Book Review: iWoz

Moving on from the ‘Home Computer Wars’, I bought a copy of ‘iWoz’, Steve Wozniack’s autobiography written in 2006 to find out more about the early computer industry during the 1970’s and 80’s. You can find a good synopsis of the book on Wikipedia so I won’t repeat the exercise here. Instead, as with previous books, I’ve decided to write down some personal impressions.

A lot has been written about Apple and Steve Jobs and the more I read about him, the less likable as a character he becomes to me. Proportionately, only little has been written about the hardware genius behind Apple’s early success, Steve Wozniak. Never wanting to be a manager but remain an engineer who invents things, he managed to do just that throughout his life. In the book he says that this was the reason he was so reluctant to join Apple because until he was assured that he can remain an engineer. I guess there are a lot of people out there with the same desire and his autobiography will perhaps be an encouragement for them to do so.

Another thing I very much liked about the book is that he also describes some technical details, how things were connected and how one thing led to another and then another and then another. For example, for the Apple I, he reused his non-CPU design of a mainframe terminal he built for use at home. Instead of an area in RAM that represents the screen content and a character ROM, he used shift registers to store the screen content. Also the computer didn’t send its output to the TV as an RF signal but instead, it interfaced with the analog electronics that drove the electron beam directly. In other words, the Apple I was basically an extension of the terminal with a CPU, RAM and a ROM.

I very much liked the balance of his personal story, technical details about the Apple I and II, the evolution of computer companies in the 1970’s and 80′ in what is called Silicon Valley today, how Apple the company evolved in the early years, what prompted him to leave Apple and what he did afterwards. A recommended read!