Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Apple Designer Bio Worth a Browse

iWoz by Steve Wozniak - cover
While waiting for a plane recently I did something I almost never do: bought a book. Rather than an airport novel it was IWoz by Steve Wozniak. This is an autobiography written with Gina Smith. The section of the book dealing with Wozniak's design of the Apple 2 computer should be read by anyone interested in how technology products are designed or the ethos of engineering.
Less interesting is the section on Steve Wozniak early life and the later sections on his activities prompting rock concerts.
The insights the book gives into the development of one of the most important personal computers are very valuable. But I found the language the book is written in to be frustrating. It is as if it was written using simplified English for a young audience. This may have been the case (or perhaps this is how the author naturally speaks) but it make the book a bit dull.
Also Steve Wozniak's naivety when it comes to dealing with business and the press is a little difficult to believe. He recounts how on leaving Apple he gave an interview in which he criticised some practices at Apple. He recalls how he was surprised and disappointed when this was given as his reason for leaving Apple in the subsequent article. He goes on to say he still doesn't understand why that was done.
There are also some veiled criticisms of Steve Jobs in the book which do not quite ring true. But then perhaps we have to take Steve Wozniak at face value as a genuine engineering genius but not a business one.
The best bit of the book was the description of the urge to get the chip count of the Apple 2 down and to produce a very simple floppy disk controller. I cursed the Apple 2 floppy disk system. While it was a model of simplicity, it wasn't compatible with anything else and had a few quirks which made it hard to work with.

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