The Woz

I got to see Steve Wozniak speak at Columbia University last night, promoting his new book iWoz. Strongest impression: The man has an incredible amount of energy. He talked in a strong voice at high speed for nearly an hour before rushing off to tape a spot on The Colbert Report. Most interesting fact: he hooked up his Apple I to his television set — creating the first practical video monitor — because he needed a cheaper input/output method than the teletypes everyone was using at the time.

He’s obviously obsessed with engineering and programming to a degree that most mortals can barely imagine. Who else would think of building a 10-bit digital computer as a middle school science fair project?

Another thing that struck me was his stated desire to start fresh on each computer he designed, building in capabilities — like color for the Apple II — from the ground up. That seems like the complete opposite of the approach most of the PC industry has taken of layering new functionality on top of old, to the point where it takes 5 minutes to boot a modern PC. What might the Woz come up with if he started today designing a new PC from the ground up, taking advantage of all the advances of the past two decades but leaving behind the legacies?