history is hard (was: Microsoft open sources GWBASIC)

Jecel Assumpcao Jr jecel at merlintec.com
Sun May 24 00:06:03 CDT 2020

Fred Cisin advised on: Sat, 23 May 2020 20:29:28 -0700 (PDT)
> But, read carefully the corrections that others made!

Some things are easy to check, like the fact that the Z80 came out in
1976 when Woz was already finishing the Apple II so he couldn't have
considered using it for the Apple I. Note that this correction doesn't
really add anything to your nice history and I am only using it to
illustrate the general topic.

People's memories are complicated. I used to tell people a story from
1983 about something I did. But around 2010 I found a text I had written
in 1989 and it had a very different version of what happened. While my
current memory is the same as in 2010 I have to trust that my 1989
self's memory was more correct. That is a good rule to follow, though
sometimes I learn things that change how I remembered something so that
the new memories are the more accurate ones.

A good example is the Gary Kildall and the IBM guys story that you
mentioned. Gary claimed that though the meeting was delayed by the NDA
thing, it eventually started without him since his wife took care of
100% of the business side of DR. Then he arrived and was able to discuss
the technical side. The IBM people remember the meeting not happening at
all and not talking to Gary. How is this possible? Was one of them

I recently saw a very old interview with Steve Jobs. The reporter asked
what had been his reaction when he first saw the Apple I. Steve claimed
the question didn't make sense because he and Woz had come up with the
computer together. He was lying, but more to himself than to the
reporter - in his mind the Apple I was just an evolution of the Blue Box
and he had done that together with Woz (he implied this in his answer).
The reporter was probably aware that when Steve came back from Oregon
and saw the working Apple I a bunch of people had seen it before him at
previous meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club. But if you make a movie
based on Steve's memories you get stuff like him dragging a reluctant
Woz (who drops the machine due to dragging his feet) to a Club meeting
so people can see it for the first time and buy it.

All this supposes that people want to get it right. If they are creating
entertainment "inspired by true facts" then the rules are totally
different. "Pirates" reframed stories of Woz and Bill Fernandez as being
with Woz and Jobs instead to make it less confusing to the public, for
example. "Micro Men" makes the Proton prototype work the second before
the BBC people walked in the door, and not a few hours before like in
real life that wouldn't be as dramatic.

As long as the spirit of the story remains, I can put up with stuff like
this. Unlike in "The Imitation Game" where a key element of the story is
that nobody involved ever told what they had done even to their spouses
until the UK government itself unclassified it. So to have the "book
ends" of the movie be Alan Turing casually narrating the whole story to
a random policeman is absurdly against the spirit of the story. The
fourth wall thing for the IBM meeting in "Pirates" is another movie
ruining scene for me.

-- Jecel

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