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Woz was scary good at both hw and sw (author of Apple BASIC.) If you have time, go through his various Apple documents online.

I believe he was never the same after his small plane crashed. (Back then, wealthy people used small planes like ATVs, and had about the same safety record.)

I worked with another hw engineer of similar ability back in the 80s.

Mind-blowing watching him just pick up a pen and draw out a complete board schematic at lunch, then getting the working board back from mfg. the following week and launching it on the Space Shuttle.

A 50-hour pilot in a Bonanza A36TC is insane, I had no idea Woz landed off-airport. I do checkouts in Bonanzas, and the more typical A36TC/TN pilot has 500 hours' experience or more.

(Some of us still use small planes like ATVs -- but if the description of Woz' experience in the incident is accurate, this is like taking a Lamborghini out with a fresh driving permit)

[1] https://www.cultofmac.com/465778/today-in-apple-history-stev...

> With Woz, who had only flown for 50 hours at the time, at the controls, the plane climbed too abruptly. Then the aircraft stalled and careened through two fences into the car park of a skating rink. Woz later said he thought Candi might have accidentally leaned on the controls.

How could leaning on the yoke (or any other control) cause a stall? She'd have to pull back on it to force a climb like that. I'm kind of amazed he was able to fly a plane like that at 50 hours. A turbo-charged engine requires an extra certification step right? And the private pilot license minimum is 40 hours.

> I'm kind of amazed he was able to fly a plane like that at 50 hours. A turbo-charged engine requires an extra certification step right?

The wikipedia page for the Beechcraft Bonanza says: "The NTSB investigation revealed Wozniak did not have a "high performance" endorsement (making him legally unqualified to operate the airplane)" and links to https://web.archive.org/web/20121019022620/http://www.ntsb.g...

Minimum flight time to get your cert is 40 hours. You train in a fixed gear plane, wheels don’t come up.

To fly this he would need a complex sign off to fly the retractable gear/variable pitch prop and high performance sign off for having over 200hp engine.

It’s a lot of airplane for that much experience but only takes 5 hours or so to get those sign offs from your instructor. Bonanzas have a reputation -now- that keep people away from them until they are very comfortable with flying a complex and fast airplane.

I read a description why aircraft like the Bonanza A36TC are more unforgiving. I think he said because because of higher power, higher speeds, and airfoils to match these aircraft can rapidly leave the stable flight envelop. It takes fast reflexes and knowing what you are doing to get them back. And because they are fast they'll fall out of the sky very quickly in a stall.

Fast reflexes comes from being young or being older and using reflexes you picked up when you were young. Knowing what you are doing comes from knuckling under to someone that does. It's why these aircraft regularly kill middle aged doctors. They have neither the reflexes or the tendency to obey.

There is a reason the air force trains 20 year old's to fly jet fighters.

> It takes fast reflexes ...

No, most Bonanza owners are mid-career doctors, dentists and lawyers. Never seen a teen fly one.

Also, you generally have a second or two at least to deal with issues. Hence the old saw about "winding your watch before reacting to an airliner emergency."

> There is a reason the air force trains 20 year old's to fly jet fighters.

I talked to an ex-Air Force, now civilian flight school owner about that.

He said the problem with 30 year-old military aviation students is that they talk back when fed b.s., unlike kids. So it's a general discipline issue, not an age one.

It's somewhat common for plane sellers, like Cirrus, to allow purchase of the plane then do their primary training in it and in the process getting all necessary endorsements.

One of my flight instructors had a friend/business associate that bought a Kodiak @ Oshkosh after only having flown 182s. The insurance requirements were insane of course. Also, know a guy with 70 hours who bought a Lancair with a 330hp engine. In flying it seems more readily to be a case of if you can afford it, you can do it.

I was in a Mooney @ 120 hours. I just did a lot of extra training--EMT, Tailwheel endorsement, Instrument & commercial rating in it when I had the hours.

I wonder why rich people have such a high urge to fly small airplanes. It seems to expose you to a lot of risk, which you could easily avoid (I’ve lived a considerable number of years without facing a single situation where I was likely to fly an airplane).

Airplanes are a great hobby for people who need to get out of the office, love traveling, and need a hobby that has a lot of little detailed things to stay on top of. Flying real IMC to minimums in a small plane is like solving a real-time fluid dynamics/trig problem, where if you fail, you die.

I guess there are people who do it for the danger, but the beauty of it is that you can get really down in the details and master things so it's not that risky. Once you really master the game, your biggest danger is yourself: get-there-itis, sloppy preflights, pushing things a little at a time, getting away with them, then pushing more, and so on.

I have done nothing in my life that I loved as much as flying. Mankind has been staring up into the sky for eons wishing we could fly. Now we can. Who wouldn't want to be part of that?

Once you really master the game, your biggest danger is yourself: get-there-itis, sloppy preflights, pushing things a little at a time, getting away with them, then pushing more, and so on.

Normalization of deviance, for people interested in the literature.

This is a big killer, moreso than most pilots realize. The reason it's so deadly is that it turns up in a bunch of crashes where it's not identified. That VFR pilot who was scud-running and ended up in some culmulo granite? He probably did it and got away with it several times before the crash happened.

I don't fly anymore, but when I did? I used to get all the aviation safety magazines and read them cover-to-cover. I also knew some flight instructor instructors; people known for teaching safety in the industry.

A surprising number of well-trained pilots get in perfectly good airplanes and fly them until they run out of gas. Just because you pushed it those last dozen times doesn't mean you're going to get away with it this time.

EDIT: One of the more unusual crashes I will mention since this is HN happened out in the mountain states. A couple of thousand hour+ MEII pilots get into a multi-million dollar brand new jet. It's CAVU -- clear skies, visibility unlimited. They then proceed to fly the plane into the side of a mountain -- all the time trying to figure out the new switches and displays in the cockpit. I still think of that one when designing UX. Aviation is really complex, detailed, fun, and full of math like programming. But it is also a life-and-death endeavor if you take it too lightly. If you're safety paranoid, take up boating. It's much more forgiving than aviation.

John Denver ran out of gas while flying over a mountain pass. Exactly at the top - dropped and hit the tip of the peak while fumbling for the fuel switch.

Another good one. From what I've heard, he was a good pilot. The switch was mounted in an awkward and non-standard position. (Behind the pilot's seat, I think?)

Aside from the downdraft issue, running out of gas at altitude in VMC can be very interesting, but it doesn't have to be fatal. Even in heavily-forested areas, in a small plane you can put out the barn doors and decrease your horizontal speed quite bit, especially with a headwind.

We had a guy in Virginia in the 90s, I think. He was a student-ish pilot in a 150 that ended up in IMC (fog) in the heavily-wooded mountains while running out of gas.

He slowed the plane down as much he could, somehow kept the wings level, and ended up on somebody's back deck. Walked away. That's not guaranteed, of course, but in general planes are crash-rated based on flying directly into something. It's the failure to maintain control that kills many times more than the crash itself. Heck, they used to have shows where people crashed planes on purpose.

No. He crashed into Monterey Bay. He likely ran one tank dry then sent the plane into a dive while he tried to move the fuel selector that was located over and behind his shoulder.


If you have a free afternoon I would recommend booking a "discovery flight" at a flight school. You go up, with a certified instructor, and learn the fundamental controls in a relatively safe environment.

It can be an interesting experience, even if you have no desire to become a licensed pilot.

I checked that and around here (in Ireland) it's about €200 for a short flight. How is that in the US?

I think mine was $50 a few years ago. They're usually hoping you like it enough to take lessons where they will recoup the cost.

I've done a couple ULM (ultralight) discovery flights for 50€ here (Spain) near Madrid

It's very freeing. My grandparents would fly to the Bahamas for dinner on a whim from central florida for instance.

I think it's "humans have the drive to do exciting things" regardless of financial status. Add money, and now they can do more expensive exciting things ... like flying small fast planes instead of small fast(-ish) cars.

Planes are moderately expensive and very fun

There is no other way to buy yourself past traffic.

I read The Dog Stars after somebody here recommended it to me. Ever since then I often think about flying a small plane. If I hear one buzzing overhead I can't help myself - I have to watch it fly away.

In case you are interested, that book is a post-apocalyptic novel and the protagonist has a great relationship with his dog. Usually having a dog in the story is all it takes to keep me interested, but I loved everything about this book.

When I turned 16 and started driving, my life changed overnight in a very good way. I imagine learning to fly would give me that feeling again. I could go where I want and not be limited by going where the roads are. It's very appealing.

It's mildly dangerous, but far less dangerous than speeding (I'm guilty of driving recklessly tuned/modded cars in my youth), and a lot more interesting. There is also the satisfaction of operating a complicated machine (to which, I guess, a lot of HN'ers will relate).

I can hardly wait for my electric VTOL PAV.

For some people risk isn't something to be avoided at all costs. It's a challenge to overcome. It's the same principal when you watch an amazing ski jump, musician, or gymnastics routine--taming the chaos.

This is a fundamental drive in many people that calls on something innate.

I don’t buy such a grandiose thing is the reason rich people can’t stop buying planes. You can buy a guitar for $100 on Craigslist and then play it in your backyard with a low risk of blowing up.

Most people don't decide what they're interested in. Certain things grip your imagination.

I tried to get into guitar, but after I found skydiving I sold my guitar for my initial training and have been jumping ever since (20 years). That led me to wanting to drive airplanes when I could afford it.

Flying touches my imagination some how and was always interested in it. Being able to leave my local airport and bust out of the clouds hundreds of miles away safely despite the weather and lack of vision is rewarding.

It's fun!

Woz didn’t create “Apple Basic”. He created the first version of BASIC on the Apple // - Integer Basic. But Microsoft wrote the next version AppleSoft Basic.

Sorry to sperg, but "Integer BASIC" was almost certainly a retronym, a term which didn't exist prior to AppleSoft. Originally it was probably called Apple BASIC, just like ever other [manufacturer] BASIC (at least colloquially).

From the best I can tell, it was always referred to as Integer Basic and never “Apple Basic”.


I do know that it was referred to that as far back as 1980. I’ve never seen a reference to it as “Apple Basic” and I had an Apple //e in 1986.

AppleSoft (MS) BASIC came out very early in Apple II lifecycle, and prior to that there would have been no reason to call the original BASIC anything other than BASIC. Afterwards, of course, all the documentation and commands were updated.

Woz originally called it "Game BASIC", some history at this page: http://woz.org/letters/apple-basic/

Lots of people were scary good at these things early on. Not everyone was as good as Woz, of course.

When you can fit the entire architecture into your head, all the way down to the chips and board layout, you'll find that you're capable of quite a lot on that platform.

A human with a skillet that has scaled up as much as computing hardware has scaled up is going to be virtually impossible to find, if not actually impossible.

Systems today are just too complex for one person to understand at the breadth and depth that Woz understood the earliest Apple hardware.

One of the things that I liked about the Apple II was that it was possible for one person to completely understand the whole system. I don't know that I'm capable of understanding my computer's keyboard now.

Woz did a gnomdex talk in 2004 describing the power of exactly that; having the whole system in your head and being able to optimize because of that connectedness in one mind.

A keyboard is actually a good place to learn some hardware stuff. You can (relatively) easily build a keyboard from scratch and program the chip (excluding USB, which is another can of worms). They are lots of tutorials and documentation online to get you started on it

Did early 8 bitters actually have a keyboard controller, or was it shift registers hooked directly to the cpu or something.

Tried googling and didn't turn up much.

Here is how the C64 keyboard works in great detail: http://www.c64os.com/post?p=45

Keyboard interaction on the Apple II is entirely CPU-dependent, memory-mapped, and works like this: when a key is pressed, the ASCII code of the character is put at $C000, with the high bit set (a consequence of this is that there is no way for the computer to know that you pushed the shift key, for instance, or to tell the difference between typing Return or typing Control-M). Your program is responsible for checking $C000 from time to time. When the high bit is set, you read the character and access memory location $C010, which clears the $C000 high bit. Interrupts are not used at all, despite the 6502 supporting them, probably because disk and cassette IO is similarly done under CPU control with tight timing tolerances, and getting an interrupt in the middle of writing data would wreak havoc.

Details on page 16 of http://www.classiccmp.org/cini/pdf/Apple/Apple%20II%20Refere...

An exception is the "Reset" key which is hard-wired to the reset pin of the 6502. On early Apple II models, pushing "Reset", which is located just above Return, had disastrous consequences. People used to put a washer under the Reset key to make it harder to push by accident. Magazines published a simple hardware mod that required Control to be held at the same time as Reset, and later versions of the Apple II came with the mod built-in.

The Apple IIe keyboard adds two "apple" keys on both sides of the space bar which are dealt with in a completely different way, and are mapped to the same locations as the two joystick/paddle buttons. This was useful for playing games which required repetitive button-mashing, as it is easier to type a key quickly than to push a joystick button quickly. Since I was used to controlling the joystick with one hand and pushing a key on the keyboard with another hand, I had no problem adapting to early Macintosh software that required shift-click, option-click and command-click to overcome the limitation of a one-button mouse.

"The Macintosh mouse has four buttons, it's just that three of them are on the keyboard."

Not sure about keyboard but video on the ZX81 was achieved by way of a shift-register and the CPU was clocked short of 4MHz just so that it could keep this fed at the right rate. Check out the 8-bit Guy's video on the topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Jr7Q1yJOUM

Each button has a unique code. It's packetized as usb or Bluetooth & sent to your pc. That's it.

Can you describe to me the architecture and components of a typical keyboard USB interface chip, both internal to the chip and external?

The whole point of this thread is discussing how engineers used to keep the entire design of the system in their heads, even the CPU. Being able to point to a repository of tech specs really isn't the same thing.

"A human with a skillet" -- oh, I'm guessing skillset is what you meant to say.

I was feeling old and thinking I was ignorant of some new slang there for a few seconds.


Well, there are youtube tutorials on how to solder SMD parts in in skillet, so you were not that far off ;-)

That's pretty funny, because doing some sort of electronic wizardry with a stove and a cast iron skillet is one of the other things that crossed my mind in that brief moment of confusion.

And it is totally something I could see Woz doing. :-D

'skillet' is some new slang, but it refers to your homeslice. This is just a typo.

> Woz was scary good at both hw and sw

You damn-near gave me a heart attack then! :D

I thought he had died for a moment, Phew!

He had a head injury as mentioned above. Hence the past tense regarding his exceptional engineering ability.

The plane crash is older than I've been alive, as I understand it he made a reasonable recovery?

I'm trying to view your comment in perspective. Aren't there a lot of Chinese folks with similar skills, nowadays? I mean, there are a lot of cheap devices on the Chinese market, with an overall complexity greater than Apple ][. Yes, these systems are mostly glued together from SoC devices, but the Apple ][ was also built around a (then) sophisticated building block, 6502.

There are probably many more people in the industry today who are stronger in a single domain but far fewer who have expertise in multiple domains. Woz has serious skills in software, digital and analog circuits. You might say 'so what's the big deal? Just get three people to replicate the skillset'... this works for some things but not for others. Without the cross-domain expertise, there are things that even a small team of three just won't see / think to try that a single person would. So while your team of three was still trying to understand the problem, Woz would likely have designed a more elegant solution using a smaller/cheaper BoM than they would eventually come up with. (Woz wasn't just extremely competent in multiple domains, he also worked very fast)

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