Entrepreneur Interviews

Who is Steve Wozniak: Apple’s Engineering Genius

Steve Wozniak Of Apple

Steve Wozniak Of Apple 

Steve Wozniak is a computer engineer who invented the Apple I and Apple II computers. Along with Steve Jobs, he co-founded Apple Computer and made significant contributions to the personal computer revolution.

The Woz
When Wozniak started Apple Computer in 1976 his goal wasn’t to make money, it was to make a good computer. Before Apple, he had wanted nothing more than to be an engineer for the rest of his career. Wealth wasn’t a motivation because it wasn’t an important part of his life, even today he only wants enough to meet his needs, the rest of it he’s tried to disperse through community service projects or museums. Wozniak says, “(Early in life) one thing I said to myself was money and the prospects of money aren’t going to influence the direction I take in my life and that was one of those real ethical principles (I) came up with.” He admits that he would have gladly given out his revolutionary computer designs for free if he hadn’t been working for Apple.

The Next Big Thing…And Why You Can’t Predict It
Wozniak says there are directions where today’s technology is headed but he can’t say for certain where it will end up and what will be part of the next big revolution. “It’s tough to say, (just) look at the internet,” he says, “it was as big as the computer, (but) it kind of came from a whole bunch of different places, piecemeal, a bit a time…those big revolutions that come along…nobody expects them…everybody disdains them and says, ‘no, this isn’t going to be worth very much,’ and then they happen and you say, ‘oh my gosh,’ you could never see it in advance or it could never be called a revolution.”

Wozniak thinks that predicting the next big product is very much a guessing game because standard market research can’t account for advancements in technology. Analysts today look at users of a category of product and ask them what they want to do for today’s job but when someone creates a new technology that can do that task better, in a different way or even a whole other task then that product applies to a different group of users than the ones being analyzed and that’s where the surprise comes in.

A similar story happened to Apple when they first introduced their PCs in the 1970s.  At the time, the big computer companies wrote them off because they were comparing the small PC to their powerful mainframe computers. They didn’t realize there was a market outside of the big corporations who needed powerful computers to calculate company financials.  Apple saw that opportunity and provided products to an unserved demographic of dentists, lawyers, and students who only needed a personal computer to perform small tasks.

One trend that doesn’t surprise Wozniak is the importance of search, although he is amazed that it took as long as it did for Google to be recognized for how important it was. He says the search has always been the heart of the internet and harkens back to the days when Altavista was one of the leading search engines because “it got you your answers quicker, better, and more to the point than other search engines.”

Mac OS – A Turning Point
Wozniak looks back at Apple’s decision to make the Macintosh operating system a closed system with some regret. He says the company didn’t want to license the OS because it was its crown jewel. It had graphics, a mouse, menus – in short, it was superior to any other software from all the other manufacturers. The only catch was that you had to buy everything from Apple and Wozniak believes they made a mistake on that because all their profits came from the OS. They could have saved a lot of time and effort just by selling software instead of having to buy factories and computer parts for what it costs to build the Macintosh.

The decision to not license the OS lead to the rise of Microsoft as it surpassed Apple and went on to control a commanding 90% of the market. Despite the results, Wozniak doesn’t mind that Apple caters to a market minority. He genuinely feels they are part of a small community that is unique. He points out that a lot of creative people like photographers, musicians, videographers use a Mac because it has very small memory requirements and the users let him know how much they love their computer. Wozniak says, “almost anyone that owns a Macintosh loves it, swears by it and just tells you that it’s just the greatest computer for them… (but of course) you can’t force (this view) on the whole world.”

Steve Jobs
Wozniak and Steve Jobs started Apple with clearly defined roles. Wozniak would be the engineer and design the products. His ambition was to make the “hottest computer” out there and be part of a  revolution to change people’s lives. Jobs was going to be the executive and learn how to do everything needed to run the company, his goal was to bring computing to the masses and make a lot of money. So while Wozniak was the genius behind Apple’s hardware, it was Jobs who guided the company’s vision in its early days. Wozniak says, “a lot of his thinking turns up in Apple’s products…he wants to go into the future and use the products sooner… and have a clear picture of not building little devices but building a system that gets the job done…with the least amount of thinking. Look at the iPod, it’s not a music device…it’s a part of what the human wants, and what the human wants is music to your ear…Apple has the whole system. You click one button to purchase a song. It’s on your computer, it’s on your iPod. No thinking, no doing. It’s that kind of bending the technology…into making the technology do things the human wants.” Wozniak believes it’s a good philosophy to make products that understand human needs and to make them simple enough so that the human doesn’t have to tangle with the technology.

With today’s newest generation of consumers identifying Apple more with the iPod than the Macintosh, does Wozniak feel lost? As if somehow his contributions have become a thing of the past? Wozniak smiles at the question but he doesn’t believe it to be the case. Unlike Jobs, who wanted the spotlight, Wozniak never wanted to become an icon to the world. He didn’t want to become a celebrity. The only thing he feels might be lost is the way his story influences young people that were in his shoes when he was young. Kids who like to hook things together and build devices and who felt good about it, even if they couldn’t impress anyone at school. Wozniak wants them to know he was just like them at their age, that they’re on a good path in life, and not wasting their time. He wants to be a role model for those kids to look up to, not just one for the world to admire.

Shivam Singh
Founder of the TechGrits, has always looked at technology as a piece of knots. From an early age connected to the technological world, this is literally your dream job.

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