NerdTV, the weekly online TV show of tech journalist Bob Cringely at PBS.org, opened its 13-episode series with an interview of Andy Hertzfeld, described by Cringely as the first Macintosh programmer. If you’re as fascinated as I am with the geeks who drive technological innovation, you should download the show. The show is available as an mpeg 4 video file as well as in various audio formats.
One part of the interview that I particularly enjoyed was when Hertzfeld talked about what happened after the airing of “Triumph of the Nerds,” another Cringely documentary. I saw the documentary as part of Chin Wong’s Reporting on IT course of the Konrad Adenauer Center for Journalism.
In that documentary, Steve Jobs said “The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste, they have absolutely no taste, and what that means is – I don’t mean that in a small way I mean that in a big way. In the sense that they they don’t think of original ideas and they don’t bring much culture into their product.”
Hertzfeld said that after the documentary was aired, Jobs went to his house and they talked about the show. Hertzfeld said Jobs thought that the show was good but that he thought his comments on Bill Gates might have been too harsh. Hertzfeld said Jobs called Gates to apologize.
“I don’t know how you call Bill Gates, but if you are Steve Jobs you get right through. He said, “Bill I’m calling to apologize. I saw the documentary and I said that you had no taste. Well I shouldn’t have said that publicly. It’s true, but I shouldn’t have said it publicly.”
And Bill Gates replied, “I’m glad you called to apologize, Steve, because I thought that was really an inappropriate thing to say.”
Steve couldn’t help himself, he said, “You know it’s true, it’s true you have no taste.”
And Bill Gates responded to him, saying “Steve, I may have no taste, but that doesn’t mean my entire company has no taste.”
Hertzfeld then said: “So Bill admitted he had no taste, but thought it was an unfair slur to say that Microsoft had no taste.”
Cringely adds: “He hires people to have taste.”
Hertzfeld contrasts the two when he talked about how they dealt him when he wrote a software after leaving Apple.
“Bill Gates was being extremely analytical, trying to figure out how many lines of code, how long that would take, how many dollars per hour you should get. Whereas Steve Jobs’ approach was to just pull a number out of the air, insist it was right, and not even allow you to argue with him – just divine interpretation. ”
During the interview with Cringely, Herzfeld talks about his career at Apple, the companies he started, his terabyte of music collection and his epiphany on open source.
When he got his first computer, an Apple II, the first thing he did was repeatedly turn it off and on just because he “had the power to do so.” Prior to this, his only experience was on mainframes and he didn’t have root permissions to do the things he wanted to do.
He described the Apple II as having been written “by a sort of madman genius” – Steve Wozniak.
Hertzfeld then described his first meeting with Wozniak. He said he positioned himself at the meeting room’s door “thinking I could tell Woz just by the glint in his eye.” He said he had never seen Woz before but he had been able to pick him out “by his smile and the way he carried himself.”
He later had lunch with Wozniak and John “Cap’n Crunch” Draper where he got scared because the two were talking about how to take over communications satellites.
When Cringely asked what attracted him to open source software, Hertzfeld said he had seen problems in the software industry in the 1990’s but didn’t know of any solution. He said that Microsoft’s monopoly on the software industry was “choking off innovations.” He said he had an epiphany at about the time of the Mozilla announcement and after reading Eric Raymond’s The Cathedral and The Bazaar.”