Big dreamer

Bob Bishop

Photo By Vic cantu

Bob Bishop is living what many would consider “the good life.” As one of the early programmers at Apple Computer, the Paradise resident was able to retire in 1981 at the age of 37 with an excellent stock package. Since then he has traveled to all 50 states, written three books, amassed a nearly complete collection of thousands of Disney comics and volunteers as a computer teacher to grade-school kids. His home, with a sign in front reading “Bishopville,” is tucked among tall redwoods and has three small buildings housing his computers, comic collection and a bar, dubbed “Bob’s Leanin’ Tree Saloon.”

What occupies your time now?

I am working on updating the programming language I invented 15 years ago called SiMPLE, made for kids ages 9-99. I also volunteer my time in the classroom by helping teach computers to grade-school children. I like to teach others to have fun with computers and to think for themselves instead of just going with the flow. Nowadays kids are getting too lazy and don’t know how to program. One of my favorite places, Disneyland, was not supposed to be completed as long as there was imagination left in the world. I’m afraid we may have reached that level.

How did you first hear of Apple Computer?

I met Steve Jobs in the late ’70s when I flew to California to visit him at his Palo Alto home to see their new Apple I computer. It was the first personal computer you didn’t have to assemble and solder together. He showed it to me in his garage but couldn’t get it to work because the main builder, Steve Wozniak, wasn’t there. I eventually bought one.

How were you able to retire at such an early age?

I was hired by Apple in 1978 at the start of their rise to fame and fortune. They’d heard of my programming skills and hired me with great stock options mostly to keep me from working for their rival, Atari. At one point Wozniak and I were the sole research and development department of Apple. He and I became lifelong friends. Within a few years Apple’s stock rose so much that they let me and several others go, mostly, I believe, so they could save themselves millions of dollars.

What are the books you have authored?

My first was Apple Visions in 1985, which told how to program the Apple II computer. My second was The PACK, which was a very esoteric manual on assembly language. My third book was called Shades of Reality and explains how “fuzzy logic” applies to philosophy.

How do you feel about your life’s fortunes being connected to computers?

Some good, some bad, but better than average. To me using computers isn’t about playing games. It’s about doing something revolutionary. That’s what I did with my original Apple work. I like the old saying that says, “It’s kinda fun to do something impossible every once in awhile.”