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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/9327/no-ip-back-then/

No IP Back then

January 28, 2009 by

Interesting email I just received:

I am reading iWoz, the autobiography of Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer and designer of the Apple I and II computers. Here’s a comment that relates to IP:

“It’s funny, I think back on it now — the Apple II would turn out to be one of the most successful products of all time. But we had no copyrights or patents at all back then. No secrets. We were just showing it to everybody.” (p.195)

{ 12 comments }

J Cortez January 28, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I always thought Woz was the cooler of the two Steves. He was the technical know how in the beginning. (Not that Jobs wasn’t important, he had vision and marketing ability that is still second to none.)

They are an interesting contrast of personalities woven into the history of Apple. Woz, a unfashionable and bookish tinkerer that is open. And Jobs, a visionary control freak that is stylish but closed.

As much as I enjoy these anti-IP posts, soon, a swarm of pro-IP posters will show up and start calling us all socialists.

Jay D January 28, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Wasn’t the whole deal with Apple computers was that they never allowed clones like IBM allowed everyone to make PC-compatible computers?

Ball January 28, 2009 at 4:27 pm

IBM didn’t allow any such thing. The IBM PC was reverse engineered, giving birth to the IBM PC Compatible.

Curt Howland January 28, 2009 at 4:59 pm

The IBM PC was a completely open and published hardware architecture, in order to inspire innovation. What IBM maintained was copyright on the BIOS and ROM BASIC. That’s how both IBM-DOS (licensed from Microsoft), and CP/M were both available for the PC when it first shipped.

MS-DOS soon followed.

But yes, the BIOS was was reverse engineered and the full clone was created, but not because of closed hardware.

What Apple did was ship only their own OS, and (after a short waltz with licensed clones) never allowed either their OS nor their BIOS to be copied. No Mac clones, but wonderful products like Linux run very well on Mac hardware.

Very well indeed.

But there are no Mac clones, and the prices reflect that.

There are tons of Linux distributions, and their price (or lack there of) reflect that too.

Brian Macker January 28, 2009 at 6:17 pm

“But we had no copyrights or patents at all back then.”

Nonsense. I lived through the era as a programmer. Everything was copyrights.

Deefburger January 28, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Curt:
I’m sorry to burst your IBM bubble, but they were not open with their design.

What happened was the original bus architecture was coppied by IBM from a machine developed by Victor Cash Register Company.

Victor sued IBM and IBM won, opening the door for anyone who wanted to use the bus, thus the clone market exploded in IBM’s face. They won the battle, that lost the war!

A similar thing happened when Apple won the suit against Xerox over the GUI(Graphical User Interface). Apple won, but again the war was lost to Microsoft and others who soon came out with their own GUI. I’m using Xerox’s response to the loss right now. I’m writing this from a Linux system that uses Xerox’s original code, X window system, which Xerox made publicly available after the suit in 1986. Now you know why X is called X, or xfree86. X is for Xerox.

Deefburger January 28, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Another note. IBM tried to counter the clones with a new bus called microchannel. But the number of clones had surpassed all of IBM’s expectations and the hardware manufacturers that sprang up around the original bus (ISA) had no royalties to pay for that bus design, and not enough market for microchannel bus machines to tool up for microchannel.

So IBM lost again. Bad move to copy Victor, worse to move to try and regain control of the market with secret and proprietary bus architecture.

In hind sight, had they just bought Victor, or invested in the Victor company, they could have controlled the whole show. Instead they ran over them with a steam roller, only to discover that they had just paved the freeway for the competition that sprang up within months of the winning of the suit.

David January 29, 2009 at 2:39 am

Deefburger: X was not developed by Xerox, but in MIT. It was so named because it was the successor to W. See http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/X/X.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X_Window_System for more.

Anon January 29, 2009 at 9:45 am

“Instead they ran over them with a steam roller, only to discover that they had just paved the freeway for the competition…”
That was a beautiful metaphor Deef. Seriously. I’m going to ‘steal’ it.

Anon January 29, 2009 at 9:58 am

“Instead they ran over them with a steam roller, only to discover that they had just paved the freeway for the competition…”
That was a beautiful metaphor Deef. Seriously. I’m going to ‘steal’ it.

Jay D January 29, 2009 at 9:58 am

It is strange to tie Apple to the idea of “no copyrights, no patents.” Where would Apple be today without them? Would they still be in business, or would cheaper clones have washed them away? Does IBM still make PCs?

J Cortez January 30, 2009 at 8:46 am

Jay D said: Where would Apple be today without them? Would they still be in business, or would cheaper clones have washed them away

Apple would be doing something else. Just like IBM, which by the way, is still a large profitable company.

PC’s aren’t the only business to be in. In fact, more and more of Apple’s income is coming from its non-PC products, a digital player and a cellphone handset. Expect that trend to continue. Just because a company starts or started in a particular industry doesn’t mean they have to stay there.

Consider the benefit of any competitor being able to use new ideas of concepts in hardware or software without barriers like copyright or patents. Instead of 4-5 giant companies steering the market, there likely would have been a dozen or more smaller competitors and consequently more innovation, as every new entity in the market would be able to build on what came before it.

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