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Wozniak's Original System Description of the Apple ][ 170

CowboyRobot writes "Opening with the line, 'To me, a personal computer should be small, reliable, convenient to use and inexpensive,' Steve Wozniak gave his system description of the Apple-II in the May, 1977 issue of BYTE. It's instructive to read what was worth bragging about back then (PDF), such as integral graphics: 'A key part of the Apple-II design is an integral video display generator which directly accesses the system's programmable memory. Screen formatting and cursor controls are realized in my design in the form of about 200 bytes of read only memory.' And it shows what the limitations were in those days, 'While writing Apple BASIC, I ran into the problem of manipulating the 16 bit pointer data and its arithmetic in an 8 bit machine. My solution to this problem of handling 16 bit data, notably pointers, with an 8 bit microprocessor was to implement a nonexistent 16 bit processor in software, interpreter fashion.'"
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Wozniak's Original System Description of the Apple ][

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  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Friday May 18, 2012 @05:31PM (#40046405)
    Let me see. The mac pro isn't a fair one to look at, being a high-end professional workstation, so how about something consumer. Say, the Mac Mini. that's £529 for an i5 dual-core 2.3GHz, 2GB ram, 500GB HD and Intel HD graphics. That's their entry-level desktop computer. Now, if I go to ebuyer... they don't actually have anything with only 2GB ram, so I'll have to get a 4GB system. But for £512 - slightly *less* than a mac mini - I can get an HP with 4GB ram, 500GB HD and a *quad* core 3.0GHz processor. It's twice the ram, more than twice the processor performance, and lower-cost. I could do even better, but then I'd have to go for a machine without a well-known brand, which wouldn't be fair. The only downside is that it's a bit larger, midi-tower, but the slightly larger size doesn't outweigh that the Mac Mini is more expensive than a PC with twice the processing speed and memory. So, whatever you may say about the quality of Apple hardware in their defense, it still remains substantially more expensive than the competition.

    I'd compare the iMac, but not many PCs come built into the monitor.
  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@w o r f . n et> on Friday May 18, 2012 @05:33PM (#40046435)

    Macs price competitive for the hardware?

    Dude, what planet are you on? Let me guess, one with a bite taken out of it?

    Depends how you compare. If you're trying to compare say, a Macbook Pro with a netbook, then yeah, Macs are more expensive. Or even a Macbook Air against a netbook. Ignoring stuff like an Atom is no way competitive to a Core2Duo, nevermind the i5, the SSD, memory, etc.

    OTOH, if you try to compare like with like (as much as possible), they're quite competitive. The usual explainations for deviations is use of cheaper bigger heavier laptops in place of svelte ones (e.g., trying to compare a MBP against some much heavier, much larger Dell model instead of using Dell's more expensive smaller and more portable ones).

    And displays as well - some fail to account for upgrading a 15" laptop from a 1366x768 display to I think the 1440x900+ that Apple puts in the 15" (nevermind the 1920x1200 on the 17")

    Heck, even the Air is standing on its own compared to the Ultrabooks Intel's trying to bring out (hint: they're all a joke. First pass - no manufacturer wanted to make an ultrabook because they couldn't be competitive. Second pass - with Intel subsidies, they got the price to be the same as the Air, but with specs that were iffier (i3 vs. i5, slower, heavier, etc). Third pass (current) - intel relaxed the specs even more to be far more generous - so you can find 14" ultrabooks that are 1" thick or so - basically "small laptop').

    Of course, this holds true pretty much for the first couple of months of Apple's refresh cycle. After that, it's not competitive anymore. Given the current Macbooks are all needing refresh, they are uncompetitive. Once Apple releases their Ivy Bridge laptops (WWDC?) they'll be competitive again. It's because Apple doesn't drop their price as time goes on nor do they have sales.

  • Re:Mistake (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Friday May 18, 2012 @05:51PM (#40046611) Homepage Journal

    Getting back on topic, has anyone started a petition to get the other Steve back as head honcho at Apple?

    Shit, that happens, let me know.

    With Woz at the helm, I may just be forced to reconsider my Apple boycott, walled garden or not...

    And you'll probably be able to augment your iPhone via 6 PCI slots or one of 20 ports...

    You say that as if it's a bad thing....

  • Re:Mistake (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Friday May 18, 2012 @07:56PM (#40047579)

    Let me know too, I'll want to short Apple stock. Woz is a pretty good tech head but as a businessman he's a disaster.

  • Re:Mistake (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slew ( 2918 ) on Friday May 18, 2012 @08:22PM (#40047755)

    The 555 stuff isn't really that amazing, but Woz did some fairly amazing things. For example...

    Integrating the dram refresh with the video display on the original Apple ][ was pretty clever as with the 1/2 phase pixel shift to get cheap color w/o fancy sub-carrier modulation.

    The original Apple ][ floppy drive subsystem using "raw" drive mechanims from Shugart and implementing the controller mechanism in 5 chips and some software (soft sectored avoiding the punch hole detector, no track0 detector, no head load solinoid, 5/3 software group-coder allowing 13-16 sectors/track instead of 10 when others were using MFM, etc.). This when other vendors at the time had quite inferior, yet more expensive floppy disk drives.

    Sure it isn't rocket science, but it is still good engineering wizardry, not just "plugging resistors".

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Friday May 18, 2012 @08:37PM (#40047839) Journal

    You kid, but in all seriousness, SWEET-16 probably does qualify as prior art for a few dozen currently litigated patent claims. Except you couldn't really call the Apple II "mobile". You could fairly call it a "limited resource computing device", though (a phrase found in one of Apple's iPod patents)

  • Re:Mistake (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slew ( 2918 ) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @02:23AM (#40049557)

    ??? Mr/Ms AC, I didn't change any examples, that was my first post. Perhaps you are refering to another poster?

    I can't speak for anyone else, but my first statement of my post was "The 555 stuff isn't really that amazing" and I finished with "Sure it isn't rocket science..."

    Do you have some issue with these statements?

    Or are you (Mr/Ms AC) just so filled with Woz hate that you have to attack everyone that says anything even remotely positive about Mr Woz with a hair trigger post? Are you're pissed that he wasn't eliminated before your favorite Dancing with the stars celebrity? Fan of Holly Madison, or a GoGo's fan maybe? Is that why you are posting AC? ;^) ;^)

    Of course Mr Woz isn't god (despite what some OTHER posters may have gushed about), be he seems to have been a damn good engineer. However, sometimes the best role models for people are not the ones that are so beyond us that we can never aspire to be them (scientists or researchers that create a new paradigm), but maybe for some of us lowly engineers, someone that we hope we can hold a candle to on a good day and thus more relateable and a bar that we might be able to reach some day if the stars align...

    Is it literally too hard for you to let people have their own heros instead foisting yours upon others? Something to think about Mr/Ms AC...

    But to answer your question (if it was directed to me and not the other poster), what Woz did with the 55x timer is very vanilla and probably could be copied out of a fairchild or national app-note, but what Woz did with the disc controller was something that pretty much was wizardry. Basically he single handedly designed a amazingly cheap floppy disc controller (40 chips vs 5 chips) that not only was more advanced in storage capacity and access speed than any other in the industry at the time.

    By doing so allowed Apple to sell a disc drive for under $500 with a BOM of $150 (eventually reduced to $80) enabling Apple to practically mint money with this product. In several interviews with Mr Jobs and other Apple and (some disbelieving) Shugart contemporaries, they credit this floppy disc controller design by Woz as the major growth driver at Apple and probably more important than the computer itself in launching the Apple IPO. Basically, Woz didn't have any background in floppy disc controller theory, he read some data sheets and figured it out and beat out the best in the industry at the time. He also layed out the controller circuit board to minimize the feedthroughs to help improve the reliability and manufacturability, basically a soup-to-nuts holistic designer. That's engineering wizardry (to me anyhow, as a lowly engineer)... something I might aspire to someday... But even the best designer needs to crank out a 55x-esque circuit sometimes. I'm sure all you your heroes had a few more pedestrian accomplishments along the way too.

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