Early Jobs: innovative, underground, illegal

Summary:Steve Jobs might now be known for such mainstream technology as the iPhone, iPad and Macintosh, but his first creation with hardware genius Steve Wozniak was illegal.

Steve Jobs might now be known for such mainstream technology as the iPhone, iPad and Macintosh, but his first creation with hardware genius Steve Wozniak was illegal.

"The actual first product of Woz and Jobs was an illegal device for hacking the US telephone network," says inventor and futurist Mark Pesce in this week's Patch Monday podcast.

"Sort of like BitTorrent of its time," says "professional geek" Nick Hodge. Hodge is now one of the public faces of Microsoft, but he previously worked for Apple, and for the Apple dealership where I bought my first Mac in 1985.

They're right. Jobs was influenced by the counter-culture underground that suffused the home-brew microcomputer scene of the early 1970s, by Stewart Brand's seminal book Whole Earth Catalog, and Ted Nelson's chaotic Computer Lib/Dream Machines.

Pesce is clear about what it all means.

"You know what Steve Jobs did? He invented the personal computer. That's it, alright?" he says.

Indeed, the first mass-produced personal computer was the Apple II of 1977.

But what would personal computing have ended up looking like if Jobs hadn't visited the Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre and seen the revolutionary graphic user interface of its Alto computers, been inspired to create the Apple Lisa and, despite the Lisa's failure, developed the Macintosh?

Would we have ended up with something like Doug Englebart's NLS? Like the Apple III?

Pesce, Hodge and I trace those early days of Steve Jobs, Apple and personal computing. We touch upon the AppleTalk network protocol, the Apple LaserWriter — the first "affordable" laser printer, which was listed at a mere $10,000 here in Australia in 1985 but ran Adobe's PostScript graphics programming language — and MacPaint, the first widely available graphics program.

MacPaint was so important that the Computer History Museum has published the program's original Pascal source code.

Apart from this wide-ranging journey into the past, Patch Monday also includes a look at some of last week's news headlines.

To leave an audio comment on the program, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733.

Running time 40 minutes, 48 seconds

Topics: Apple, iPad, iPhone

About

Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust. He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit tr... Full Bio

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