Monday, September 7, 2009

Interview with Monroe Postman, Original Apple 1 owner

Monroe Postman Interview


Hello everyone, I am here speaking with Monroe Postman, one of the few owners of the original Apple 1 computer.

Hi Monroe, can you tell us about your background, and what sparked your interest in computing?

I got my Bachelor of Electrical Engineering (BEE) before schools were offering Computers as a Major. My long term interest in computers turned professional when I joined the UNIVAC 1 staff at New York University in the early 1950s, which led eventually to a career in designing digital computers. I also taught microprocessor equipment design in the 1970s under a National Science Foundation grant.

What can you tell us about your experience as a HomeBrew Computer Club member?

I attended The Homebrew club after it started meeting at the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) and stayed until it left that venue. I was not an "active participant;" I just listened with rapt attention as the revolution got under way.

Is it true the Lee Felsenstein thought he was in charge, but wasn't really?
Was it a free for all?

My recollection was that Lee did keep order, but wasn't "bossy." There were at least 100 people at a typical meeting, but it was hardly a free for all. And there were plenty of disagreements, but the atmosphere was generally civil.

Did you ever get to meet Steve Wozniak? If so, what can you tell us about that encounter?

I only met Steve Wozniak briefly, years later, when I asked him to sign my Apple 1, I believe at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. He was very cordial.

Did you ever see Woz demo the original Apple at the club?

Yes, I recall seeing a demo in the lobby of SLAC. I think that he was also at the First West Coast Computer Faire held in 1977 in San Francisco. That was very exciting!

Where and when did you purchase your Apple 1?

I bought it at an estate sale, in around 1980.

What made you decide to put your Apple 1 up for sale?

I guess as a collector, my interests have evolved over time. And there are so few of these Apple 1s out there, it’s time for someone else to enjoy it.

If you could give any bit of advice to people just getting into computers, who might be interested in either software programming or hardware design what would you tell them?

I've been a hardware engineer, using a bit of programming or machine code to modify and test my designs. If I were just entering graduate school, this time I would opt to study bio-engineering which is an exciting mix of many engineering disciplines. Every engineer should know which end of a soldering iron is hot! I know that is so 20th century . . .

It seems we’re always at the end of one exciting era in the history of computers and at the beginning of another. Leave it to Apple with the iPhone to have introduced one of today’s most interesting computing platforms, with wifi, location awareness, color touch screen, video and all of its other features it is changing the way people compute.

In my own life, I have recently been working at the Department of Veterans Affairs, using sensors, hydraulics and computer control to build solutions that provide rehabilitation and assistance to stroke victims, paraplegics and quadriplegics.

Monroe, thank you very much for your time, it has been a great pleasure.

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