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An Interview With Steve Wozniak

Steve Wozniak, one of the cofounders of Apple Computer, Inc., now heads his own company, Cloud9. While at Apple, he started the project that became the Apple IIGS. Thornburg recently had a chance to talk with Wozniak about the new II. 

Thornburg: How did you get involved with this project?

Wozniak: We were looking for a project for some good people who weren't needed on existing Apple II and III projects in late 1983. I started thinking about some things and a small group of us started on a new project.

Thornburg: What led you to the 65C816?

Wozniak: In the beginning, a bunch of us sat down with a basic concept to build a very simple, very fast machine with this new processor. There were some things about the 65C816 we liked, although it isn't everything in the world. The major concern for me at the time was that the Apple II was constrained to the 64K address space of the 6502 (microprocessor). To have direct addressing to 24 bits of address was the key that would allow the new processor to let Apple II applications move up another level without having switched banks of memory. When we talked to the chip developer we saw that speed could be increased as well. Our early ideas for the computer had it running at 8 MHz. Soon we found we had to back off to about 5.5 MHz, and then to 2 MHz for that version of the processor. In the end, the product came out at about 3 MHz, which is a good compromise.

Thornburg: Did you stay involved after leaving Apple?

Wozniak: The original project started in late 1983 and I was quite active in it at the time. By 1984, I was so involved with other activities in the company that I couldn't spend the time on this project that I would have liked. I was able to attend meetings to keep up with the progress of the new machine. I've continued to be a strong supporter of this project.

Thornburg: How did the project evolve?

Wozniak: The original project was to make a better Apple II the ideal AppleWorks machine. There were pressures to change the machine to make it a completely new product. These changes would have been very costly to implement and I was getting disillusioned with the project at that time.
Finally the idea for the IIGS developed in its present form. I love the way the IIGS came out.

Thornburg: Is it your favorite Apple?

Wozniak: Yes! no question! I still use the Apple II a lot the slots are important to me for burning PROMs and doing other things.

Thornburg: What about user interfaces?

Wozniak: From the very beginning I was a supporter of the idea that we should support the Macintosh user interface because it was better than what we had. We needed to put it on the II. At that time there wasn't much interest in that, so I am very happy that it finally appeared.
The Apple II is the accepted machine, and now it is striving for the state of the art to be as good as it can be.

Thornburg: What do you think about Apple's upgrade policy?

Wozniak: To tell the truth, I'm glad they did it. When we went from the Apple II to the II+ we said that the II+ was a better machine for the same price and we knew that people would go to it, but we let the change take place slowly over a year. That way nobody got mad. We also offered a board that made the II into a II+, and a board that made the II+ into a II. We acted like we at Apple were owners of the machines ourselves. I was very happy to see that the Mac upgrades were handled that way.
Eventually I think the IIGS will take over [from] the IIe, but it is good that Apple isn't forcing the change.

Thornburg: Will it be the Apple II forever?

Wozniak: For the home, I still usually recommend the II over the Mac. If you are an AppleWorks person, the II is all you need. 
And, as I said, I love the IIGS.

From Compute! Vol. 4 Issue 4 Fall/Winter 1986