Woz: Why the original Macintosh was a failure

“Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has revealed some interesting opinions about some of Apple’s products that failed in an interview,” Ben Camm-Jones reports for Macworld UK.

“Speaking on Sunday MIDDAY, a programme run on India’s NDTV network, Woz conceded that the Apple III had been a failure – something that few would dispute – but also said that the Macintosh had been a failure too,” Camm-Jones reports. “‘The Apple III was a failure, the LISA was a failure, and the Macintosh was a failure. It was only by modifying the Macintosh hugely and over time that we made it a good computer,’ Wozniak said.”

Camm-Jones reports, “He describes Jobs’ death as a ‘shock.’ ‘Steve Jobs was such an important part of my life that sometimes I tear up,’ he said.”

Read more in the full article here.


  1. Woz needs to learn to roll back into the hole on his segway where he came from and STFU. If he had half the brilliance of Steve Jobs, maybe he would be running his own computer company with hit after hit. I seriously hope Tim Cook has the brains to keep Woz away from Apple.

    1. Joe, did you read the article? (or perhaps you saw the video where more might have been discussed…) Woz credits Jobs for the successful Apple II, blames marketing executives for the other failures.

      1. Actually, it was Scully who pushed $2,599 price for Macintosh. Jobs pushed $1,999, which was great deal different for the people of that time ($500 then is like $1000 now due to inflation). And, mind you, it was Jobs who was blamed that Machintosh’s sales were not reaching target levels.

    2. “Half the brilliance of Jobs?”

      Read the new Jobs book and you might get a better picture. Jobs was half the brilliance of Apple and Woz was the other half.

      There would be no Apple without BOTH.

  2. Taken out of context, I’m sure; it appears, he feels that the great leap of r/evolution with the paradigm setting GUI computing, mimicked by all and to this day many of us are still living inside of those revolutionary ideas, is miniscule to his Apple ][ success, based on profits and/or merit.

    Right on, Woz.

    1. I still have my SE sitting in a corner. It still runs Word5.1 beautifully and snappily (over the years I maxed out the RAM and the HD). My SE30 at work was even better. A real success story, if you ask me.

      IMHO things went wrong with the sluggish entry level Performas (think 5200), and at times unstable system software.

      1. I still have my SE //, two of them. Gave away my original MacTV, but have the Performa 405s, also the 2nd generation of PowerPC 7200. Those were all after Steve, but because of the famous Snow White design, to me those hold the classic Steve’s taste before being tainted by Ive. Yes, I’m probably the only person in the world who’s not very impressed by Jonathan Ive’s design aesthetics.

  3. I’m not sure what he means by ‘failure’ as he does not qualify the statement.

    Maybe he is thinking it did not live up to the original vision until many revisions later ? I don’t know… and he does not say…

    Didn’t he have amnesia for a spell back then after crashing a small plane? Maybe he flat out remembers things differently!

    1. Software is what hurt Apple in the beginning. A lack of. SJ wanted to ignore this but the board understood this problem. Too bad that they weren’t able to work together. If so, AAPL would have never been down for so long. They were the leader in the beginning. Sometimes being headstrong works and sometimes you just shoot yourself in the foot.

      1. Can you enlighten us with some links to back your claim: “SJ wanted to ignore this but the board understood this problem.”

        Jobs had given the MS guys early access with the hope they would deliver big for this new GUI rich platform. Richly deliver they did indeed. Jobs’ team earlier had encouraged 3rd party software development on Apple ][ and was highly rewarded for it (VsiCalc, Oregon Trail etc.). Steve Jobs knew and had talked about the importance of software on his PBS interview. Macs shipped with as many bundled software as he could create in house without giving away the secrets of the machine before unveiling it.

        Here’s a link you might enjoy:

        “A Tribute to Steve Jobs’ Contribution to Software Engineering”

        “The problem is, in hardware you can’t build a computer that’s twice as good as anyone else’s anymore. Too many people know how to do it. You’re lucky if you can do one that’s one and a third times better or one and a half times better. And then it’s only six months before everybody else catches up. But you can do it in software.” ~ Steve Jobs to Rolling Stones.

  4. It wasn’t until the Mac SE/30 I think, that it really started to take off. Of course it was a failure, sales wise. The Apple // family carried Apple during those years.

    It was a product ahead of it’s time. Then again, trying to stuff GUI on floppy disks is not a pleasant experience. It needed a hard drive, and more RAM.

    I remember when the Mac came out, I was in 8th grade. I had an Apple //e and was on cloud 9. I wanted the Mac, much like anything Apple, but couldn’t see it happening. My parents didn’t know anything about computers and as such weren’t going to shell out that kind of money for a kid.

    In a Wozniak way, I also thought, how am I going to poke around this machine? The Mac doesn’t have the tinker effect, as the Apple // did, and it seems restrictive to me.

    I could go on for ages, but I feel for Woz, I get it. This should not be a problem for anyone, the truth should not be a problem.

    1. In 1989, at my work, I had a Mac SE/30 with an external full page pivoting b&w monitor, a Syquest removable cartridge drive for extra storage, and my phone hooked up through a hypercard stack/address book. When I clicked on a contact’s phone number, it not only dialed the phone, but also created a new date/time stamped card on which I could take notes. I was stuck using Word and Excel, but also had Illustrator, MacPaint and MacDraw for illustrations. For what I was doing, it was one heck of a productive set up.

    2. It was the Laserwriter and Postscript and PageMaker that saved the Mac’s butt. There was nothing even remotely close in the PC world for several years. People would buy a $2500 Mac so that they could buy and use a $6000 Laserprinter with PageMaker.

  5. There is a difference between a commercial failure and technical failure.

    Technically speaking, the original Mac became the inspiration for all future commercial GUI computers (XEROX PARC’s creations were not for the every man).

    Of course these early computers weren’t perfect. You wouldn’t want to use one today, and the refinements over the years were incredibly useful.

    I think it would be fair to say, IMHO, that Apple’s embrace of open standards and protocols has made Macs better because they now fit seamlessly within the accepted computing framework (web, networking, printing, etc.)

    The Mac also continues to push the boundaries of what a good GUI ought to be, and without it Windows would be worse off than it is (if it would even exist at all).

  6. Nevertheless, the guy is a bit dotto when it comes to actually making great products. He still is of the mind that open is good. That’s crazy! Open is not good, not in the case of personal electronics. Have we not seen this with android?

    Wozniak unfortunately wants it to be some sort of friendly home brew sort of thing. He ignores completely the problems with malicious SW and security concerns. He is basically a hobbyist. Things like smart phones these days are serious communication tools not some friggin hobby set. Steve knew this. Steve knew a hell of a lot more than Wozniak unfortunately. Otherwise we could have had the second founder of Apple actually carry the company forward. Comparing Wozniak and Steve is kind of like comparing Ringo with J. Lennon.

  7. All I can say is that the original Mac shure as hell worked for me.

    In fact, it was so good that Bill Gates coppied it and made Billions selling that poor copy.

    1. Not entirely true.

      Today people want and buy Macs. Back then, people wanted but didn’t buy Macs. Sure it sold to earlier adopters, but it didn’t achieve the goal is was set out to accomplish. On the Back of the Lisa, the Mac was intended to be a cheaper GUI solution for everyone. It was not… Like the Lisa, it was too expensive and software library was limited. In comparison, the PC and Apple // were completely different with huge libraries and more reasonable costs.

      Today it is absolutely amazing what you can get with your watered down dollar. Simply breathtaking. (Sit and meditate on this alone)

  8. Was Gutenberg’s printing press a failure because it was improved? Was the Model T a failure because cars were improved?

    It was no a failure. Anything single thing that creates the future cannot be a failure.

  9. I disagree it was a failure, but I see the point.

    With only the benefit of hindsight I would have seen the Mac Plus, as being the first Mac I would have bought.

    I was always off with my purchases, stuck with a Apple II+ too long, Apple IIgs – probably should have skipped, Mac IIsi – ? too late. PowerMac 7500

    I should have went II+, then IIc or IIe straight to the Mac Plus then to the 7500

  10. I don’t see why anyone takes umbrage with Woz. Steve Jobs himself stated often that Apple bean counters mistakenly aimed the Mac at profit instead of going after market share. He suggested that had the Mac been priced substantially lower it may have been what everyone today uses instead of Windows based PCs.
    (However, I personally disagree, as the Macintosh never included an ability to run legacy DOS CLI applications which was essential for companies transitioning to GUI based systems. Windows, as dumbed down as it was, offered this. Also, back then nothing worked cross-platform, so compatibility was paramount.)

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