Lee Felsenstein

PC Pioneer

Larry's World
37 minutes, 17.1mb, recorded 2006-03-23
Topics: Apple History
Lee Felsenstein
Apple’s 30th anniversary is a great time to look back at what the world of computing looked like on April 1st 1976 when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created the company that would help usher in the age of the personal computer. A year later, they unveiled the Apple II – arguably the first easy to use truly personal computer.

Apple, of course, didn’t spring up from nowhere. It was a branch of a much larger tree of dreamers, engineers, entrepreneurs and programmers who were seeking ways to create a computer that could be owned by a person, rather than an institution. Many of those involved in that movement, at least those in Silicon Valley, were members of the Homebrew Computer Club. It was at a meeting of that club where Steve Wozniak first showed off the Apple I – nothing more than a motherboard with a processor that formed the basis of a kit for those couple of hundred souls willing to build their own early PC.

Lee Felsenstein was a key member of that group – famous for moderating the meetings -- and it was he who presided over the meeting where “Woz” unveiled that first Apple. Felsenstein himself was a PC pioneer, having developed the Sol computer which actually preceded the Apple II. Only about 12,000 Sol-20s were sold – but it has a place in computer history as well as the Smithsonian Institute. Felsenstein was also the developer of the Osborne 1 – the first portable computer and he continues to be a ground breaker in the world of information technology.

In this fast-paced 35 minute interview Larry and Lee talk about those early days but fast forward to talk about technology today and where it is likely to go in the future.

Lee Felsentein is one of the pioneers of personal computing. He was the designer of the first personal computer the Osborne 1, released in 1981. But prior to this, he had designed the VDM-1 video display, the principal part of the SOL Intelligent Terminal. He also designed the SOL-20 computer in 1976 and the Pennywhistle kit modem - the first inexpensive personal computer modem. In 1975 he helped organize the Homebrew Computer Club where the Apple I computer was introduced.

He was elected to the Computer Hall of Fame in 1998. In 1994 Lee received a Pioneer of the Electronic Frontier award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation in recognition of his work in bringing computers to the general public.

At present Lee is a co-founder and CTO of the Fonly Institute, an R&D company in Palo Alto. He was awarded a Laureate of the Tech Museum of Innovation for his work in developing internet technologies for non-industrial countries. He holds 12 patents.

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