I forget sometimes that my kids are as young as they are. And I’m also in the habit of packing as many interviews into a day as I can. Both of which explain why Computer History Day was both a success and a failure.
We made it on time to breakfast with Steve Wozniak, who very wisely arrived with magic tricks to entertain the kids. All of the carefully rehearsed questions for Woz were instantly forgotten, but we did come away having mastered a couple really good card tricks.
I did learn one new thing (at least new to me) from Woz. Steve Jobs told me in Steve Jobs — The Lost Interview that Woz had been thrown out of the University of Colorado after his freshman year for pulling pranks. The truth, according to Woz (the 4Square mayor of IHOP #651) is that he overran the department’s computer budget by 500 percent and was too embarrassed to return. Transferring to Deanza Junior College he got free use overnight of an IBM 360 and the rest is history. It was Colorado’s loss.
Doug Engelbart was in fine form but Cole was feeling a little puny and with Mary Alyce not wanting to feel responsible for killing the 86 year-old we kept the visit short. But still long enough for everyone to have a try on the chord keyboard.
We met Andy Hertzfeld at Google but forgot to take a picture with him. By this time the boys were fading.
So we met everyone we wanted to, came away with some good memories, but all those reader questions, well none of them were either asked or answered. Sorry.
I can’t say enough about how gracious these men were to my family. Walter Isaacson, in his book about Steve Jobs, talks about Andy arguing with Steve, trying to make him a nicer guy. And it’s true: nice men and women are the norm in this business. Some can be socially awkward or simply think too fast to interact well with the rest of us but there’s hardly ever any lack of goodwill, which is something I think the public doesn’t understand.
Next time we’ll try two computing pioneers, not three. Or maybe we’ll just try one. But we’ll be back.