38 years later, Woz still thinks about ways to improve the Apple II

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Coming soon to a waxworks near you.
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak stands beside an Apple II. Photo: Robert Scoble
Photo: Robert Scoble

With today’s tech devices becoming obsolete so quickly, it’s easy to think older models are forgotten by their creators the moment a follow-up rolls off the factory floor.

While this may be true in some instances, it’s apparently not the case for Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. In a recent email exchange with a vintage computer expert, Woz revealed that almost 40 years after the Apple II shipped he still agonizes about ways it could have been improved.

“I awoke one night in Quito, Ecuador, this year and came up with a way to save a chip or two from the Apple II, and a trivial way to have the 2 grays of the Apple II be different (light gray and dark gray) but it’s 38 years too late,” he wrote in an email. “It did give me a good smile, since I know how hard it is to improve on that design.”

For those who are wondering, the “two grays” Woz is referring to relates to the fact that — of the 16 colors displayed by the original Apple II — two of them were subtly different shades of gray, although they appeared the same on-screen when displayed. In some Apple II emulators they show up as different colors, however, which is what Wozniak always hoped for.

The email correspondence was with Apple I expert Mike W., who recently wrote to Woz to ask about a power supply quirk with Apple’s first personal computer that results in the system’s memory becoming “unreliable.”

Woz replied, saying he was unaware of the problem, but noted that by the time the Apple I was selling he was so heavily focused on the Apple II that its predecessor was viewed as little more than a “temporary place-holder before the big product.”

Today, working examples of that “temporary place-holder” routinely go for high six-figure sums at auction.

Woz was recently named an adjunct professor at Australia’s University of Technology, Sydney — a post he’ll occupy starting in December. Based on Wozniak’s attention to detail, as evidenced here, it’s going to be a valuable learning experience for any student concerned with long-term quality control.

Woz’s email exchange with Mike W. can be read here.

Via: TechCrunch

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  • Windlasher

    Seems like that whole thing would fit on 1 or 2 chips these days…. Ah, the memories.

  • LA

    Good god man…….Move on!

  • clembartels

    Woz is awesome. Most Apple fans really have no clue about his role in the company and how he was far more important than Steve Jobs. And most Apple users who know that still do not realize how Woz was a one man Tesla for the early computer industry. His book, iWoz, is a great read.

    • Grunt_at_the_Point

      That was then this is now. Apple is not the same. However, if you like reminiscing go right ahead.

  • flowney

    The MacLC had the Apple IIe reduced to an optional add-in board. The idea behind it was to create a bridge between Apple IIe and Mac that would eventually bring Apple IIe users, especially K-12 teachers, to the Mac. You could run AppleWorks in IIe mode and then run ClarisWorks natively.
    Woz is a hardware guy s probably not as interested in emulation but emulation is a very good way to experience and understand software and operating systems of he past. Fortunately, there is a robust emulation community to draw upon.