Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says he’s ‘totally supportive’ of tech users right to fix their gadgets, which Apple has been lobbying against

steve wozniak apple
Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak.

  • President Biden has signed an order calling for fewer limits on customers’ right to fix their tech products.
  • Apple and other tech giants are vigorously opposing laws at the federal and state levels.
  • Steve Wozniak says he’s for the right-to-repair, and that open tech is better for businesses and consumers.
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Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs, says he’s fully in support of the movement to make it easier for users to fix their tech gadget themselves or through a third-party.

“It’s time to recognize the right to repair more fully,” he said in a recent video message on Cameo.

That stance puts him at odds with the company he helped launch (but left in 1985), and a broad range of other tech companies that want to retain control over who is allowed to service products from iPhones to Xboxes and wheelchairs to farm tractors.

“This one has really gotten to me – really affected me emotionally,” Wozniak said. “We would not have had Apple had I not grown up in a very open technology world.”

In the video, Wozniak explained how early tech products like TVs and radios were shipped with paper schematics that made it possible for many users to easily repair broken circuits and tubes, and enabled more technologically inclined people to invent new hardware and software too.

By contrast, the monopoly of the Bell telephone system prevented people from creating a better phone or answering machine.

“You wouldn’t even get a choice of color,” he said.

When Jobs and Wozniak launched the Apple II, the computer was shipped with full schematics and specifications that allowed customers to bring their own engineering creativity to the product.

“The Apple II was modifiable and extendable to the maximum,” he said. “This was not a minor product, and it was not that successful on pure luck. There were a lot of good things about it being so open that people could join the party.”

“Sometimes when companies cooperate together with others they can actually have better business than if they’re totally protective and monopolistic,” he added.

While the federal government has some say in the matter, the real fight over the right to repair is in state governments where in recent years, Apple along with Microsoft, Google, and other large companies, have been waging a campaign against the movement.

So far this year, 27 states have considered legislation that would loosen restrictions on who is allowed to modify or repair consumer products but more than half have failed, according to Bloomberg.

“These companies have monopoly power,” Colorado legislator Brianna Titone, who sponsored a repair bill, told Bloomberg. “They’re not looking for a compromise. They’re looking for, ‘Leave us alone. Stop this. Go away.'”

President Joe Biden’s executive order on competition, signed Friday, encourages the FTC to make rules against manufacturers’ restrictions on self-repairs or third-party repairs of their products.

TechNet, a trade group that includes Apple as a member, said in a statement about the order, “Allowing unvetted third parties with access to sensitive diagnostic information, software, tools, and parts would jeopardize the safety of consumers’ computers, tablets, and devices and put them at risk for fraud and data theft.”

In May, the US Federal Trade Commission concluded in a report to Congress that the coronavirus pandemic made the repair problem worse, especially for low-income users and schools. The agency also said it could not find substantial evidence to support the arguments in favor of restricting repairs.

“I believe that companies inhibit it because it gives the companies power and control over everything,” Wozniak said in his video. “Is it your computer, or is it some company’s computer?”

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What is software? A guide to all of the different types of programs and applications that tell computers what to do

computer code
Software consists of code that dictates how a computer operates.

  • Software is computer code that tells a computer how to perform a specific task.
  • There are many kinds of software, including operating systems, applications, and malware.
  • Software can be distributed for free, as shareware, commercially, or with its source code (which is called open-source).
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Software is a set of instructions, written in computer code, that tells a computer how to behave or how to perform a specific task. Software usually comes in the form of commercial programs (like Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop), games, a computer operating system, or even malware like viruses and ransomware. Any program or code that runs on a computer is an example of software, and anything you do with a computer requires the use of software. Software is created by computer programmers, commonly referred to as coders.

Types of software

There are many types of software in use today. To give you a sense of the scope of the software industry, here is an overview of the major kinds of software in use today.

System software

System software is the general category of software that allows the computer hardware to function and serves as the underlying platform for applications to run. System software is particularly complex, and there are multiple “layers” associated with any computing device. For example:

  • Operating system (OS): Without an operating system like Windows or MacOS, a computer is just a collection of hardware components unable to perform any functions. The OS allows the computer to perform basic functions, provides an interface so users can interact with the computer, and a platform on which applications can run. The OS “abstracts” many common tasks for applications to minimize redundancy – for example, the OS offers printing as a service to applications so every program doesn’t need to have its own way of sending files to the printer.
  • Firmware: Many devices and components have firmware, which is semi-permanent software that tells the device how to behave and how to interact with other devices. Firmware can often be updated, but persists when there’s no power applied to the device.
  • Device drivers: Device drivers are small programs that allow the operating system and computer components to communicate. Every component needs a driver so the OS knows how to use that device. Virtually every component in a computer, including the video card, sound chip, keyboard, and mouse have their own drivers.
  • Utilities: Blurring the line between system software and application, utilities are small programs that often come with or tightly integrate themselves into the OS to perform specific OS tasks. Anti-malware software, hard drive cleanup, and file compression tools (like WinZip) are examples of utilities.

Application software

This is the kind of software you are probably most familiar with – also called programs or apps, they are packages that usually have a specific purpose and you use to accomplish a certain goal.

There’s a virtually limitless variety of applications. Some of the most common include productivity software like word processors, spreadsheets, and email clients (Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook are common examples). Database software like Microsoft Access is used to organize and manage large volumes of data.

Games are also popular applications, as well as multimedia software (the Camera app on your phone is an application, as well as Adobe Photoshop, which is used to edit graphics and photos). Web browsers are also among the most common software applications.

Programming software

It’s probably no surprise that software is created with other software. Coders rely on a number of different software tools to create programs. Here are a few examples of programs used by coders during software development:

  • Compilers are programs that convert the code written by humans into a lower-level form of machine code that’s directly interpretable by computer hardware. The existence of compilers makes it practical to create extremely sophisticated software.
  • Debuggers are computer programs used to test and “debug” (find and remove errors) from computer code.
  • Linkers are programs that take the output from a compiler – often many individual files – and combine them into a single executable file that can be run on its own by a user without the need to run it within a programming environment.
  • Malware is software designed to act in harmful ways, and there are many examples of malware today including viruses, worms, Trojans, and ransomware. When infected with malware, a computer and its software may misbehave or stop working entirely. There’s an arms race between malware developers and anti-malware utility writers, and it’s important to have anti-malware software installed on your computer. You should also follow best practices to avoid malware.

How software is distributed

Not all programs are distributed, sold, or shared the same way, and the primary method of distribution has changed over the years. At one time, virtually all software was commercial and sold through retailers. That’s far from the case today. Here are some of the major distribution mechanisms.

  • Commercial: A lot of software is still commercial, though it’s far less common than it once was. Any program you purchase and get a physical or digital copy of is commercial software. Keep in mind that you don’t own the software; you only own a license that confers the right to use the software. The distinction is important for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is it gives the publisher the right to change the software via online updates without your express permission.
  • Open-source: Often seen as the opposite of commercial, open-source software is usually made available with all of its source code, which allows an entire community of coders to update, modify, and improve the program. Not all open-source software is free; some is sold at retail prices.
  • Freeware: A lot of software is completely free to download and use. The freeware model allows publishers to distribute its software more easily because a lot of people will be willing to try something for free. Some freeware is also referred to as adware because while the application is free, it comes with embedded advertising.
  • Shareware: A variation of freeware, shareware is free for a limited time. If you find the application useful, you have the option to pay for it to continue using it. Many shareware programs are free for a limited period of time, though other programs will only work for a specific number of uses.

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