Last Month, I talked about , but in fact it started even earlier than I noted in that blog post. This photo is of a computer in my office, it was my first computer and we called it the Pineapple, which is a play on the fact that it is made of wood (pine) and an apple computer built from scratch. (The case was actually made from Oak, but Oakapple doesn’t sound as good). When I was in junior high, my dad and I built this Apple II computer by ordering the motherboard from a catalog, and literally soldering the memory chips, CPU and all of the components on it. The keyboard, power supply and switches on it were used and in some cases thrown away from other things. Inside there are many other creative work-arounds and cards dedicated to things like printing that we built (just to print). I think the only thing we bought new was the disk drive controller card and the floppy disks shown. One of the disks had the operating system and the other would be used for applications or saving files. I spent alot of time on that computer, teaching myself to program in basic as well as pascal and connecting to Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). When it would crash, it would leave me with a blinking set of @ characters and unfortunately, I lost nearly 3 hrs of a paper I wrote for High School final when I didn’t save often enough. I had mixed feelings about this computer at times, but what I learned through this process provided a foundation that I only now appreciate.
Looking back, the reason that we built this computer was because we could not afford a new one and my dad was an electronics wizard. It wasn’t until 2006 when I read iWoz, by Steve Wozniak that I realized that building your own Apple was common if you lived in Silicon Valley, it was relatively unknown in Colorado where I grew up. I met Steve Wozniak in college as he was an alumni and came back to talk to us about the pranks and things he did in college, staying in the dorms right across from the Engineering Center. My parents came to visit me a few years back and brought this computer with them in a separate suite case. It was really special and it took us down memory lane. I decided to keep it in my office as a reminder of my entrepreneurial roots.
Recently a relative sent me a link to an article about an original Apple I computer that the Henry Ford museum paid $900K to acquire. That inspired me to reflect on my own experience building that Apple II computer and perhaps to give credit where it is due. I had a hand in this process and I remember soldering chips on a TV tray in my basement, but it was really my dad who made sure it worked and was the initiator of this whole program. He taught me to take things apart and look inside. I also discovered that Atari Cartridges were just 1 or 2 EPROM chips with a connector and plastic case and I learned how they worked. I learned about Yagi Antennas, Satellite Dishes and lots of other things. It wouldn’t be until I went into Electrical Engineering that I would have the mathematical and scientific knowledge to make sense of it all, but it was my father that provided both the sense of wonder as well as the confidence to know that it is possible to understand your world if you take the time to figure it out.
Thanks Dad for launching me towards space andmaking me the first iuvonaut.