Friday, January 9, 2009

Welcome to Macintosh - Woz was there!

Legendary Steve 'The Woz' Wozniak of Apple computers made a surprise appearance at an 'alternative' film showing on the history of the Macintosh last night.

The event had been listed as part of Macworld Conference and Expo as a one-night film showing with a panel of Apple and Mac founders and creators appearing afterwards to answer questions. But The Woz's presence was a secret.

About 200 enthusiastic Mac fans went to the Sundance cinema for what turned out to a fun, quirky but thoroughly factual documentary on the development of the Mac - and so got a major surprise when the film ended and The Woz trooped down to the front with his Mac co-workers!

Had his name been announced in advance, queues would have been wrapped round the building like scarves round a neck on a cold winter's day.

The young filmmakers of 'Welcome to Macintosh - The documentary for the rest of us,' were Josh Rizzo and Rob Baca who presented their film and introduced the panel.

'I know this is kind of surreal!' said Steve, seated at the panel.

With him were Ron Wayne, original co-founder of the Apple Computer Company and logo designer, Andy Hertzfeld, co-creator of the original Mac, Jim Reekes, creator of the Mac start-up sound, Guy Kawasaki, 'evangelist' who at one point ran an email list of 44,000 members, and Leander Kahney, author of Cult of Mac.

Surprisingly, not only had several of them not seen the film until that evening, but some had not even met each other before.

How do you feel about this tribute to your life's work? was the first question.

'This movie was so much on the mark!' said Steve. '....This is by far the best one (independent film) I've seen.'

'I could never have envisaged it was going to turn into what it has...' 'To me it's astonishing...' the compliments were flying from the panel. But then Guy said, 'I'm embarrassed!' as he didn't think he deserved such a high profile alongside other Mac founders.

Jim, who turned in a fine humorously-laconic performance in the film said his favourite scenes were those of Macs in the environment - the Mac on a swing, the Mac in the long grass...

'Very humorous,' they all agreed.

The Apple community, said another questioner, is small but what will happen to it if it grows into something enormous?

'As long as Apple continues to make transcendantly good products, it will continue,' concurred Steve and Andy.

What is their favourite memory?

For Steve, it was when Steve Jobs introduced the Mac in competition against IBM's computer at a Macworld conference in January '84 with the slogan 'Never trust a computer you can't lift!'

Ron: the afternoon spent putting an impossibly historically detailed, complex logo together of an image of Newton and the falling apple, and a quote from Wordsworth! Like the apple, it fell to the ground!

Jim: choosing the name of the 'beep' sound when the computers start up, which he explained, was ridiculously far more complex than could be imagined with English barristers in horse-hair wigs crossing out his suggestions.

'Chime' was too 'usable'?!!! etc etc. Apple were also engaged at that time in a legal battle with the Beatles music company, Apple, over the use of music because of the similarity of the name.

In desperation and typical wit, Jim grasped at a solution: 'So Sue Me!' disguised as a Japanese word 'Sosumi!' It worked!!!!

In the film, a New York collector shows off his personal collection of thousands of old Macs, to the amusement of the audience, as room after room is revealed crowded with the beloved objects.

So what does the panel collect?

Not so much, it seems. The Apple ll was mentioned, but for Steve and Guy, no sentimentality. They appreciate their Macs at the time, and move on!

What did they think of this year's Macworld?

The iLife upgrades were 'good for most people'. They liked the 17-inch Macbook Pro because of its solid-state disc. DRM, unlimited iTunes downloads...'that's a big step,' said Steve. 'I'm happy!' chipped in another voice.

What is Steve doing in retirement?

Teaching, philanthropy, more speaking at events, sitting on the boards of technical companies, writing software for Google. He has written his autobiography, 'I Woz', and also started a company but pulled out because of what he considered to be their 'unethical' focus on money. Anyone who knows Steve, knows that he is not in it for the money.

And he married last year, on August 8. Spot the date? 8.8.08, 'binary numbers so I can remember the anniversary!'

Steve is also known for his 'double' pranks. He once called the Cupertino police to the Apple offices to complain of Steve Jobs being parked in a handicapped persons space, and gave Andy Hertzfeld's name as the complainant!

Where will Apple be in 20 years from now - apart from seeing it's CEO in handcuffs and down the 'nick'!

Slight hesitation at first. Twenty years in computer life is a long projection. But they tried.

'Thriving,' said Steve, 'because Mac is about users who want to be different.' Every time in the past that the market share shrank, it produced this effect: 'Now I'm that much more special!' he said.

An audience member narrowed the timescale to the next five years.

Jim: moving away from Desktops and towards laptops and other mobile devices. People want computers with them, to use them any time. On this the panel agreed.

Is there any difference in perception between older Mac users who have grown up with the history of Macs, and those of the younger generation?

Surprisingly, no, the panel thought. The younger generation are just as interested in the history.

'I think there are Neanderthal nerds! It's genetic!' said Jim.

And then the bombshell question landed. Who will succeed Steve Jobs?

Silence ensued.

Next question? The future of Macworld without Apple?

Andy said conferences were not as necessary now with the use of the internet. But The Woz thought there would always be a place for Macworld because it is where hardcore fans are able to meet up.

And not only it seems with each other, but with some of the very legends themselves!

Pics show: panel and standing on the side, Rob Baca and Josh Rizzo; (from left) Andy Hertzfeld, Steve Wozniak, Ron Wayne

1 comment:

mildred said...

very informative blog..

wish i was there :)