Woz speaks

Eugene Leitl (eugene.leitl@lrz.uni-muenchen.de)
Wed, 23 Jun 1999 18:34:57 -0700 (PDT)

I know it's lame to forward stuff from /. , but.


I've received a few e-mails
about the recent movie "Pirates
of Silicon Valley" and I
thought I'd share some of my
responses with you.

Q From e-mail: I just had to
laugh at the part in the movie
where someone called
Dial-A-Joke. I remember calling
that number to hear the joke of
the day. Was it really you who did

WOZ: Experimenting with blue
boxes to make calls anywhere in
the world while at Berkely in
1971-1972, I encountered a few
Dial-a-Jokes in the world. I never
used the blue box to save money
on phone calls, I was an ethical

So while working as an engineer
at Hewlett Packard, designing
scientific calculators, I started the
first Dial-a-Joke in the San
Francisco Bay Area. This was
before you could buy answering
machines or even telephones. I
had to rent a very expensive
machine made for theaters, and
eventually had to quit because I
couldn't afford it. I got so many
calls that I had to keep changing
the number. Anyone with a
similar number would get 100
calls a day. The best known
numbers that I had were (408)
255-6666 and (408) 575-1625. I
operated Dial-a-Joke out of my
Cupertino apartment, where I did
a lot of the Apple designing (I
designed every bit and wrote all
the code including BASIC
myself). I used a thick Eastern
accent, like Russian, and used the
name Stanley Zebrezuskinitsky
when I took live calls.

Q From e-mail: Hi Mr. Woz, I
just wanted to say that I just saw
Pirates of Silicon Valley and was
amazed at what went on way
back when. I commend you for
remaining the same person
you've always been rather than
turning into a money hungry,
stuck up person like so many
others do. It's so interesting to me
that you made the computer that
made Apple even possible, but it
was Steve Job's that seemed to
take all the credit.

Was the scene with the man
being interviewed really true? Did
Steve Job's actually demean a
potential employee?? I have to
say, that they portrayed him as a
real jerk who was very
demeaning to his employees if
they did not perform to his liking.
And actually, Bill Gates was no
better. They were and maybe still
are hungry for the power. The
other thing that I found
interesting and didn't realize was
that Microsoft now owns part of
Apple. Steve Jobs is definitely a
brilliant business man but after
seeing what Bill Gates has done
I'd have to say that he's even
more savvy! Anyway, those were
just a few thoughts I had. I was
just really impressed with your
character and how you've
remained the same person that
you were when you created that
first computer. I hope you don't
mind my two cents. : - )

WOZ: It's funny, but even with
all the things that aren't said
outright, a great number of
people, like yourself, saw a lot of
things in that movie that are
totally true. The personalities
were very accurately portrayed.

I designed the computers just to
do it and show the world that it
could be done and help them
happen. Later Steve Jobs
suggested starting a company to
make money from it. I'd been
giving out schematics for free at
the Homebrew Computer Club.
That's what I believed in. It was
hard for me to even start the
company when it looked like
there might be real money in it.

I often wonder why I remained
the person I always wanted to be,
from late high school on. I wanted
to be an engineer and then a 5th
grade teacher and I wanted a
computer someday and I wanted
to be nice to people and I wanted
to tell and make jokes and I
wanted a family and home. It
couldn't have come truer for me.