Computer Pioneers III: Kay, Gates, Jobs, & Woz
November 10th, 1999

This week I am going to continue looking at some of the pioneers of the computer age, but first I have to correct a mistake I made last week. I consistently referred to Mr. Lee Felsenstein as Les Felsenstein and I offer him my sincere apology for that error. My only excuse is to blame it on the BIFOCALS!! I also wish to thank Rick Baggarley who took the time to point out my error.

Looking at this third wave of computer pioneers (Alan Kay, Stephen Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates) it is quickly apparent that half of this group has a big ego. I'll leave it up to your imagination as to which two I am talking about, but I'll give you a hint: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. As an example, Steve Jobs is quoted as saying that "Woz[niak] was the first person I met who knew more about electronics than I did." I don't find that surprising you understand, because I think it takes a big ego to take chances and start new ventures. I actually admire it. However, those same egos have certainly affected the way these gentlemen do business and get along with each other.

Alan Kay

Wes George wrote and suggested that I cover Alan Kay in this series. He said that Alan Kay was very important because it was he who developed concept of Object Oriented Programming. For those of us less knowledgeable, Object Oriented Programming is a more efficient way to program. He is also considered to be the Father of the Graphical User Interface, or GUI as the techheads call it. The GUI refers to the ability to click on icons to open programs and perform other activities on our computers instead of having to type in command line codes.. I would say that is an extremely important development for the computing world, including the Mac which was influenced by Dr. Kay's work. He is also one of the inventors of the Smalltalk programming language and he is the conceiver of the laptop computer. As far as I am concerned he could have stopped at the Graphical User Interface and been my hero forever.

Dr. Kay is from Springfield. MA. He has degrees in, Mathematics and Molecular Biology, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Science. He was a gifted child who learned to read at age 3. By the time he entered school (his family was then living in Australia) he had already read a couple of hundred books and was already challenging linear thinking. He also is a gifted musician who once considered becoming a professional. However, while in the Air Force he had his first exposure to computers. The following quote is from Scott Gasch who discusses Dr. Kay's accomplishments at

"In my opinion, Kay's most noteworthy contribution to the world of computer science was that of a shifted paradigm; He changed the way both the industry and the world thinks of computers. Before Kay's work a computer was a non-personal box that spat text at you. If you wanted to interact with this machine you had to learn to speak its language. Kay, because of his experience with children, his love of education, his diverse interests, and his genius, recognized that users can and should interact with a computer in different ways and should not be limited to only text. He was among the first to represent objects in a computer as pictures -- a metaphor that he further extended by developing the concept of object orientation. He is, clearly, one of the fathers of the modern PC."

Steven Wozniak

While most people know who Steven Jobs is, not as many know about Stephen Wozniak. I know I was not familiar with his name at all. Steven Wozniak was the partner of Steve Jobs when they developed and marketed the first computers that led to the creation of Apple.

Steven Wozniak earned a B.S. in Computer Science and a B.S. in Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley in 1982. His first job was with Hewlett-Packard as an engineer. He and Steve Jobs founded Apple in 1976. Wozniak left Apple (with a personal net worth of $45 million dollars) following a serious accident that temporarily left him with no short term memory.

Once well, he decided to get back to doing the things he liked best. To accomplish this he returned to college (he had dropped out when working on the original Apple I with Steve Jobs). He worked on educational projects related to technology. He is currently the President of UNUSON and spends his time teaching computers to elementary school students and their teachers. Friends and colleagues called Steve Wozniak "Woz" or the "Wizard of Woz."

As a child Wozniak was enthralled with mathematics and computers. This love of mathematics drove him to become an engineer. At one point, while still working for Hewlett-Packard he became involved with John Draper who was working to create the "blue box" which was an illegal pocket-size device that would allow the user to make free long-distance telephone calls. (Note: this same device was instrumental in the growth of the hacking phenomenon.) According to John Draper the first call Wozniak made using the illegal attachment, was to call the pope so he could make a confession. Although that probably was a joke, it does reflect on Wozniack's value system. Wozniak was an original member of the Homebrew Computing Club. For those who remember the Atari game craze, Steve Wozniak developed the game Breakout.

Steve's most significant contributions to Apple were developing the Apple I, and more importantly the Apple ][. While the Apple ][ was eventually eclipsed by the Mac, it was the computer that propelled Apple into the limelight, the Fortune 500, and sustained the very development of the Mac while the Mac was getting off the ground. In fact, it was the Apple ][ that launched the entire personal computer revolution as we know it.

Steve Jobs

The Wonder Kid of Apple. Along with Stephen Wozniak he founded Apple Computer Inc. He also founded NeXT Software Inc. At age 43 his net worth is reported by Time Magazine to be $1.28 billion.

Steve Paul Jobs was born in 1955 in Los Altos, California. He was an orphan adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs. While in high school his parents moved from Mountain View California to Los Altos because Steve did not like the high school in Mountain View. Even then he was known by his teachers to have a different way of looking at things. At one point in 1974 he traveled with a friend to India in search of spiritual enlightenment. He attended college at Reed College in Oregon for a short while, taking classes in physics, literature and poetry.

His first job was with Atari as a technician. Along with Stephen Wozniak he eventually designed the computer game called Breakout for Atari (though Mr. Jobs's biggest contribution is reportedly getting the job in the first place, Steve Wozniak did all the work). At the same time the two used Steve Jobs family garage to build their version of a computer, which they called the Apple I. When they managed to sell fifty of the machines to Paul Terrel who owned the Byte Shop, they were on their way. It was Jobs who named the company Apple, reportedly because it was it favorite fruit.

Of primary importance was his innovative idea of a personal computer that led him and his friend, at age 21, to create the Apple. The Apple changed people's ideas of a computer from a gigantic and inscrutable mass of electronics to a small box used by ordinary people. Through Apple, Jobs democratized the computer and made it user-friendly. The Apple I computer was created in 1976 and sold for $666. It was primarily marketed to hobbyists like the members of the Homebrew Computer Club (see last week's column for more information on the Homebrew Computer Club) who could use it to perform their own operations on their personal computers.

From there, the two found outside partners, made Apple Computer official and set out to design the Apple ][. The Apple ][ could directly interface to a color video monitor, a very advanced concept for a "low cost" computer at the time. For several years Apple dominated the personal computer field, but then IBM released its own version of the personal computer, called the IBM PC. IBM soon outstripped Apple because of it marketing power, lower costs, and dominance in the business market. Jobs and Apple began to create machines that would try and meet the needs of businesses. The Macintosh was designed to meet this need.

While developing the first Macintosh, Jobs tried to create an environment in which the computer industry's highly individualistic, talented, and often eccentric designers could flourish. The Macintosh was introduced in 1984 on Super Bowl Sunday with an ad that caught the immediate eye and attention of the public. The ad, which focused on Apple as an alternative and innovative company officially aired only one time (the Apple board of directors initially hated it). However, it was such a powerful and different kind of ad that it was shown over and over again in news and other stories. The advertising firm that developed it estimated they got 50 million dollars of air time for free. The ad went on to be named the top TV advertisement of all time.

In the 80's Jobs had recruited John Sculley from Pepsi Cola to help market the Macintosh. In 1985 Sculley pushed Jobs out of the company. Jobs sold over $20 million of his Apple stock and took a long vacation/soul searching trip to Paris and Italy. He eventually hired away five of Apple's best designers and started NeXT, Inc. In 1998 Jobs was broght back to Apple when Apple bought NeXT. Mr. Jobs went on to his old company back overs. Since then he has introduced iMac--Apple's fasting-selling computer ever. Through all of this Steve Jobs has remained the innovative, independent person he started out to be. Many have criticized him and his decisions, such as the step to stop development of the Apple clones. He has continued to do things his own way, whether right or wrong. That "different way of looking at things" mentioned by his high school teacher remains an integral part of Steve Jobs.

William Gates, III

Now, on to the dark side. Bill Gates, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft was born in 1955 in Seattle, Washington. He began programming computers at age 13 while attending a private school. He attended Harvard, but dropped out in his junior year to devote his energies to Microsoft which he had begun in 1975 with partner Paul Allen. Gates realized the potential for personal computers to be used in both business and home settings and he set out to develop software to support that concept. Time Magazine estimates his net worth to be over US$100 billion dollars. Can any of us even conceive of that much money. There are small countries that don't have that much money. His life has been more structured and focused than that of Steve Jobs. He has remained the involved and powerful force within the Microsoft organization and controls management, strategic decisions, and technical development of new products. He lists his hobbies as reading, golf and bridge. No spiritual trips to India or bicycling through Italy for Mr. Gates. His gigantic home in Seattle is well known and well publicized as is his marriage and child.

His primary method of interacting with Microsoft staff is through e-mail. In 1995 Gates published a book, The Road Ahead, in which he classified interactive networks as a major milestone in human history. His donations to charity, totaling several billion dollars has been well documented and well publicized. As demonstrated in the recent legal woes of Microsoft, Gates appears to maintain a pugnacious attitude that is mirrored by other employees of Microsoft. He seems comfortable letting everyone know that -- it is my way or the highway --. Although recent adverse court decisions have created problems for Microsoft and Gates, both have plenty of capital to keep fighting the battle for a long time to come.

If you have any tips, suggestions, or other comments about this, or any other Mac topics, send them to me so that I can share them with other readers.