At a recent Audi Speakers Forum event in Toronto, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak took to the stage with Dwight Drummond, host of CBC News Toronto, to speak about his lasting legacy in tech and thoughts on the future of innovation.
The man behind the Apple II computer and many other innovations spoke on his self-taught past, Steve Jobs, AI, self-driving cars and even wove in a subtle jab at BlackBerry in his wide-ranging conversation with Drummond. Below are some of the excerpts from his talk.
On learning to design computers as a youth
“I somehow taught myself how to design a computer without any books at all […] It took me at least several weeks or months the first time.
The first time you ever do something is so hard — ‘how do I solve this? How do I do this?’ Then I did it over and over and over. I was designing every one of them […] all of these companies’ computers.
“I was a social outcast so I wanted to think of myself as good in one thing.”
I would design them every weekend not to show anybody. No grades in school. No rewards. Didn’t think I’d ever have a job designing computers. I just wanted to be superior and best and clever at one thing that no one else in school was. I was a social outcast so I wanted to think of myself as good in one thing.”
On the beginning of his relationship with Jobs
“I loved designing things for free, just for myself. And I got in a club. Steve Jobs had been coming to town — I met him about five years before Apple. He came into town about once a year and looked at the latest thing that I had invented for myself for fun, and he always turned them into money. For himself, he turned one into a job, or for hundreds of dollars for both of us.”
On not believing everything from those Jobs movies
“Don’t believe the movie that shows [Jobs] dragging me off to a computer club. I was a hero at that club!”
On Jobs’ ambition
“He was the marketing person, he was the businessman. He wanted to be important, and that was so important in starting the company and in the very early stage to have a businessman who wanted a successful company. That was Steve Job’s only way he would be an important person in the world.”
On keeping AI (and all tech) in the ‘human world’
“Even today things are getting a little simpler with artificial intelligence.
And that’s the most important thing to me, because at Apple we […] build computers that are easy to use. That means intuitive. You want them to look at the screen and you a human being can figure out what to do.
The way we did it, we put a ton of energy into our product, a ton of work and programs so that you could live in the human world… You don’t have to modify yourself to learn the technology world.”
On the most important thing Apple put out in his life
“The most important thing Apple’s ever put out in my life — I used to say it could be the Macintosh, usually I’d say the iPhone, but no, the third-party App Store has changed the way I live my life the most.
It’s the openness of the iPhone that allows hundreds of thousands of millions of really bright people in the world to have ideas and implement them, put them somewhere.”
On his Siri revelation
“Siri was a third-party app, it was not owned by Apple. I bought it, I like to play with and test all the new technology. I buy a lot of different products from different companies, this is part of my life to this day.
So I had Siri, and okay, I could talk to Siri and say ‘Get me a taxi’ with my own voice and it would know where I was standing and get a taxi or I could say ‘Check on movies’ and it would check on movies.
“The third-party App Store has changed the way I live my life the most.”
I was overlooking Lake Tahoe in California with my wife from Kansas and she said “Is this the largest lake in California?” […] I spent over thirty minutes trying to type in Google queries to find out […] So I had one app left on my phone that you could anything with at all, so I smirked because it wasn’t meant for this, it was meant for movies and taxis.
I smirked at my wife — I get a big smile — and I ask the question no computer could ever answer, “what are the five largest lakes in California?” And it came back one, two, three, four, five. Lake Tahoe was number three. And I was shocked, again [referencing his experience with the Newton], for the rest of my life.”
On the BlackBerry of the self-driving car world
“Every company in the world — every major company — seems to be working now on autonomous driving cars, no one wants to be left out and disrupted. Like BlackBerry maybe.
Marc Andreessen was just saying in the papers that all the other car manufacturers were like BlackBerry compared to Tesla, which would be like Apple.”
On maintaining ethics after success
“When Apple went public, three of us had more incredible wealth than you could ever imagine for a lifetime. And I looked and — wait a minute, we’re called founders, what about these other kids that were in high school from computer club.’
If they hadn’t been there, hacking around in the garage days, by my apartment, by the garage, if they hadn’t been there, why would I have been motivated to do what I did? So I went and I gave tens of millions of dollars of my own stock to five people who were there in the early days since they were there and then I looked at 80 other employees and I sold stock at pre-IPO price so each of them could basically make a house.
With a company as successful as Apple, a lot of the employees should benefit from it too, not just the three who have their name on the contract.”