The Apple //, ///, /V, V, … LXV that could have been

Apple computers

I fell down an 8-bit rabbit hole 45 days ago, looking back at how the computer industry evolved from the Apple ][ in 1997 into the 1980s, up to the first pen computers of 1991. Last week I found the needle hiding in this haystack (mixing metaphors) on why evolution took that path, and now it’s time to put together all the learnings into an alternative history of what might have been, given...

The needle in my 1970s computer history haystack

Motorola 68000 chip

It took a month of off-hour research and a long long fall down a very deep rabbit hole of computer history, but (mixing metaphors), today I found the needle in the haystack that dropped me into that hole in the first place. Satisfaction is a wonderful feeling. The question I pondered early last month looked back at the early days of personal computers. The Apple ][, Commodore Pet, BBC Micro and...

30,000x growth

Top of a 6502

There are two reasons for the incredible amount of money focused on tech companies. First, because of the 10 largest companies on the S&P 500, five are tech companies. Tech has made many investors a lot of money since Apple went public in 1980 and Microsoft in 1986. Second, the core technology powering all that software has sped up by a factor of 30,000 since Apple launched the Apple ][ in...

One more visit to the future, from the past

Clarke's city of the future

I came across this old BBC footage of Arthur C. Clarke in 1964 predicting life in the coming decades, all the way out to the year 2,000. It is difficult enough to predict what will happen in the future, and far far far more difficult to predict when those predictions will be reality, if ever. What I find more remarkable is Clarke’s accurate prediction of a fully-connected world, with people...

What Woz Knew (and what didn’t foresee)

Apple II logo

I spent the last week diving into how the Apple ][ worked, down to the level of 6502 microprocessor, systems design, and monitor assembly code, all trying to understand what Steve Wozniak (Woz) was doing differently than the other designers of that era, and what he would have done even different if he had hindsight from the early 21st Century. First and foremost, what Woz accomplished with the...

The Apple //4 (or the MOS 652402)

Apple II logo

Continuing backward in time (from the Newton, General Magic, and PenPoint in the 1990s) to the late 1970s, my nostalgic trip backwards through technology last week dropped me on the Apple ][, and the big question of why the computer industry repeatedly ran out of memory addresses? My first computer was an Apple ][+ around 1983, nearly 40 years ago. After a week diving into how it worked, and...

Reminiscing of 30 year old (failed) technology

Remembering he Apple Newton

I’m not the only one this week looking back 30 years at failed tech gadgets. Today in my news feed was a post on ars technia, Remembering Apple’s Newton, 30 years on. Thirty years ago, on May 29, 1992, Apple announced its most groundbreaking and revolutionary product yet, the Newton MessagePad. It was released to great fanfare a year later, but as a product, it could only be described as a...

Seeing is hard, especially into the future

Cover of BYTE 1991

This year I’m celebrating 30 years as an entrepreneur, and with that round number reminiscing more than usual about three decades of learnings. My personal journey into startups began a year earlier, in February of 1991, while still a senior in college at Carnegie Mellon. That month’s issue of BYTE magazine focused on the future of laptops, with a series of articles talking not just...

General Magic, the biggest startup you’ve never heard of

The Verge just posted an article about a new film, “General Magic“, the most important company to come out of Silicon Valley that no one’s ever heard of. That is a startup that brings back old memories en masse, as it was one of the big platforms that my first startup, Nimble, wrote and sold software.  For those of you who never heard of it (which should be 99.999% of you), General...


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