Apple used to be so open…


I’m reading ‘Founders at Work’ at the moment (quite an interesting read, I’ll probably summarise the key issues in a later post). I know (or knew anyway) a lot about the start of the computer industry, having created a course on it, so I was more interested in the net start ups. But there is an interview with Steve Wozniak in there, in which he says of the Apple II (my italics)

"It was just open to all these things. We made it easy for anyone to do what they wanted to do. And I think that was one of the biggest keys to its success. We didn’t make it a hidden machine that we own

We put out manuals that had just hundreds of pages of listings of code, descriptions of circuits, examples of boards that you would plug in – so that anyone could look at this and say ‘Now I know how I would do my own.’ … So one of our big keys to success was that we were very open. There’s a big world out there for other people to come and join us."

Now fast forward 28 years or so and you’d struggle to say that about a single Apple product now wouldn’t you? For instance, Ray Corrigan has a post of Apple’s latest round of digital locks, including the iPhone ring tunes eraser. None of this follows from Wozniak’s description above, so how did a company so open become one so closed?


  • AJ Cann

    Ever been to San Francisco? Noticed how the hippies grew up and bought all the expensive houses? In Bob’s immortal words “When you aint got nothing, you got nothing to lose”.

  • Martin

    I knew you’d have to bite Alan 😉
    You’re right – eschewing money and materialism is not a hippy value that carried over into professional life. What I think is interesting about Wozniak’s quote is not that they should be open for altruistic reasons but because it was good for business. This was quite an early realisation of the what you give away you get back approach. And it is ironic at least that Apple should have gone on to be so obsessed by proprietary systems and products.

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