ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Wozipedia —

I’m an idea guy; I like coming up with ideas. Some of them come to fruition and some are in a sort of holding pattern. Maybe I’ll pick them up again, and maybe not.

There’s one I’ve been kicking around for well over a couple years. It’s had a number of names, and “Wozipedia” is just me being cute. But here’s the basic idea.

Steve Wozniak is a great guy. I was just listening to a recording of him talking during a 4-hour radio program (a Kevin Mitnick fill-in for Art Bell on the Coast to Coast AM radio show, in fact), and I was struck anew at how well-spoken, how inspiring, how damned intelligent the guy is. He can talk in general themes of tinkering and excitment and learning, and then spontaneously back-flip into a discussion of register flipping to achieve color in television scanlines. I’ve got many, many hours of him talking like this; he’s covered a lot of subjects and he never sounds like anything other than the coolest uncle or buddy you’d want to meet.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him on a half-dozen occasions, and again, he’s great: either astounded by something he’s looking at or answering endless questions and queries from people surrounding The Woz.

The Woz is known as The Woz because of his masterpiece: The Apple II. This computer is basically the last home computer to be designed by a single person. Later peripherals have others contributing significant parts of the hardware and design, but the Apple I and Apple II are basically Woz’s. And the Apple II is, to me, a groundbreaking, true classic. Classic like a 1957 Chevy, like a Pac-Man machine. It stands on its own; you put down an Apple II and people just “get” it. Yes, there are other “classic” home computers, but none had that level of intense openness Woz put in, or such a fantastically communicative and friendly designer.

I realize some small portion of this is personal opinion.

So, when you sit down and think of it, consider how much of the world can be explained via the Apple II and Steve Wozniak: Engineering. Marketing. Programming. Design. Personality. You could pick any aspect of this machine and its creator and start to understand the computer industry, the idea of chip design, the nature of port expansion.. you could go in so many directions, just from these two simple data points.

In my little dream, you go to a site or a program and there’s an Apple II. Standing next to it is Steve Wozniak. That’s it. You could then click or activate anything and it would zoom in. Click on Steve Wozniak and get his bio. Or his pedigree. Or his accomplishments. Click on things from his life and see photos or hear Woz from any of his hundreds of speeches talking about that subject in his own words. Same with the Apple. Click on it and get ads, get photos of people, get schematics, get tutorials. Some would have Woz and some wouldn’t.

With this approach, the result is both limited and unlimited. There’s little room for, say, Pokemon or Oil Lamps, but there’s room for a little Silicon Valley history, for Macintosh, for Atari (Woz worked there one week), for HP Calculators, and so on.

The Wozipedia would be like something between one of the interfaces from a Neal Stephenson novel combined with the positive aspects of Wikipedia: the strong interlinking, the range of subjects, the feeling of walking in any direction and it will be there, teaching you and inspiring you, however far you walk.

I would love this thing. Maybe some day I’ll do it.

As if to inspire me, I was listening to Woz speak at last year’s Vintage Computer Festival and he dropped this little tidbit: he saved everything. All his notes, his diagrams, his notebooks, his documentation. All of it; it has every last bit. He thought it was important and might have use in the future. He was so right.

Now, who wants in?

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  1. jeffx says:

    Sounds a little fanboyish,….I like it.

    After reading your post I envisioned a “degrees of separation” type of thing. While you are reading about Woz you click on a Steve Jobs link. The link would take you to the same sort of site for Steve Jobs.

    I am a fairly big fan of Woz and I just got my first Apple computer about 2 years ago.

  2. The Ramsacker says:

    Yo yo! Just wanted to give you a shout out from Livermore!

  3. Kiel says:

    ” . . . he saved everything. All his notes, his diagrams, his notebooks, his documentation. All of it; it has every last bit. He thought it was important and might have use in the future. He was so right.”

    Bruce Damer scanned some of “it”:

    Intends to scan more.

    You probably knew about this?

  4. Frank says:

    Perhaps I’m an idiot (in fact, I’m fairly sure I am), but whenever I hear him speak, I lose a lot of respect for him. He comes off sound like a (for lack of a better word) doofus.

  5. Shii says:

    I think the only solution is for everyone to make their own wiki of personal knowledge, and we can go back to the decentralized system that served us so well.

  6. Jason Scott says:

    Regarding Wozniak and speaking:

    I’ve had the pleasure of hearing him speak dozens of times, multiple times in person, and I think it comes down to this… Wozniak constructs his best speeches and monologues in specific ways, not all of them compatible with where he’s speaking.

    He likes to tell stories, diverging into explanation of the “meaning” of what he’s saying, and then going back into the loop, the stack. This works great when he’s giving a 30-40 minute speech at a conference. It’s completely useless when he’s in a short-form location, like on the Colbert Report or in a quick-paced radio program.

    He speaks with the enthusiasm and inclusiveness of a good teacher. This is not compatible with, say, a give and take interview form.

    I maintain he’s brilliant, but obviously a Wozipedia would have to prove that.

    Also, Kiel, I did NOT know about that PDF. Amazing!

  7. Steve Lawson says:

    As a librarian, I would like to see Woz’s stuff go to a special collections library with an established digitization program, so that the original stuff can be preserved while making digital copies available for “the rest of us.” UC Berkeley would be an obvious choice. I hope he is thinking like this as well.