Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 6th Jul 2007 20:01 UTC, submitted by Oliver
Apple 10ZenMonkeys has interviewed Steve Wozniak. When asked about Bill Gates, he replied: "I've only spoken with him briefly a couple of times. I admire him, he admires me. Good lord, I'd never written a computer language when he had written a BASIC in the early days of hobby computers. And I thought, 'Oh my gosh - a computer with BASIC finally makes a computer that people can use for things'."
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FAC73
Member since:
2007-07-09

My point throughout this thread has been that credit that should go to the original inventors is usually taken by those who make the invention popular. Steve Wozniak/Jobs may have sold a lot of kits and Apple IIs, but they weren't even close to being the inventors of the small computer with a keyboard and monitor that could sit on/under a desk. Undeniably, Xerox had that years before Apple, and the Xerox Alto also had a modern GUI.


Oh I absolutely understand that view, there's many examples in the industry where success is bestowed on the person who exploits the technology, rather than the person who created it. (For the record, I was a Commodore kid and cut my teeth on a Vic-20. I dont regard the Apple II as something that was dropped from the heavens by Saint Woz, however I do have a lot of respect for it as one of the first microcomputers that came pre-assembled for the home market.)

However, the Alto seems to be the only one of the three that used a CPU that was small enough to fit under a typical desk, and it was the only one to use a modern GUI with icons, hierarchal menus, and floating windows...Again, how a device is marketed/offered/sold (and its success or lack of success) has no bearing on the true nature of the device.

If we were talking about the jet engine, I'd agree with you. If we were talking about a Commodore 64 that was built in 1927 I'd probably agree too, but I think this is where I differ on the Alto. I find its in more of a grey area technologically. It may be one of the best examples of an early small computer, but it wasn't the first. If I was to accept the Alto as a PC, I'd have to accept the PDP-8 as well, and somehow that doesn't feel accurate.

Technically, the gui isn't relevant as to whether the Alto is a PC or not, as many PC's didnt have graphic interfaces in the early days, and even today there's enthusiasts who favour the command line.
If the Alto had been the size of a warehouse, then there's no doubt it couldnt be classed as a PC because of its enormous size, regardless of how sophisticated its interface was.

The fact it was contained in a single cabinet is remarkable, and makes it a contender for the title, but I think defining a PC is about more than how many components can be shoved into a small cubic space. As a matter of fact, I think how its shipped to market is important to consider because any large company with sufficient funds could have poured money into making a one-off desktop computer for the sake of it.

Any car company can pour money into making a one off vehicle with 1000bhp, however the Bugatti Veyron is the only production vehicle with that kind of power (as opposed to some dragster with a rocket on the back).

What is affordable and accessible? It sounds as if your definition of a PC would exclude Steve Job's NeXT computer -- those units were prohibitively expensive and used mainly by institutions/corporations

Well yes actually, I think of them as workstations with an advanced OS. I know that physically speaking they were PC's that were containted in a box under the monitor, but they were exclusive to professionals and academics. (Though I'm sure they had the capability of being used by children to paint pictures with the right software)
The problem is that my definition of "Personal computer" almost intrinsically includes "Home computer", which is something the Alto missed out on because of bad management decisions at Xerox.

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