Early Jobs: innovative, underground, illegal

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.

TOPICS: Apple, iPhone, iPad

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, iPhone, iPad


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 trap, clear a jam in an IBM model 026 card punch and mix a mean whiskey sour.

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  • Was the Apple II really "first mass-produced personal computer"? I was thinking of another "first".
  • Well, Le Wikipedia pays: "Micral N was the earliest commercial, non-kit microcomputer based on a microprocessor, the Intel 8008. It was built starting in 1972 and about 90,000 units were sold. In 1976 Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak sold the Apple I computer circuit board, which was fully prepared and contained about 30 chips. The first successfully mass marketed personal computer was the Commodore PET introduced in January 1977. It was soon followed by the TRS-80 from Radio Shack and the popular Apple II."

    I suppose I should dig out some numbers and further timelines...
  • From the podcast: some additions & corrections:

    The processor in the first Apple LaserWriter was 12Mhz, not 10Mhz. Macintoshes of the time (512 and Plus) were 8Mhz. This made the LaserWriter faster than the Macs of the time.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=7hVNAAAAYAAJ&q=steve+jobs has the quotation I recalled from the book "Inside AppleTalk"

    Everyone forgets the Apple /// ... yes, Steve Jobs did get involved in this. Probably his first major failure.

    The Disk ][ : Woz's hardware acumen: http://apple2history.org/history/ah05/

    Lightspeed C became THINK C (from Symantec) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THINK_C
  • Although it would have been rarely found in homes, I would have chucked the Wang 2200 into the mix as well.

    I think the real claim here is "affordable" personal computer and the argument becomes, "What is the threshold of affordability?"

    I do agree that Xerox should have been credited in the creation of the Lisa~Macintosh.
  • What has the Geek mentioned Nick Hodge done other than be a front to organisations? Have a real producer of tech say something next time.