An Extended Conversation With Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak

Steve Wozniak talks shop with an entrepreneur at the Westin Hotel in Cleveland (pic: Brian Bull)
Steve Wozniak talks shop with an entrepreneur at the Westin Hotel in Cleveland (pic: Brian Bull)
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BULL: So Steve, one of the questions I’ve been wanting to ask you, is that I know that Apple has been heavily invested in education for a number of decades, and 20, 30 years later after these implementations were done with classrooms and Apple Computers, do you feel the integration of technology is really at the core of educating young people, do you feel that there’s been good integration or do we need to improve on it?

WOZNIAK: Technology is the essential and most important academic tool that we’ve ever had in our history. Has it made kids, students, learn more and come out smarter and better thinkers? That’s the funny thing, I have to say “no” to that. Has it really improved how good a job they can do in society? No, it is the tool they have to use, the tool of the day. I’m a little disappointed. I thought that computers were going to make a bigger difference in how people came out, and how fast their brains worked. I think that still has a chance in the future, I worry more about the ones – not the come out the brightest ones that come out of classes, but the ones that come up in impoverished neighborhoods and don’t’ have really good attention to schools and their community, and their culture and their peers don’t believe in education that much. or even in a very high level area, by third grade a lot of people give up on schools because they’re not the smartest one in their class, they’re not the smart one so they give up on it.

And I really care about them, and to have them find a way…I think the way might be in the future if computers can ever turn into teachers. Like a human being who cares about the student, ask questions about its family, knows how to talk to it, knows when the student is slow or tired today, their brain is not working that well, and acts like a human being would to them. That day may come someday, because I hope to be able to lok back and say I had some real positive effect on how people’s minds work. But right now they work pretty much the same, it’s just that you gotta keep up with the times.

BULL: Do you feel that computers in general being used more for entertainment than education, and is that necessarily a bad thing?

WOZNIAK: Uhm, I don’t really know specific numbers. Everyone one of us sees, occasionally some kids that totally get hung up on games. My eldest son’s best friend was such a gamer, he was so good at it, and what you’re good at you value. And he went off to college and he basically got all Fs, because all he did…for the first time ever, he was on an early network that had a T1 line at the college, that’s One and a half megabits. Nothing like today. but he just played games and games and games. But he came back out, and he went through life, and eventually went back to school, he studied, he did good, and he’s got a great job now and great career. So I really think that a lot of people are afraid that it takes us away from the way we grew up, and the way we dealt with people, individuals face to face, and some of the best times in life, and the kids are missing out those great times. No, it’s just that their world is different than ours. But it’s not like they’re missing out on socializing. They just socialize a different way. So I disagree with people saying, ‘Oh, we’re turning them into just computer zombies that can’t talk to people.’ They just have to talk by a different modality.

BULL: Where do you see Apple brand going here? We’ve seen the demise of Steve Jobs, some setbacks with iPhone 6, but it’s still highly ranked globally. Do you think Apple will continue to hold its own against competitors?

WOZNIAK: Technology product s are worth something based on what they do. But products are actually based on something more along the lines important to the users. And that becomes brand. Can you expect a good product that will not let me down? the worst thing in the world is to get sold something that’ll be a dream for you and it doesn’t work and it lets you down. And Apple just doesn’t do that. So that brand still very untarnished. In other words, the profit margin all comes from brand, it doesn’t come from the features in your project. And it comes from what Apple stands for.

I see the new Apple under Tim Cook as being as strong as under Steve Jobs, the new products, er, largely the software of the latest operating system for our phones, how they work…super improvements that are just right along the human needs lines. And the new products with the larger screen….Apple is not hung to the dogmas of the past. We made the iPhone with a bigger screen than a Blackberry, and now we have the smallest screen of all, we didn’t learn the lesson….and now we’ve allowed to get past that dogma and I think it really came partly from Steve Jobs not wanting things done differently than he could design and come up with himself.

BULL: And is creativity key to maintaining that edge?

WOZNIAK: Creativity is always the key. The trouble is, when you get a huge corporation making tens of millions of products, like Apple, Samsung, and Nokia, and all these phone companies….you’re making a big product….the innovation has to come from the top, and usually it has to be constrained to one person. Innovation can be “step forwards, step forwards, step forwards, ” but if they don’t all make sense with a good balance that feels good as a product, a complete product that feels right, then it’s bad, and that sense can only come if there’s one or a couple of very closely working minds, two or three minds…at the very top of a corporation, that are in sync and really work together well. That will guarantee that the product comes out the way that I would want it, not the way I think people would want it, and then you achieve the excellence that Apple does. And I see that happening within Apple now.

BULL: So, do you still go by “The Woz” anymore?

WOZNIAK: I go by “The Woz” everywhere. I’m equally comfortable with “Mr. Wozniak”, “Steve”, or “The Boss”. When we started Apple, every Wozniak winds up getting the nickname Woz. It’s extremely common. Sop my nickname started coming in right about the time we started Apple, so I associated with Apple, so y’know…I think…let’s see…on Facebook I think they let you have a common nickname, or something, or some of us at least…so I’m “Woz” there. But I changed the first name…they had me down as “Woz Woz”, so I think I changed the first name to “The”. I dunno! I saw a license plate in California that said, “THE WOZ”, so I said, well, he’s one of us!

BULL: Alright, Mr. Wozniak, or “The Woz”, thank you very for your time. Very nice talking to you.

WOZNIAK: Thank you, very nice talking to you.

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