Hi! I'm Paul Lutus.

Here's my validation image.

Here's my Wikipedia page.

Apple Writer (Wikipedia)

My Twitter page

My solo sailing book

My website home page

I hope this will be an interesting conversation!

EDIT: Posters -- if your question isn't answered, it's because it's already been answered more than once in the forum.

The original poster hasn't replied to any of this threads comments. Click here to show unanswered comments.

How challenging was sailing solo? I once read "Sailing Alone Around the World", and incredible book about the first successful attempt. What ports did you stop in around the world? What was the most different culture you encountered?

How challenging was sailing solo?

It was rather challenging at first, because I was a rank beginner. Unlike many people I met sailing, I had never sailed as a kid, and when I set out around the world, I only had a few month's experience sailing. I learned as I sailed. This resulted in a number of embarrassing situations in which I grounded my boat or messed up my gear.

But a few years later, sailing turned into the most enjoyable, peaceful thing I had ever done. I would secretly hope that a particular sail would just never end.

What ports did you stop in around the world? What was the most different culture you encountered?

Best answered here.

seeing the photos on the website... was the boat a fixed keel boat ar a swing up centerboard?

It was a Pacific Seacraft "Mariah" with a full, shallow keel integrated into the hull. I know this because I slid the keel across a lot of coral reefs while I was learning to sail. That boat was bulletproof, and a good thing, too.

The only drawback was the shallow keel didn't allow very efficient upwind sailing. But because I was a beginner, it was a blessing for the first few years.

EDIT: typo

Do people sail around the world with centerboards?

Maybe not centerboards, but drop keels are found too. My SO's father has a blue water boat with a 10ft drop keel weighing a ton or two. It greatly improves how much windage your sails get and prevents heeling. When you get to coastal waters, raise the keel and you can get much closer to land.

Yes, I did. Read that story here (search for the word "pirates"). It was classical -- an armed standoff on the high seas. I carried a shotgun for four years, and only needed it for 15 minutes, that one day.

what has been the most fulfilling experience you have had in your many travels?

I started a Planned Parenthood clinic, singlehandedly, in a town whose high school had a 15% pregnancy rate. Of all the things I've been involved in, that was the most fulfilling. Of course, I received endless death threats from the opponents of family planning. The clinic didn't offer abortions, but that didn't matter --- the idea that the local girls would get educated instead of pregnant was deeply offensive to a lot of people.

You really are a true hero. I'm pretty sure you might, in fact, be a super hero.

Wiz-kid NASA engineer, computer programmer, sails around the world, helps the needy. Literally saves the lives of teenagers. I think there's a comic here.

I think there's a comic here.

Yeah,. one of those superheroes that doesn't have any actual powers, and keeps figuring out ways to avoid the bad guys. Like Kick-Ass, which is a much better film than one would expect based on its premise.

Woa. I want to do this. Can you explain the process you went through?

  1. Set up clinic

  2. Receive death threats

  3. ???

  4. Real life karma profit.

As a non-techie, THIS makes you a hero in my book.

Describe your perfect Sunday.

I was working on the Shuttle in the early 1970s. One Sunday I decided to take a bike ride.

I saw a hot-air balloon in the distance, moving slowly across the landscape, slow enough so I could keep up.

For the next four hours, I pedaled by bike and tried to stay directly under the balloon. It was great fun -- like being in the balloon, but on the ground at the same time. It was a pretty day, with just the slightest wind blowing.

Finally the balloonists decided to land. I jumped off my bike, caught their mooring line, and kept them from drifting into a tree.

It was the most perfect experience.

You've done plenty of sailing on the ocean, ever considered ballooning as a hobby?

Not enough exercise -- it's the same reason I'm not flying any more. It looks like fun, though.

Take notes, Reddit neckbeard scientists/engineers.

Your outlook on life is inspiring! It still feels like you keep that childlike sense of wonder. Kudos!

It still feels like you keep that childlike sense of wonder.

Or at least, regained it!

I don't want anyone here to think it's not possible to get that feeling back if you've already lost it.

I guess I'm on time. Thanks for doing this. I think it's pretty awesome that you're a redditor. I could ask a lot of questions but I will stick to a few for now.

I understand you never attended college (and don't seem to think highly of it) and worked for NASA. Can you talk about how you wound up working for a NASA contractor without any "credentials"? (Did you find them or did they find you? Had you done some engineering previously that made them aware of you etc?)

Also, you worked for Apple in the early days. Do you think consumer gadgets like the iPhone and iPad are good, bad, or irrelevant to the way we interact with technology?

Silly question: do you do a lot of cooking or baking at your sweet cabin? If so, anything you make exceptionally well?

Thanks

Can you talk about how you wound up working for a NASA contractor without any "credentials"?

I read that a NASA subcontrator wanted someone to design high-efficiency power supplies for the Space Shuttle. So I wrote up a decent design and showed up. There were maybe 20 candidates at the office, all equipped with advanced degrees. But I didn't have a degree, I had a design. They hired me on the spot and sent all the degree holders away. True story.

Also, you worked for Apple in the early days. Do you think consumer gadgets like the iPhone and iPad are good, bad, or irrelevant to the way we interact with technology?

I think they're useful and worthwhile, but I don't like how closed the Apple models are and how little control the user has. That's why I only write for Android (my programs are all free BTW).

... do you do a lot of cooking or baking at your sweet cabin?

I mostly cook in a microwave. I have this idea that, if your diet is completely boring, you won't gain weight. It seems to be working. I call it the "boring diet diet". :)

Do you think that your NASA story would be possible today?

I wonder if the good ol' days are behind us, and now places like NASA are so ingrained with the idea that a Ph.D. is an essential part of the job that you'd never have a shot without one.

Do you think that your NASA story would be possible today?

Yes, absolutely. In fact, I'm not guessing -- the leading tech billionaires are dropouts.

I wonder if the good ol' days are behind us, and now places like NASA are so ingrained with the idea that a Ph.D. is an essential part of the job that you'd never have a shot without one.

No, that was never true and I don't think it's true today, but only for people willing to educate themselves.

Besides, NASA is about to be superseded by private enterprise, and most people see that as a "good thing".

EDIT: clarification

Could you elaborate on your self education? Did you have someone who was an inspiration or a mentor to you?

I second this. I'm very curious how you gained the knowledge to design a high-efficiency power supply. As an aerospace grad, materials was probably one of the weakest sections of my undergrad curriculum. We spent much more time on aerodynamics, math, basic physics and structural design. I think I only had one course specifically on materials (focused on composites and alloys).

I'm just guessing, but I would wager that general subject interest and the ability to self-teach was responsible for his knowledge - not following a set course curriculum restricted to a small subset of reading materials.

For most autodidacts, if you're interested in something, you will learn about it and related topics without needing some rigid course structure. I think that's the most effective way to learn (I am not even close to an autodidact) but also the most difficult for someone who must deal with the stresses of a social life and job responsibilities.

I would LOVE to learn more in general but where do I make time between my 8-5 job, an hour of daily exercise, an hour devoted to cooking/eating, at least an hour of quality time with my GF (more like two), and the stress/exhaustion of the day eating away at valuable brain power?

Agreed. My day is very similar to yours. It's not that I don't want to learn; I just lack the willpower (or the willingness to cut out other parts of my life that I find important).

I have self taught myself into an engineering job and the trick is to truly be fascinated by what you are trying to learn. Most people spend 8 - 10 hours a week at least watching TV, or Browsing Reddit, or whatever. I spend 8 -10 hours a week studying not because I need it for a job, but because I am genuinely curious. It becomes your leisure time.

Do you see NASA being superseded by private enterprise as a "good thing"?

Besides, NASA is about to be superseded by private enterprise, and most people see that as a "good thing".

What are your thoughts on the privatization of space programs? Can they bring the social momentum that NASA was or will it be a "bad thing"?

That's a very impressive life story. How did you manage to educated yourself on how to design high efficiency power supplies?

I just graduated college and actual have a job teaching martial arts. I love the job, but I'm also interested in developing myself academically and I don't think I can go to college while working.

Respectively, this response is so full of manure.

But this isn't just about me -- [1] most of the tech billionaires are dropouts.

Every time someone asks about the usefulness of college degrees, you bring up this link. First of all, the link doesn't show that most of the tech billionaires are dropouts---simply that there are famous dropouts, and they make a substantial amount of money. It would be preposterous if I looked at the salary of NBA players who never attended college, and argued that their high salaries was proof that postsecondary education was useless.

Next, you're lumping PhDs with salary; it's been well established holding a Ph.D. doesn't necessarily provide a commensurate boost to your salary. A very high ranking university professor in say, physics, might only be paid $150,000, whereas a Wall Street quant (who may only hold a bachelor's) might be making many times that. But these are different professions.

Finally, here is a quote from TIME Magazine:

I am also not surprised that while Ellsberg highlights the accomplishments of dropouts, he excludes degree holders who have become wealthy and famous. For example, of the current Fortune 500 CEOs, some 99% have a college degree. Similarly, of the Forbes 400 richest people in America, 81% hold postsecondary degrees. (In my experience, when the time comes for both well-off college dropouts and graduates to send their children to school, they both opt for the most highly rated schools on anyone’s list, no matter what the cost.) So why should the exception — the dropout — become the rule to emulate?

Wow, those are some really neat applications. Installing SSHelper right now! Thanks

Not to sound like a douche, but you should hit up a graphic designer here on reddit to touch up your application icons on the market :)

Yes, I know they're kind of dorky. I could spend time designing cool icons, but instead I spend my time writing cool programs. :)

Lotsa free icons out there with cc license. One I most often use is the Fatcow icon pack: http://www.fatcow.com/free-icons

And for that, I sincerely thank you!

I'm quite sure that there are a handfull of skilled artists on here that would love to help you out.

There were maybe 20 candidates at the office, all equipped with advanced degrees. But I didn't have a degree, I had a design. They hired me on the spot and sent all the degree holders away.

This is inspiring. Thank you. :)

Yeah, just make sure you're a super genius who can design power supplies without needing to study EE for years. As long as you're a genius, dont worry about the degree.

Eh, you don't have to be a genius, just a self-starter.

Most engineering classes I've taken are fairly dependent on a book. You don't need to take a class to read those books, though, and with the internet it's easier than ever to get those books for free.

So just teach yourself and save a lot of money. Most teachers are rubbish anyway, so you wont be missing much.

Most people lack the motivation to do this however. It would also be difficult to persuade your employers that you actually know your stuff.

There might be some standardised exams you could take though, for certain subjects.

For an incredibly specialised field however, I would still imagine that most HR departments would see a candidate as "self-taught" and just throw their CV out.

I am not criticising whether this is right or not, just saying what would happen.

I read that a NASA subcontrator wanted someone to design high-efficiency power supplies for the Space Shuttle. So I wrote up a decent design and showed up.

That's really brilliant and pretty inspiring. Probably no one else there thought to do that. Thanks,

You've done an incredible amount in your life, but I wonder.

Did you ever feel like your social relationships suffered as a result of your passions? How are they now? Do you have a spouse, etc?

Did you ever feel like your social relationships suffered as a result of your passions?

Yes, of course -- how could it be otherwise? :)

Many studies have reported that married people live longer, but after a number objections, the researchers went back and re-examined their data. It turns out that married life only seems longer.

Okay, I'm just kidding. :)

No, I'm not married, and there's little future prospect of that (I'm 66). I have to say I would never get away with stuff I do if I were married -- I go to Alaska every summer and photograph bears in their natural habitat.. What woman would put up with that?

What woman would put up with that?

You'd be surprised by some women's interests.

edit: Very inspirational stories by the way, you are an amazing person.

HINT HINT, PAUL. Wife this one.

Oh I have no interest at all in being with another guy haha, just pointing out that women can enjoy doing those things as well.

edit: That being said, if he wants to take me to the wilds of Alaska I wouldn't mind one bit.

Are you sure? You would have to wear a bear costume and pose in furious stances with a fish in your mouth.

You are an inspiration.

However, I do wish you'd find some way to pass on your genes. I envision your offspring partaking in successful efforts to get our shortsighted species off this rock and into the stars. :)

However, I do wish you'd find some way to pass on your genes.

In my own defense, I will say that all of them go to a recognized charity, which patches the holes in the knees and delivers them to a deserving underprivileged person!

But seriously, in modern times one's ideas are the equivalent of genes, but often much more powerful and influential. Here's my proof -- do you know the names of Einstein's children? Well, I do -- they're special relativity, general relativity, and the photoelectric effect. They look great together in birthday-party pictures.

I envision your offspring partaking in successful efforts to get our shortsighted species off this rock and into the stars.

As it happens, intelligent people, by which I mean people whose intelligence is out of the ordinary for their own families, tend to have children with average intelligence (average for that family line). It's called "regression to the mean" and it's a well-established effect.

I knew this when I was young, so I decided not to have children -- I decided to have ideas instead.

Yeah, That's why I've decided to stay single...

You make good points, and bring to light that my comment was made with a rather misinformed understanding of the way genetics work.

I'd like to that even if you only had average intelligence children, based on the tidbits I can gander of your personality, you'd still have raised them to be above average human beings. I can't imagine that your offspring would spend their days watching Jersey Shore, for example.

Thanks for making me think of Einstein's children. That's never crossed my mind before. Had to Google, and I guess it makes sense that he's cast quite the shadow over his family. (http://discovermagazine.com/2008/mar/lesser-god)

tl;dr, can't argue with your logic.

I'd like to that even if you only had average intelligence children, based on the tidbits I can gander of your personality, you'd still have raised them to be above average human beings.

Thanks for the gesture, but there's no evidence for this. Very intelligent people tend not to be very effective parents, especially for children who aren't as intelligent.

I can't imagine that your offspring would spend their days watching Jersey Shore, for example.

That's exactly what the children of my brothers and sisters do (in effect). They are quite ordinary. That was my first warning sign -- same genetic inheritance, but nothing special upstairs.

Isn't this a paradoxical conclusion since intelligent people would ultimately have to come from mediocre environments?

You're awesome...

But sucks to be you when your nieces or nephews read you saying they "have nothing special upstairs"!!

I doubt they read this site. :)

If you were 66 and had been with a woman 25 years, a lot of them would be more than happy to drop you off at the airport and tell you to call when you get there.

How about family? Do you keep in touch with any? (Sorry if any history has made that question insensitive)

to retire at 35 you need to have a ton of money or low expenses, or some combo of the 2. What are your yearly expenses? and what rate of return/withdrawal rate did you assume when you retired? I have a plan to retire by 50 since all the men on my dads side die around 60. edit* were there any surprises monetarily how did you plan for them?

What are your yearly expenses?

When I lived in Oregon in the mid-1970s, in a cabin on my own land, I needed about $40 / month, maybe $500 / year. That's the only number worth talking about -- not how much someone needs, but how little.

A few years later, I had two airplanes and flew everywhere, but I was finding it hard to adjust (picture of me putting my bike into my plane).

Now that I mention it, I still have a bike, and I prefer it to a car -- but not to a plane. :)

... were there any surprises monetarily how did you plan for them?

Once the Apple Writer royalties started coming in, I decided I would give most of my money away to charity. But the accountants told me I couldn't do that -- you're only allowed to give half your income away, and you have to pay taxes on the remainder, whether or not you gave it away. That was the biggest shock.

So I started a Planned Parenthood clinic -- I funded it personally, in a town where the local high school pregnancy rate was 15%. That was the best money decision I ever made.

EDIT: added link to cabin picture

Was the clinic successful in lowering the pregnancy rate?

He was, it's mentioned earlier in this thread

What made you chose to set up the Planned Parenthood clinic? Was it the first idea that came to mind or did you consider other charities?

What made you chose to set up the Planned Parenthood clinic?

I wanted to make a difference, and I quickly realized that almost nothing charitable actually makes a difference. I ended up choosing between saving some trees, and seeing to it that girls got a fair chance to have an education and self-determination. Easy choice.

Was it the first idea that came to mind or did you consider other charities?

I flailed about for years before realizing that most charitable activities are only meant to make the giver feel good about himself, not actually make a difference. You know you're making a difference when people call you at midnight and threaten to kill you.

If someone isn't pissed off, you're not doing things right.

Wow, you are one seriously cool dude.

You know you're making a difference when people call you at midnight and threaten to kill you.

My new favorite quote.

You sir are a gentleman and a scholar. Thank you. I wish more people would follow your example and philanthropy.

Also, WTF! Only allowed to give away half your income without being taxed?

That's still true. It really eats into philanthropy. But when they passed that law, the government knew what they were doing -- do you know how much an aircraft carrier costs? :)

That's the best thing I've read all week. You are fantastic.

Fascinating.

That's the only number worth talking about -- not how much someone needs, but how little.

Thank you for the reminder, it's so true.

What is something we should not ask you? something secret? do you believe in aliens? are aliens real? is there something the american goverment is hiding from us?

What is something we should not ask you?

AHA! An I.Q. test! If I tell you, then you'll know what's off-limits, and it will become the most popular topic.

I just passed. :)

My mind is playing tricks on me; it feels like I have read this all before just recently? Am I caught in a time paradox?

I did one of these two years ago. But a lot of people, including the moderators, asked for a repeat performance, primarily because Reddit is so much larger than it was two years ago, and there are people for whom this will be totally new.

Having accomplished so much, you must be pretty satisfied with your life. But if you could, undo/redo one thing in your past what would it be?

Also, your religious views and political inclinations? Especially your views on American foreign policy?

PS: Thanks for doing this. I wasn't on reddit 2 years ago!

He also replied to an AskScience question that got bestof'd

Future plans? Upcoming projects?

I've recently been programming for the Android platform. But I need to say that I don't really need to make money, so I give the results away.

I also write about science and other topics. And I travel to Alaska in my boat every summer, and photograph bears.

love the double click any word to see definition!!!

What was your loneliest moment out at sea, and how did you deal with it?

over/under on this becoming an indie band name?

Thank you for allowing me to impress my school teachers by providing them with printed copies of my essays. My dad bought us an Apple // when I was in fourth grade. From the fifth grade on I was composing my essays on Apple Writer.

10. Print "Thank  you. "
20. Goto 10

Goto?

Neal Stephenson thinks it's cute to name his labels 'dengo'.

http://xkcd.com/292/

How often do you google yourself to see what people say about you? Cause I would pull that shit all the time if I could have done even half the stuff you have!

How often do you google yourself to see what people say about you?

Fairly often, actually -- it's way to measure people's reactions to some of the more controversial things I write about.

Cause I would pull that shit all the time if I could have done even half the stuff you have!

Actually, my reason for doing it is more to be able to reply to people's complaints to positions I've taken.

I feel like reddit has crashed your website... true?

in case you weren't already aware of it, you can use google alerts to notify you when something new pops up.

I use this to track my racing career. Unfortunately some guy has the same, rare, given name as me and is more successful. Now I get emails about it. ಠ_ಠ

Do you miss the space shuttle? What advice can you give someone who'd like to work in manned space flight and has experience on unmanned SMEX missions?

Do you miss the space shuttle?

No. In spite of the fact that I designed parts of it, I think it was a disaster. It should have been retired -- it cost far too much and was unsafe.

What advice can you give someone who'd like to work in manned space flight ...

Look to private enterprise for the next wave of space innovation.

Thanks for your response!

I guess the difficulty for private space enterprise will be getting your foot in the door ... plus most of them are located on the west coast. Do you know of any companies that are hiring engineers in the midwest or east coast?

I guess the difficulty for private space enterprise will be getting your foot in the door ...

That's true for any opportunity worth pursuing.

Do you know of any companies that are hiring engineers in the midwest or east coast?

Sorry. That doesn't mean there aren't any.

  • How did you get all these things done? / Do you have a secret to productivity?

  • What's the thing that surprised you the most while building the Shuttle?

How did you get all these things done? / Do you have a secret to productivity?

Yep -- not being married. I hope you don't think I'm kidding. :)

What's the thing that surprised you the most while building the Shuttle?

How unimaginative people were in general. I could see all sorts of unsafe things going in, some of which I fought over, but most people just didn't see the risks -- until later.

I divide aerospace people into engineers and stockholders. The stockholders wanted their company to grow. The engineers wanted the spacecraft to be safe. I ended up hating the stockholders.

It really is the lack of marriage and family. I think easily about 10% of the world's population, or perhaps more, has the intelligence, imagination/inquisitiveness, and drive to make these kinds of accomplishments, and to live such very interesting and free lives. But our brilliance, energy, and time is sucked away by--erp, invested in--caring for children, especially--and perhaps also by marriage itself.

However, clearly all of humanity's sacrifices in raising these kids--aside from being inherently rewarding in terms of our growth in patience, self-sacrifice, maturity, wisdom, etc--is the only reason we as a species are still around and anyone can do anything interesting. So... we who have sacrificed to raise the next generation don't end up writing terribly useful programs, getting our own planes, etc: our families and children are our life's work, along with our moderated brilliant achievements.

This is fine with me. And I think if you're going to have kids, you really should understand this and be fine with it. But then again, I'm writing this post as a woman: and I think we particularly fall under the hammer of taking on this kind of sacrifice.

I am a woman too, but I actually choose to not have kids. I think of it as a selfish act, because I would rather spend time doing the things I want to do in my life. I feel like having chidren would hold me back. This is my opinion, of course.

I think a majority of the people hardly feel the urge to do something interesting, make accomplishments and live free lives. Because living a planned, comfortable and convenient life is so much more safe.

So, even if everyone who wants an interesting life will live it, the human race is very unlikely to go extinct. The only problem is that the 'interesting' genes won't survive long ;)

I could see all sorts of unsafe things going in, some of which I fought over, but most people just didn't see the risks -- until later.

This sounds extremely ominous.

Thank you for making your sailing book a free ebook. I am definitely going to read it in my spare time!

On your other AMA, you said we can't ask you about money. Why? Why can't we ask about money?

Because (a) it's a boring subject, and (b) I don't want to attract undue attention from the kind of people who think otherwise. :)

The reason folks always ask this question in AMAs where the person is financially independent is because we are trying to figure out how we can get there so we can not be bound by the chains of the rat race and pursue whatever it is we would pursue were we not bound by the constraints of our "day jobs."

While I respect the decision to not want to put things in the spotlight for the wrong people to see, I think it would be tremendously valuable to share some general guidance on how to get ourselves to that level of financial independence, and how to successfully navigate when we may be close to that point to avoid blowing it.

While I respect the decision to not want to put things in the spotlight for the wrong people to see, I think it would be tremendously valuable to share some general guidance on how to get ourselves to that level of financial independence ...

But I can do that without any problem, and without talking about my personal circumstances. Here goes.

A guy inherits $20,000 from an uncle who passes on. This is his big chance to have a nest egg for when he gets old. He puts the money in a long-term investment that yields an interest return of 12% per annum, compounded weekly. He is 20 years old, and the investment is going to run for 40 years until he's 60.

Now get this -- if the man withdraws $50.00 per week, just for walking around money, he will still have the same $20,000 40 years later. But if he withdraws $50.42, just 42 cents more and less than 1% , he will completely drain the account.

If he instead withdraws $49.58, 42 cents less, over 40 years he will double the account balance -- $40,000!

But if he decides to forgo the weekly $50.00 withdrawals and let the account interest accumulate for 40 years, he will have 2.5 million dollars when he retires!

So my advice is:

  • Learn mathematics, in particular financial math

  • Never borrow money

  • Don't talk yourself into unnecessary purchases, and

  • Don't get married.

More details here.

I just got done reading Steve Jobs' biography, and I was hoping you could tell us your candid impression of the guy.

Also: how did you transition between the two careers of working for NASA then working for Apple?

First, I didn't work for Apple directly -- I got to know the early Apple crew by visiting and negotiating software deals. But that let to some rather long visits.

I personally found Steve unbearable, and this isn't an uncommon perception. My favorite Steve story happened during the Apple Writer development days --

One day I flew down to California with my bike and two disk copies of a new program I was going to license to Apple (a program that eventually became Apple Writer). On my arrival, Steve Jobs took one disk away for safekeeping, and an Apple executive tried to make a copy of the other.

Then things began to unravel. The executive mixed up the source and destination drives, erasing the second copy. Steve went to lunch and put the first copy on the dashboard of his car. During lunch, the hot California sun baked his copy, and when he got back, the disk had become a shriveled ball. (I have to say that, in all the time I knew Steve, that day was the only time I ever saw him in an apologetic frame of mind.)

I took Steve's copy and tried to think what to do. I finally borrowed a scalpel, cut open the shriveled disk enclosure, and discovered that the media was more temperature-tolerant than its enclosure. I slipped the media into another, unwrinkled enclosure, and the disk became readable.

I thought the above was an interesting comment on the times, but I see it doesn't necessarily reply to your question. I have always thought Steve's infamous behavior resulted from a deep-seated sense of inferiority brought on by originally being in a company where nearly everyone knew what was going on but him.

In the days I was there, people would do what they could to brush past Steve Jobs to get to Steve Wozniak, who most people regarded as the real attraction (myself included). I think this sense of being brushed aside stayed with Steve Jobs his entire life, in spite of his many later accomplishments.

This is just my opinion, but watching Steve trying to manipulate the situations he found himself in was somewhere between disconcerting and entertaining.

The irony of Steve's way of passing is that one of his adversaries from the early days and a friend of mine, Jef Raskin, also died of pancreatic cancer.

BTW I read the Isaacson book also, and I regard it as first-rate.

Also: how did you transition between the two careers of working for NASA then working for Apple?

While working in aerospace, I eventually realized that software was more interesting -- things happened more quickly and the problems were more interesting. I started out writing programs for programmable calculators, including a solar system model that was used by JPL during the Viking Mars Lander mission, and then, when the first Apple II became available, I got hold of one. I thought of it as a hobby until someone called me up and offered $32,000 for a program I had written.

BTW I still write programs, mostly for fun, and, not needing the income, I give them away. Some of them turn out to be useful.

In the days I was there, people would do what they could to brush past Steve Jobs to get to Steve Wozniak, who most people regarded as the real attraction (myself included). I think this sense of being brushed aside stayed with Steve Jobs his entire life, in spite of his many later accomplishments.

As someone who deeply appreciates Wozniak's genius, this insight really resonates with me.

Thanks for the answer!

I thought the above was an interesting comment on the times, but I see it doesn't necessarily reply to your question. I have always thought Steve's infamous behavior resulted from a deep-seated sense of inferiority brought on by originally being in a company where nearly everyone knew what was going on but him.

That seems very astute.

Followup: what do you think of Wozniak? Seems like you two would have a lot in common.

what do you think of Wozniak?

Woz is more like me -- we mostly live in our heads, not in the world, and we always think of escaping into a world where everything is solved using equations.

I didn't get to know Woz very well, because neither he nor I were very social. But I certainly understood him.

Steve Jobs lived in that other world, and he was very good at it. But people like Jobs must have people like Woz and me to power them.

Woz is more like me -- we mostly live in our heads, not in the world, and we always think of escaping into a world where everything is solved using equations.

After reading through some material on your site, it appears that you are very much in favor of science and tend to 'play' with other aspects of life without giving them much credence. Can you expand upon the idea of a 'world where everything is solved using equations' and how that helped develop your philosophy on life?

Thank you for sharing your stories!

If you could send a note back through time for your younger self to find at the start of your career, what would it say? More generally, what advice do you have for young engineers today?

If you could send a note back through time for your younger self to find at the start of your career, what would it say?

It would say, "You know all those people telling you you're weird, a dropout and a failure? Ignore them! They're all going to have incredibly boring lives." And they did -- I know, because I've heard from most of them.

I heard from someone who bullied me in high school (which I was obliged to attend, even though I was already fully dropped out). When he saw me on the old Tom Snyder show, he remembered how certain he had been that I would be a total failure. As he watched me on prime-time TV showing off my cute graphic program, he uttered an oath that set off car alarms a block away.

Schadenfreude is so sweet. :)

Since I haven't seen anyone mention it yet I want to say to you, Mr. Lutus:

Thank you for ARACHNOPHILIA!

I started reading this AMA with no idea you were its creator. Arachnophilia is the program I learned HTML markup and basic web-design with and I absolutely LOVED it.

As an artistic, creative 15-year old kid (15 years ago or so) I was eager to express myself and my work on the web. I had tried books, website tutorials, anything I could get my hands on. Nothing stuck or seemed effective for me until I was lucky enough to stumble on an intuitive and easy to use step-by-step guide on building your first webpage in HTML markup. I don't remember the name of the gent whom hosted the site/wrote the tutorial, unfortunately.

The tutorial itself was a stand-alone instruction guide meant to be followed by the reader writing in Notepad. However, somewhere in that guide was a link to an awesome new WYSIWYG HTML markup program called Arachnophilia!

The tutorial itself was great and taught me a lot of the basics, but your program is what really inspired me. It's complete lack of pretentiousness and straightforward, simple layout was fantastic.

I haven't used Arachnophilia in years but I see you're still supporting/improving it. Just wanted to say well done and thanks so much, it made a major impact on me and help broaden my creative expression. Keep up the awesome work!

I loved your book Confessions, I read it while sailing my Catalina 27 around the Bahamas. Are you planning another sailing trip?

Are you planning another sailing trip?

No, I have to confess that I am a stinkpot owner now. I'm not energetic enough to sail any more.

How do you feel about colleges these days and their necessity to get a decent job? Where did you become educated if you didn't conform to the normal education system? Thanks for doing this.

Where did you become educated if you didn't conform to the normal education system?

Seventh-grade dropout. True story. NASA didn't care because they knew I could deliver reliable designs.

How do you feel about colleges these days and their necessity to get a decent job?

I think it's nonsense, and my personal history shows it. But this isn't just about me -- most of the tech billionaires are dropouts.

While I do appreciate and understand your point could you please expand on how you educated yourself, since it obviously takes a lot to be good enough for NASA.

At age 12 I began designing vacuum tube electronics (before transistors were generally available) in the garage of my childhood house. Neighbors would give me broken TV sets, which I would turn into working ham radio transmitters and receivers.

At age 14 I worked for an entire summer picking apricots, so I could buy a small telescope. That telescope was a great knowledge gateway for me.

At age 16 I started fixing TV sets for a living.

During all the phases above I was reading, constantly reading, and thinking about how the various things I had read fit together.

By age 20 I was designing electronics professionally.

it obviously takes a lot to be good enough for NASA.

All you need to do is be the best choice. I was the best choice. I showed up for a job interview with, not a diploma, but a drawing. I knew what they wanted designed, so I designed it the evening before.

Everyone in the room had a degree. I had a drawing. The interviewers weren't fools -- they sent the college graduates home.

That's extremely inspiring thank you

TIL Paul Lutus is a fucking boss

Seriously.

Here's my Wikipedia page.

That's how you know you're fucking legit

"Stay sober, my friends." :)

"I don't drink always beer, but when I do, I don't."

Mark Zuckerberg was drunk when he made Facebook and was a dropout. Everyone quit school and get drunk! You will become a billionaire!!!

Never attended college? AWESOME!

Seventh-grade dropout. No kidding. And contrary to popular mythology, people who wanted me to work for them simply didn't care.

But don't get the wrong idea -- I'm not schooled, but I'm certainly educated.

And look at the personal histories of the tech billionaires -- most of them are dropouts also.

which, by the way, should not encourage every one to drop out now !!!

Truer words were never spoken. The trick is to distinguish schooling from education.

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." -- Mark Twain

"I have never let my education interfere with my drinking habit." -- Abraham Lincoln

I have never let my education interfere with my vampire slaying

FTFY

If you are dropping out because you're writing cutting edge software and solving real problems that create value then... drop out. If you are dropping out because you don't know what you want to do with life then stay in school.

i don't agree with that at all.

If you are dropping out because you don't know what you want to do with life

then drop out and get into the work force, try a bunch of jobs and see what you like the best. this is far better than jumping around to different majors, wasting money, and spending a decade trying to figure shit out.

try a bunch of jobs

Good luck. Easier said than done.

I did this. I was originally a comparative literature major..and it sucked. I realized quite quickly that I can read all by myself, and look up journals all by myself. It felt like my degree was just a piece of paper that proved I can read. blah. I dropped out, and played death metal for a number of years (until we got fucked by a shitty label..no Victory there, hint hint), and spent most of my time working in retail and food and beverage. I was always a poor math student, but seeing the real life applications of math in regards to profit and investment, combined with my reading of Adam Smith, Keynes and Hayak sold myself on a BS in Economics. I absolutely love my classes, and just spent six months on an econometric study. I never once dreamed I would spend so much time on a giant math problem, and if I had pursued my original major I'd either be a professor teaching classes I didn't give two shits about, or unemployed.

What did you do in place of the traditional schooling system? I assume it was just self study. I think self study is totally a legitimate and alternate form of learning that is just as, possibly more, important. I think the main problem is that most people just aren't driven enough to teach themselves - which is why school is the way it is. Thoughts?

What did you do in place of the traditional schooling system?

I educated myself, and IMHO I did a pretty good job. And I still learn new things, which I think everyone should do. The problem is that many people think education ends when school does. Wrong! :)

May I ask how you educated yourself?

I had no choice, it was sink or read. :)

I find myself still wanting to learn more even though I'm pretty packed with classes.

Watch out that you don't get force-fed facts and lose any enthusiasm for ideas. Learn how to think creatively -- something that isn't on the curricula of many schools. That probably explains why most of the tech billionaires are dropouts.

They may be college dropouts, but not middle school drop outs. Yours was a different era.

Well, Sir Richard Branson is a middle-school dropout. Just saying. :)

Not really, education system is different in the UK, you only stay on past 16 if you are going to go to University. He did his O-levels which are effectively the same as graduating high school in USA. After that is A-levels which are like the first year of a US college, most UK degrees are 3 years rather than 4 because of this.

-From an A-level drop out

Thanks for this clarification!

I am an engineer at an aerospace company who also never went to college. In fact I was expelled from high school my senior year for "computer hacking". When I tell people of my experiences and world travels they can't believe all the things I've done at the age of 30. Then they ask what college I went to as if they assume I went to one and they are always shocked when I tell them I didn't go to college because I found it unnecessary. Plenty of people have told me I'm not really an engineer without a formal engineering degree but I remind them that the Wright Brothers built an airplane with a high school education.

College isn't for everyone. There are many opportunities to do great and amazing things without it if you're the type of person who learns on their own (and having good mentors helps). College is necessary for some careers, of course, but anyone who finds their path without it is pretty cool in my book.

Yes I understand this, just like I understand a degree doesn't always mean the person is educated. Raw talent beats years of school any day. Currently a junior engineering student, and seeing certain people in my high level classes makes me wonder.

it's settled, I'm dropping out.

And reddit claims another victim. /s

I read about your boycott of Microsoft, especially in mind of Windows XP and their policies. Could you please share your thoughts about Microsoft today, specifically to Windows 7/8? Have things changed? If so, how?

Thank you for taking the time to read and answer some of our questions!

Could you please share your thoughts about Microsoft today, specifically to Windows 7/8? Have things changed?

I have to say that, since I changed over to Linux, I haven't been paying much attention to Microsoft. But it seems that Microsoft's business is shrinking -- its flagship product isn't Windows any more, it's Office, and Office is being challenged by Libre Office and other similar alternatives.

I think Windows' days are numbered, but not necessarily Microsoft's. I think they will adjust to the new world of small and wireless. It will be painful, but they will do it.

I think your arachnoid site might have crashed from the traffic... :S

Yes, so it seems. It's definitely offline.

What do you think about Lisp and Smalltalk? I've been following your website for years and always marvel at your willingness to deal with Java and such. I worked as a professional programmer for years, but learning Lisp ruined me. I can't stand syntax anymore.

Another thing I don't get about you is that you seem to live in a large house, judging from something you wrote about X10. Sorry if it seems like I'm prying here, rather I'm genuinely curious about living a better life. We recently moved from a our dream home in the country back to an apartment in the city. The big house was just too damn much nuisance: hard to clean, constant maintenance, constant worry, etc. Especially since you are single what's the attraction?

Could you describe your technique for learning new fields, or do you not really have one?

Any favorite books, movies, or classical music that most of us have likely not heard about?

Thanks in advance!

What do you think about Lisp and Smalltalk?

Very promising, very difficult to use. I have always said that you can write fast programs, and you can write programs fast, but you can't write fast programs fast. Hey -- I should put that on Twitter!

Especially since you are single what's the attraction?

No attraction, and honestly I regret having a big house now. I would rather move back into a little cabin, but until the real estate market recovers, I'm stuck.

Any favorite books, movies, or classical music that most of us have likely not heard about?

Well, since you ask, here's a piece of music that always gives me goose-bumps. I personally find it unbelievably beautiful and moving. Reasonable people may differ. :)

I have a few questions about the Shuttle, I was hoping you could answer any of them. 1.) Do you think the shuttle produced as many "spin off" technologies like the Apollo and earlier programs? How much stuff in use by the public today started with the Shuttle? 2.) Some people feel that keeping the Shuttle flying became the program, rather then having it serve as a means to an end.Do you think the shuttle was the right direction for America's space program? 3.) What was your involvment in the Post Challenger and Columbia investigations?

Do you think the shuttle produced as many "spin off" technologies like the Apollo and earlier programs?

Yes, many, including dimmable fluorescent lights (my contribution). I could go on, but in the final analysis, the Shuttle was a failed system -- it never became economical or safe to operate.

Do you think the shuttle was the right direction for America's space program?

No, it was a big mistake, and like many government-funded big mistakes, it became its own reason to exist (as you point out).

What was your involvment in the Post Challenger and Columbia investigations?

After the Challenger disaster, I reported on my own experiences with safety-related issues, including one where I threatened to resign (and got my way). It turns out there were many similar accounts, from many different people.

What's the next big step for the human exploration of space?

Making it cheaper. :)

And many private companies are doing just that. But this won't solve the population problem -- we'll have to accept responsibility to solve that problem right here on earth.

I started reading your book! (Sorry I never finished it, not because it wasn't interesting... I just got distracted)

Anyway, I found your first couple chapters to be quite inspirational, and your words replay in my head every now and then. Just thought I'd give a shout out and say thanks for writing. This AMA may inspire me to go back and finish your book.

One part that sticks with me is your philosophy to see what everyone else is doing, and do exactly the opposite.

And finally, my question: If you were your 22-year-old self in today's world, with no commitments or strings tying you anywhere, just you and your skills and the world at your fingertips, what would you do? Where would you go? What journey would you embark on?

Paul! Great to see you here. I was a big fan of yours in the 80's when going to college in Southern Oregon. Used to go to your lectures and even had you autograph my Apple Writer manual. I am good friends (still) with Rabbitt from Ashland - we were skydiving buddies out at Beagle Skyranch for many years. Do you still fly? You took me for an aerobatics ride in your Super Cub (?) once at Beagle - fun and a little scary when you did a swooping low pass and the tail hit the runway! Anyway, thanks for being a creative and intellectual influence on me! I ditched programming for being an IT guy - I like working with people along with the technology. Do you or did you ever talk with fellow Southern Oregonian Richard Bach? That man sure knows and can philosophize about flight. -Gary

Hey Paul, it's me, the guy that bugged you and the mods to do this! =)

Thanks again. We need more people like you, and my hope is that your story will convince others that it's still possible.

I guess I should ask a question, eh? OK... uhm....

You've done a lot of amazing things, but is there anything (or anyone) you see today that you are really jealous of?

is there anything (or anyone) you see today that you are really jealous of?

Sure, lots of people. Every day. for example, I have a young friend who is very good at math, much better than I am. I've been jealous of his ability for years. I can do math just fine, but I am eternally jealous of those for whom it comes more naturally, and with more depth, than it does for me.

Apart from being jealous, there are people that just strike me as amazing and wonderful for no particular reason. Lately I've been seeing Ellen Page in a bunch of movies. I think she's shockingly good-looking and I would love to meet her.

I recently watched Inception, and as far as I'm concerned, Page stole that movie. If I met her, I would have a hard time resisting the impulse to give her a hug on general principles. :)

Oh, you're that clown with very confused ideas about what science is. I read your page on psychology and it was Michael Behe-levels of bullshit.

Were you ever jealous that, even though you helped design the shuttle you never got to ride it?

No, not really. I wasn't qualified to ride in it. I was happy to have contributed to its design and to help make it safer than it would otherwise have been.

Thanks for doing this! I have one question: What do you consider your greatest achievement at work? It does not matter if it was for NASA or Apple or any other company.

What do you consider your greatest achievement at work?

Probably Apple Writer. In terms of its effect on the world.

I just want to say that I constantly see you writing insightful things and helping out redditors with science and math. Thanks for all you do.

You've clearly done incredible things in your life. Is there any one person you look up to and see as a role model for you?

Is there any one person you look up to and see as a role model for you?

Yes -- Gandhi. Just to remind myself how little I've accomplished.

I feel like a failure after reading this... But I totally agree with getting educated on what you're interested in is much more important than getting schooled.

But the thing is, I don't think I have the intelligence and creativity like you to be able to branch off from the mainstream path that everyone takes and make my own path :( xD

edit: question: What are your views on procrastinating? It is currently my biggest struggle in life (19 years old first year University student).

What are your views on procrastinating?

I'll have to get back to you on this.

Okay, that was a joke. :)

Seriously, my advice is to list the things you want to do in one column, and things you need to do in another. Tell yourself that it would be shameful and deplorable to do the fun things before the necessary things.

Get into the habit of doing the required things first, remembering that you are earning your own fun time. Don't mix them together -- always do the needed things first, and only then have fun.

I know it sounds simple, but it works.

I didn't read all the previous comments, so I don't know if this is a repeat. What are your thoughts on extraterrestrial life and UFOs?

As to UFOs, they're definitely unidentified. :)

As to extraterrestrial life, I seriously expect that we will discover life, either on Mars or on one of the frozen moons in the outer solar system, those that appear to have hidden, warm oceans beneath their icy exteriors.

And when we do, when we discover any form of life not on Earth, it will totally change our picture of our place in the universe. It will become obvious that life is probably common throughout the universe, and we may be part of a brotherhood reaching across light-years. That will change everything.

If you could go back and do it all over again, what would you do differently?

If you could go back and do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I wouldn't have paid attention to all the people who told me I was bound to be a failure and a dropout. Young people are placed under enormous pressure to conform to their parents' expectations, which tend to be very conventional (good grades, popular). But adult life doesn't work that way -- success in adult life, at least in modern society, is strongly correlated with how different you are, not how alike -- with how many new ideas you have, not how many old ideas you can imitate exactly.

How much money did you get for creating Apple Writer?

Six million dollars, in royalties, over a period of years ( I didn't sell the program).

Do you think other life exists outside of Earth ?

I think it's very likely. I also think we will probable detect life, either on Mars or in an outer solar system icy moon with a hidden ocean, in the next 50 years or so. And when that happens, it will change everything.

Earlier in this thread you made a very interesting point of saying that you didn't have kids, you had ideas instead - very pragmatic view. I'd like to explicitly ask how content you are with the single life you've led. To put in context, I'm a 25 year old Elec Engineer thinking about going for a PhD in Aerospace Eng with the hopes of eventually getting into politics (bring more science into government because we all know that is lacking big time). I find that it is hard to balance intellectual goals with social relations.

Basically, on a scale of 1 - 100, how content are you with decisions you've made and - What advice can you give to someone such as myself making life decisions that tend to have intellectual goals and social experiences inversely related?

PS - I'd be disappointed if my kids were not intelligent. (Of course I'd be accepting but my main reason for procreating is to have intelligent children who can make the world a better place)

I'd like to explicitly ask how content you are with the single life you've led.

Very. When I was younger i wondered whether i was making the right choices. Now i know myself much better and I realize my choices have been optimal. I would never have been able to stand being married, having to accommodate someone else in my various adventures.

Easily one of the best AMAs I've read. Thank you sir.

What did you like and hate about working with NASA and the same for Apple? I mean, besides the fact that you had one of the coolest jobs ever.

How exciting were the early days of Apple?

In those days, the Apple crew knew exactly what we were doing, what it meant, and how important it was. It was very exciting.