Last week I had more fun than one person should be allowed to have. At appsworld in San Francisco, I had the privilege of meeting Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple.
When you think of Apple, it's natural to think first of Steve Jobs and the tremendous task he performed taking Apple, a company near the brink, and completely turning it around to become one of the world's largest companies and most coveted brands. However, if there were no Steve Wozniak, there would have been no Apple. Wozniak is the wizard who designed and built the first highly successful mass-produced personal computer.
As born out by his interview, Wozniak seems to be a very genuine, down-to-earth, engineer who says what he thinks. His interview at AppsWorld was extremely engaging as he talked about Steve Jobs, emerging technologies, the NSA, and how he finagled his way into a trip to Las Vegas.
|Meeting Steve Wozniak!
Wozniak On Steve Jobs
In all of his recent interviews, Wozniak has made it clear that he has a tremendous amount of respect for Steve Jobs' achievements at Apple—mostly after his return from exile in 1996.
He’s been very straightforward in his opinion that Jobs’ early days at Apple have been over-glorified, and that Jobs has been assigned much of the credit for what others accomplished during that period (especially in the recent Jobs movie, starring Ashton Kutcher).
One story he told about Steve Jobs in the early days, was particularly enlightening. Not long after creating the first Apple computers, Steve Wozniak was intent on giving a free Apple computer to an educator he befriended who had done a lot of work in behalf of her students. As Woz tells it, he begged Jobs to give her an Apple computer, but Jobs would not relent, and insisted that Woz pay the $300 for the computer, which is exactly what he did! This tells you a lot about the differences between the two Steves.
Necessity As the Mother of Invention (Especially When it Comes to Vegas)
Another great story Woz told about the early days of Apple, was the lengths he went through just so he could go to Las Vegas. Apple was attending a trade show in Vegas, and Woz desperately wanted to go since he had never been and “wanted to see the lights.” Since he was not a part of Apple management, there was no reason for Woz to attend. So, he asked management, “If I can add a floppy drive to the Apple II before the trade show, would you be willing to demo it at the show?” Management agreed, which guaranteed that Woz could attend the conference. Woz spent the next two weeks working night and day on the floppy drive and was able to add this great new feature to the Apple II in time for the trade show, which earned him a ticket to Vegas!
What About Wearables?
When Steve was asked what he thought about the new category of wearable technology, he stated that he hadn’t seen anything that had impressed him yet. He believes that a wearable watch would have to significantly improve on current designs to be truly useful and adopted en masse. For now, he’s sticking with his Nixie tube
|Steve Wozniak and his Nixie tube watch
Hacking and the NSA
In the interview, Steve Wozniak characterized himself a “white hat” hacker, who enjoys hacking into computer systems for the thrill of doing something that "can’t be done." He made a clear distinction between himself and hackers with evil intent, cautioning that a hacker should never do anything that takes money from others.
When asked about his thoughts on recent revelations of the National Security Agency's (NSA) spying tactics, he stated that he is wary of the U.S. government’s lack of accountability and sees it as a violation of the Constitution, calling the NSA, “the biggest hackers.” Wozniak stated that when he was young, he understood that if you were suspected of doing something wrong, the government might tap your phone, but regarding NSA spying he says "We're on a bad path in that direction." Steve specifically pointed to dependence on cloud storage as a big part of the problem, because cloud data isn't safe from the eyes of the NSA.
Android on the iPhone?
In recent interviews, Woz has spoken frankly about his admiration for the Android operating system. During the AppsWorld interview, he indicated that he feels Apple should create an Android version of the iPhone (although if you know anything about Apple, there is a slim-to-none chance of that happening). He also indicated that he doesn’t think Blackberry has much of a future, but things may have turned out better for them if they adopted Android. As always, Woz had some interesting perspectives on the electronics industry!
These days, Woz is popping up at events around the globe, talking about the early days of Apple as well as providing his insights into the future of technology. If you get the chance, I highly recommend getting to one of his interviews and experience history with this very human, outspoken icon of Silicon Valley.