One night event with Steve Wozniak

Woz

The board of trade of Metropolitan Montreal has a series on events called International leaders, on which they interview influential people from all around the world. Last night they interviewed one of the founders of Apple Computer, Steve Wozniak. The event was celebrated on Place Des Arts, Montreal, with an attendance of 3000 people, mostly geeks like us 🙂

Personally, we being a fan and followers of Wozniak for decades, we didn’t expect him to say new things that we didn’t already knew. However, given that he speaks a lot and fast, he did manage to give new details about many things with Apple and his vision of the future. We’ll try ti summarize based on what we can remember of a lot of content.

The event was divided in four stages: Beginnings, Entrepreneurship, Education and Future. Each stage was handled by a different person, which -pertinently- asked him question about that stage.

Wozniak is called the Mozart of electronics, and this is no small complement. He has the ability of simplifying circuits in a way that they were cheaper to manufacture and made them more efficient. That’s how he built the floppy drive for the Apple ][ and (previous to that), he made for Atari the game Breakout. This game, was sold to Atari by Steve Jobs (a former employee of Atari), which in turn requested Wozniak to make the circuit optimization of the game. Jobs took the majority of the profits from that project, initially never mentioning to Wozniak how much he gained from it.

Beginnings

On this stage the interviewer (Penelope McQuade) asked Wozniak what were the myths about Apple’s creation. His answer: Apple took more or less five years to be conceived. Between trials and errors of different ideas and products which eventually will land the Apple I. However, before the Apple I, Wozniak  envisioned a machine that allowed to make easier circuit boards, that was the original idea for what was to become Apple.

Wozniak was in college and Jobs would pay him a visit each year. That’s how Jobs got up to date with the latest product and crazy ideas Wozniak was doing.

Another myth is the one that Apple was founded and operated from Wozniak’s parents house garage. Yes, they did some things on the garage, but the design was mainly made by Wozniak at night in his apt (while he was working during day to HP). Most of Apple’s operations were done elsewhere and Jobs made sales by phone. In reality the garage was used little by everybody on the company.

The one person who really shaped Apple into a company was Mike Markkula. He was the initial investor of Apple, the one that brought more investors in and the one that put in place the structure of the company. More importantly, it was Markkula who seeded Jobs’s mind into the importance of marketing, packaging and the whole brand theme from Apple. Jobs might has had the marketing bug within him, but his mentor about it was Markkula.

Entrepreneurship

From this stage, we learned that Wozniak still is an Apple employee. He still receives his check, carrying (we speculate) and insignificant amount of $.

Education & Future

Wozniak did manage to be a teacher after his life in Apple. He was a teacher for 5 years. He was asked if he would have done anything different during those years. His answer: I would have spend more time training the teachers more about computers. The children learned it right away, however the teachers didn’t, which in the end prevented the teachers from using the tool better (paraphrasing).

He also mentioned that when the internet became popular he had a T1 (1.5 Mbit) at this home, which was blazingly fast for the time. Today? He has a ADSL of about 4 Mbit, or something like that. The same crappy speed many of us here in Canada have. It appears that no one can scape this limitation in North America, even if you’re one of the person who created this revolution.

It was a great night, filled with information and above all, wisdom. Which is why Woz is WOZ!