passing school levies), this problem should diminish, slowly, iff the new teachers understand that the computer is nothing more than another tool to be put to good use.

If the computer as a used tool is ever going to have success in the classroom:

1. The teachers need to be trained better
2. The courses need to be better defined and managed
3. The government and other entities need to get out of the way and just let it happen. Get over or better manage the "The kids might see pron" Crap
4. Business needs to step in and help with funding and help build the infrastructure. These kids will be their employees soon.

Computer Science (4)

Rupert (28001) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394676)

Woz (of course) makes a good point regarding teaching of Linux/*BSD. Before you get to that you actually need to teach computer science. OS design is only a small area of the discipline, albeit an important and (currently) popular one.

I don't think most children will benefit greatly from being taught with free software as opposed to Mac or Windows programs. Obviously taxpayers and future programmers and OS designers will benefit. But most students are going to be using computers as tools, sealed boxes, and they need to learn different lessons. Like don't forward the hoax virus warnings you get in your email. Don't run cute executables from people you don't know. And don't believe everything you read on Slashdot, even if it is from a karma whore with a +1 bonus.

Just some thoughts... (4)

Maul (83993) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394677)

It's actually somewhat nice to hear the POV from someone who isn't directly associated with Linux.

This gets me to thinking what would have happened if Apple had not made the marketing mistakes it did and MacOS became the mainstream OS (instead of Windows)?

MacOS is seemingly more stable that Windows (I'm not entirely sure, I've never done anything that has crashed a Mac, though), so if MacOS were the #1 mainstream OS right now, would Linux be doing so well?

Isn't part of the Linux hype the fact that it is something that is not MS? Dont' get me wrong, I love Linux, but would we have all flocked to it if the mainstream OS was MacOS? It's hard to say, but I think not.

"You ever have that feeling where you're not sure if you're dreaming or awake?"

The question I wished I had asked. (4)

bons (119581) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394678)

Today Wired has an article [wired.com] about Apple creating web based products designed to attract new users to the apple and making them only available to apple users. It includes comments like:

In announcing the new suite Wednesday, Jobs said the company had looked at the fact that it owned proprietary software on both ends of a Web visit to the site. "We realized we could take unfair advantage of the fact," Jobs said.
The panel generally said the approach just made it more compelling to buy a Mac for consumers seeking Internet access, and that Apple was smart to leverage it.

I would have liked to have asked Woz what his take on this would be. We all know how much we love pages that need AOL or internet explorer or some other non-universal technology.

With Microsoft slowly going the route of open source [technocrat.net] (also this [salon.com]) (it's only disclosed source but it's a start), I wonder if this is a wise move or a fatal mistake. I only wish I had known about this in time.

A contradiction? (4)

cgcra (129070) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394679)

It seems odd to me that on one hand, Steve was saying that varying manufatures of hardware/software lead to systems that are less stable (ie x86 systems). How can he then turn around and say that open sourced software will be better? Wouldnt this lead to a less homogenous os/system? Just wonderin' -Chris

Remembering how Windows became mainstream (5)

Hrunting (2191) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394680)

I think it's important before questioning mainstream qualities of an OS that you remember how it became mainstream. One of the reasons that Microsoft was so successful is that it didn't have to worry about hardware. It just made software and let other people worry about selling the actual computers. It just made sure that its software would run on anything sold. Microsoft didn't become mainstream because of anything that it did. It became mainstream because of the way in which PCs were sold.

Apple, on the other hand, maintained vigorous control of everything and so you didn't have fifteen companies selling and touting something that was essentially the same, flooding the market with a very similar product. While this led to tighter integration of the OS and the hardware and more controlled innovation, it didn't actually do a good job at selling a product, which is what one needs to become 'mainstream'.

I think that if Apple had become mainstream, we either would've needed to have an industry in which clones weren't sold (highly unlikely) or Apples themselves would've been cloned, and then I think you would've seen a degradation in product similar to what we have with Windows. Then, I think our empathy would've been just as great to Apple.

And remember, the Macintosh for years wasn't exactly an open system (and it still isn't for that matter, despite recent changes like Darwin). I think a lot of the fascination with Apple in the past five years is for the same reason that we currently obsess over Linux: it's a challenge to Microsoft. If you look at the MacOS before version 8, it was total and utter crap, despite it's GUI. I can honestly say that I would receive at least two calls a week from my father about his Macintosh crashing or locking up or getting a weird error. I never had those sorts of problems with my Win95 machine.

But then again, I think that Apple's strength has always been innovating, and with innovation comes trials and tribulations as you 'feel' solutions out. Certainly, the makes Apple a bit more gallant than Microsoft, which has the same trials implementing what aren't exactly new features.

But, replying to the original post, yes, I think we would've disliked Apple as much as we dislike Microsoft, but then again, Apple most certainly would've become a far different company from what it is now.

One of the best (5)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394681)

This is definitely one of the best interviews so far -- it touches on technology, social and legal implications, and even some history.

It's nice to read from someone who doesn't complain, doesn't blame people for anything -- he just says what he'd like to happen, where folks fell short, and how we can step up to the plate.

So of course being cynical, i have to notice that it's kinda like politics -- anyone you'd want to be president is too smart to run for office. Similarly, i guess there's no reason for Woz to WANT to be involved in the daily rat race of tech companies, but it sure would be better for us all if he were.

Has anyone noticed that Woz and Paul Allen, the two "second-string" guys who actually did all the work, are the ones who are out there making the world a better place while Bill and Steve fight over pissing rights? I guess it's like Jimmy carter -- he's the best "ex-president" the country has ever had!...

Education tech: the problem isn't the software (5)

devphil (51341) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394682)

(Why should you listen to me? All of the jobs I held while in school, from high school through college, were technology-related jobs working for the school itself. My mother is currently the director of education technology for the city school system, and she and I talk shop when I go over to visit (which hasn't been for a while, sorry Mom). I'm very familiar with how technology is viewed at different stages of the cirriculum.)

While he is correct in saying that the educational software needs to be as friendly as possible, there is a more serious problem that, frankly, Woz and you and I can't do much about. The teachers in early education need to understand, use, and appreciate the computer as well.

Currently, far, far too many teachers view computers as either:

  1. A glorified Game Boy, good for nothing but entertainment.
  2. A replacement.
I won't tell any horror stories here because I've been typing all day long and I'm tired, but the current generation of teachers are not happy about the computer "taking over" their classrooms. As those teachers retire and newer ones are hired (or not, depending on whether your community believes in passing school levies), this problem should diminish, slowly, iff the new teachers understand that the computer is nothing more than another tool to be put to good use. It can't replace them. (No, "iff" isn't a typo.)

We'll get very limited returns on improved software if the people being taught to introduce that software belittle it.

Very interesting view (5)

WombatControl (74685) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394683)

I've always admired Woz for his commitment to computers in education. While I don't think computers will ever replace flesh and blood teachers, (A computer can't be as passionate about a subject as a real teacher, but it can be an excellent tool to reinforce teaching.) I do think that his support of computers in education is A Good Thing (tm).

Also, his comments on the Macintosh are extremely interesting. With MacOS X, I have a feeling that Mac may yet manage to flourish - especially if they can leverage all the software available for BSD/Linux, etc... I don't like the fact that the hardware is closed, but Woz does have a very valid point that Apple is more free to innovate with hardware than the PC world.

All in all, a very enlightening interview. Thanks Woz for your comments!

Computers hurt kids, too (5)

eshaft (82430) | more than 14 years ago | (#1394684)

It's great to give kids a head start on life by intriducing them to the world of computers and the internet, but no one really considers the consequences of taking kids from their active lives and introducing them to these pseudo-lives in computers. Computers are NOT good teachers when it comes to things like violence, play-time, and human interaction. If a kid's going to play Quake rather than go out in the schoolyard and see what a fight really feels like, he's going to grow up with misconcieved and possibly fatal preconceptions of just how fragile human existence really is. And what about all of those "educational" programs that show little kids outdoors, exploring these cartoon worlds. That's all fne and good, but we forget that these are kids, and most don't really understand the world around them. I personally know teahcers, especially in the inner cities, that have brought in pictures of REAL LIFE animals and scared the hell out of kids. They didn't understand that these things really existed in nature, they were so used to cute little cartoons. It's a dangerous for them to only understand this computerized, filtered world around them, and probably even more dangerous for the natural world around them. And I wouldn't replace up close, person to person communication, with IM for kids.

And, most important, anyone who sits in front of a computer for hours at a time knows that they are the most ergonomically incorect devices this side of a guillotine. My back, wrists, and eyes are all damaged on a continual basis from these unnaturaly devices. Do we want our kids growing up with bad posture and carpal tunnel syndrome? School desks and video game consoles at hmoe are bad enough - do we want them to think that bad posture and continuous back pain is the norm?

Invest in better teachers, more teacher training, better facilities to learn in. Computers are only tools, and undeveloped tools at that. We shouldn't be testing them on our children.
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