updated 10:55 am EST, Mon November 6, 2006
'Apple in the garage'
Apple co-founder Steve 'Woz' Wozniak and three Apple I team members gathered on Saturday at the Computer History Museum in front of several hundred attendees for a discussion called 'Apple in the Garage' to celebrate Apple's 30th anniversary. Steve Wozniak, Randy Wigginton (Apple employee No. 6), Chris Espinosa (Apple employee No. 8), and original Macintosh team member Daniel Kottke came together for an afternoon of reminiscing about the earliest days of Apple and its computers. "We thought it would be a shame if we didn't have a birthday party for Apple with a cake," said Bruce Damer, founder of the DigiBarn computer museum in California's Santa Cruz Mountains. The museum owner brought a birthday cake decorated with a digital print of Apple's original logo, according to a report from News.com. The four recalled much of Apple's early days, recounting their experiences as they helped to shape technology in its early stages.
Espinosa -- who still holds a position at Apple -- recalled working for the company while he was still in high school, noting his luck for the opportunity to work with technology luminaries. "It was really interesting being 14 and 15 years old, and having my hobby being hanging out with guys who were [changing the face of technology]," said Espinosa. "I didn't really know that this wasn't the way 14-year-olds spent their high-school year."
Kottke recalled how he became friends with Steve Jobs -- Apple's CEO and co-founder -- when both were attending Reed College in Portland, OR. Kottke said the two men bonded over Eastern philosophies, and that Jobs did not speak of computer work. Eventually Kottke visited Jobs' house, which was at the time the home of the famous garage where Jobs and Wozniak built the early Apple computers. The first thing Kottke saw when he entered the Silicon Valley home was Jobs' sister watching 'The Gong Show' and plugging chips into an Apple Is.
Wozniak said that back then the Apple team didn't have a telephone, and that Jobs was essentially running the business from his bedroom, according to the report. "It was a nice, warm place to meet people," said Wozniak.
Wigginton remembered that many of today's computer industry leaders hung out at the Homebrew Computer Club as a way to have access to working computers. "Nobody could afford their own computer," said Wigginton. "It's amazing to me that owning your own computer was considered impossible."
Espinosa joked about why he chose to work for Apple at the time, rather than another computer company. "Scott Computer was too far away to work because I only had a bicycle," said Espinosa. "So Apple was much better for me because it was much closer." The early employee also noted that when Apple was working on the Apple II, the team acquired its own building with no furniture and some telephones. "When you're in a building with nothing but telephones and Steve Wozniak, you know you're going to have some fun," Espinosa said, referring to Wozniak's history of building 'blue boxes' -- small electronic devices designed to simulate a telephone operator's dialing console which were often used to make free telephone calls.
The carpeting in the building proved to be a constant source of static electricity, according to Espinosa, and when someone touched an open Apple II case after walking across the carpet they fried a keyboard chip. "So we spent an incredible amount of time replacing keyboard chips."
Wozniak recalled working for Hewlett-Packard prior to co-founding Apple with Steve Jobs, noting how he got HP's legal team to run the Apple I plans by every department, and how they all turned down the project. HP was interested in the Apple I, according to Wozniak, but believed the machine wasn't refined enough to be an HP product. Wozniak also added that if HP had wanted the Apple I, it likely would have failed as a commercial venture and might have greatly set back the personal computer business.
Apple put software on cassettes in its early days, but lacked automated tape duplication machines which required Apple employees to conjure up a system with a rack of Panasonic tape machines linked together with an Apple II. The team had to simultaneously press play and record on all the tape machines and hit the return key on the Apple II to begin the process of duplicating as many tapes at a time as possible. "Any time someone would come in and talk about something like a $25 million Bank of America credit line," Espinosa recalled, one Apple employee might have to "stop the meeting and go over and switch out the cassettes and put in new ones and then come back and say, 'So what were we talking about?' That's the kind of place it was."
"I don't want credit for designing the first (personal) computer," said Wozniak. "I just want credit for designing the first good one. [And for] publicizing the fact that a computer could be attractive."