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Rushes Sequences - Steve Wozniak interview - USA (Video)

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Dan Biddle Dan Biddle | 18:30 UK time, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Steve Wozniak is a computer engineer who co-founded Apple Computer Inc. and is the chief scientist of Fusion-io. He was a member of the pioneering Homebrew Computer Club influential in the formative years of Silicon Valley. Steve met with the Digital Revolution team to discuss the formative years of the web, the Homebrew Computer Club and Bill Gates' letter against early software piracy.

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(Please note that this transcript is the 'raw data' text we receive from a transcription company. It is a tool commonly used in production to facilitate editing and review the content. We publish it for users in that same spirit, rather than it standing as a 'perfect' representation of the content.)

Steve     The Home Brew Computer Club because of it's sharing attitude was 
very much the opposite of business as usual it was very much counter culture it was very 
much like open source you give away something you write it down. Other people can look at it 
improve on it come back to you get some you know little err amendments made erm, but you know companies did form in the Home Brew Computer Company right club. I mean the people that attending the Home Brew Computer Club ...........to sell products to make money and then eventually Steve ......... came by and we actually started a little company but not really an official company with big money and hoards of directors and that sort of stuff. When we did that later on with the Apple 2 computer the day, the day that I left Hewlett Packard to go to Apple and start Apple I never went back to the Home Brew Computer Club because now I was in a different world.

Intvr        The famous early letter from Bill Gates wasn't there about the, the software and ........... tell me a bit about that?

Steve    Sure our computer club got very interested in these up coming computers and then it became aware that there was a basic language a computer language that would run on these small low cost computers that you can build yourself and then you have to spend a lot of money to buy enough memory to run a programming language and to buy a teletype to type your stuff on yet you have to spend several times the cost of a car but then you could run Bill Gates and Paul Allen had written a basic came on a big paper tape reel and it, you read it in on a teletype machine it would get into the memory of the computer and then it could run programmes. You could type in a game out of a book of games written in the basic language, type in the game and play it on the computer. This was a whole, goal that probably every one of the 500 of us in the Home Brew Computer club was to get to the point that we could play games on our own computer.  And Bill Gates became a little bit famous and well known for this software going around. well we had a con, one copy of the tape that our club library had bought, to purpose and one member of the club, the Dan ........ took that tape and borrowed it for two weeks and when he came back he brought back like four copies, he just copied the, he copied the paper tape at his company AMI and he brought them back and he said the new rule is anytime you take something from the club library you have to return at least that many copies. That's kind of funny and we got a letter from Bill Gates all upset you know copyright you know you're copying software and you shouldn't. you know and I agree, I agree with that.

Intvr        Tell me more about the letter because whatever you think about it it marks the sort of change it's a different attitude isn't it to some of that kind of just sharing and sharing?

Steve        Say again.

Intvr    Tell me a little bit more about the letter and err.

Steve        Sure, sure the letter from Bill Gates to our Home Brew computer Club got some notoriety and fame over the years you know and because it was basically you know hey you have to pay for what you use and you know to, to this day we still have you know we, you look at all the reports of how many kids just copy all their music for free. I don't know I, I don't really agree with that I was brought up with a very strong ethics you are who you say you are, you tell the truth, the truth is the number one ideal in my life, and so I don't like you encouraging children to learn any time you get something for free it's OK. I do not agree with that I have never copied a piece of software taken a piece of software illegally, music no I won't touch that you know. Why don't you, you know you can, you can afford something and you can stick within your means that's what I believe in. And I have a lot of friends that are musicians they are creators of the world they're like writers and how did, imagine a writer, writing a book, how are they going to get paid if everyone copies it for free. Look at the royalties on that. So many of my musician friends their musician friends the royalties have just dropped, and dropped and dropped people are still getting their music more than ever before but they're not paying.

Intvr        Some of the just in the difference of opinion or the different attitude then you can see about this idea of software or piracy or things that should be free or whether they should be paid for do you think in a way that's the first example of an argument that's still going on today?

Steve    Sure yeah well when Bill Gates wrote his letter to the Home Brew Computer Club upset that we were copying freely copied his basic that he'd spent all his time and energy working on you know he was pointing out that erm, a problem which is the digital age on earth the ability to copy things for no cost. You know I mean there were times in I remember time in erm, like I was brought up to communist Russia you weren't allowed to have copy machines, you know and then all of sudden we started trying to ban copy of anything over here and it's just a problem how do you solve it in the long term it's almost like huge forces of nature that you cannot turn back. Huge hurricanes are forced eventually it's going to be so easy to copy things that their value their cost where people will pay it's got to go down, it just has to eventually err you know the laws of trying to hold it out I'd noticed that every court case to this day tends to side with copyright holders and you cannot have for free. 

Intvr        You talked about music and file sharing do you think that's something that's ever going to be resolved or is that just going to be keep playing out the same way?

Steve     Now that it's so easy to like buy a little card and put 500 movies on you know one little card that you can plug into a camera if you want it's very difficult when. One time in my office a gentleman came in you know on this whole copyright issue a gentleman came in and I was talking about my gosh you could almost get to the point you could put a movie on a card and he said oh somebody will have a card and you'll have 500 movies on. and I thought that changes life as we know it. it changes the rules if I have a card that's bits ones and zeros and I give you those ones and zeros the digital age, says a song is not longer music a song is a collection of a billion numbers. I give you those billion numbers you've got it. it's so easy. Our computer technology lets us copy everything instantly no it's very scary it means a new world, a new world's ahead and it may take decades it may even take centuries before we actually get to the final ending point. Because you know people are used to the old ways and you always want to keep a little bit of the old and the old is everything was too complicated for individual person to make all the copies in the world of. You sell them a replica on vinyl and they've got that one record and all these days of one record I mean they could loan it to a friend and get it back, but it's pretty much you know one record and now all of a sudden you give out a song and it, it could be 10,000 or a hundred thousand a million copies you know just distributed that instantly you know the, the cost of, the cost of production used to regulate this industry. Some industry's that are based on information meaning everything like music, books, erm, newspapers and, and movies. All these industries are having severe problems today.  Already and it's just been you know what's been you know what err decade and a half.  


Intvr        When did you first come across the internet?

Steve     I heard about the internet from friends at first, I wasn't one of the earliest people in it I had friends in companies like Hewlett Packard friends that were tied into the University community and I would watch them get on line with this thing called I, I got Arpanet before it was the internet. Now they had the internet they could talk to their friends at different universities and share scientific information I knew something was going on but I didn't know. I didn't relate it to how valuable it could mean to normal humans. And then a friend of mine told me he'd gone on the internet with a friend a certain here and seen some amazing things he said that was going to take over thing cause now for the first time we had a programme called mosaic that put pictures with your text on the internet. The original internet brought us the web from Tim Bergs Lee brought us the web but it was only words. It was only words it was merging the pictures and all of a sudden made it half way to what personal computers were. Or a part of the way there. and erm, had this and anyway I was scared I didn't know a thing about it I had a   friend err a friend of a friend Come in and and teach me here's how you set up the internet in your house or your company. First you have to rent some copper lines from a company called Bell something and then you have to do this and then you have to get these kind of machines and servers and I was scared I didn't know what any of this stuff was but I did it. I took the risk, I went and I got friends and I got equipment and I made purchases and I set things up I didn't even use a Macintosh computer I was familiar with I had to get a Sun computer and I got something hooked up and I had to make phone calls and say are you supplying the part or are we, something's not working and I had  it fixed and working and then for 10 years I became a network administrator keeping all these routers the route the signals out to this part of the network and give you internet addresses and all this crazy geeky stuff.  Erm, it was a tough time but I got on the internet so early I got a three letter dot com. I got wars my name dot com. But you know what everybody wants their name dot com and I like to do things different and I'm sort of a non profit guy  so I always use ............ non profit.

Intvr        Did you have experience of early on line communities or know of or hear of the well and so on?

Steve    When the internet came it turns out there were some, some things that proceeded the internet.  There were erm, the source was the first big huge organisation it was a computer that tens of thousands of people could dial into with accounts and link messages for others to read and then came AOL. AOL for the first few years was Mackintosh only because it was graphics in a display like we're used to on our computers today instead of just texting and answering you know putting out a list of my options on type 3 for this, and 3 for that so I talked plasters around this time and I would teach all the students every year I would give them AOL and watch how you're going to chat rooms and find people that are strangers and the amount of communication just explodes in your body the number of strangers that you can meet and actually talk to and you don't have to be afraid of a personal interaction.  Erm it was just amazing you could download all these neat software you know stuff and you know have AOL account download all the software you needed and you could research different news, you could get into groups of different types of education that were places for parents, places for kids what on an incredible world was opening. Now here came the internet and it was sort of like a sub centre of them but at first the internet was occupied by the ............. in the universities and they were putting out different kinds of information than what you do in normal fun like you know it wasn't kids it wasn't young education it was erm, and so at first the internet was a little bit more boring by you know and tame by, by regards. They didn't have sound they didn't have movies they didn't have all the things flash and all that we, we're used to today so it was a very early start but I thought this is so important this internet it's a cunning thing, we still have to dial into the internet on 50K modems, even slower modems I think when the internet first came we didn't have 50k modems yet we didn't have DSL we didn't have broadband we didn't have Cable modems we didn't have satellite anything so it was very, very slow and I got all my classes of young kids, 10 years olds on up on erm, I always you know taught them you know here's how you set up and use the internet have email addresses and do that sort of thing because it was easy ..........it was the most important thing in the world.  I went home one night I just set up the internet for the first day ever in my house and I said this internet is something you're going to be able to buy things on. you know things that you're not used to going to stores and we typed in, my wife and I typed in coffee and we found a place in .......... that you could order coffee I mean we were  just probably sending them a little note that they would then do all the paperwork and do it manually it wasn't really done through the internet. But I was really need to see you could actually buy something on the internet that was going to change the world of commerce for ever and this was in the early days the late 90's when all the investment, investors and all the venture capitalists figured the internet is going take over the world and anything internet related is going to be so valuable they invested and invested and they over invested more rapidly than the technology could really come about in robust fashion so that we had the dot com crash  and here we are today and I think every body would look at the internet and say it's a good thing.  It's a good thing everything I do on the internet I did before a different way that was more work, was slower or worse or didn't get a ......... it's changed our life quite a bit.  



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