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What the other Steve has to say...

Date: 26 Oct. 2006
Author: Bobbie Johnson
Published at: - The Guardian

· · · Bobbie Johnson · WOZ: I didn´t want to run companies · · ·

Apple's co-founder came to the company through a series of 'little accidents' and insists that he remains an engineer at heart.

About this article

This article appeared in the Guardian on Thursday October 26 2006 on page 5 of the Technology news & features section.

Technology Guardian: The heart of the new book is Apple and how you started the company.

Steve Wozniak: I think the early history - how the hell did you start this whole, basically, industry, this business, this company with absolutely nothing being so young. Just a bunch of ideas, where did the skills come from - how did it happen is just an amazing story.

TG: Was it about being in the right place at the right time?

Woz: One of the advantages of being in Silicon Valley was being around a lot of the inspirational influences, as well as the solutions to problems - different types of people that are needed to start a successful company. A company doesn't really start based on a product, it's how good the people are as to how far that company's going to go: we had great people from the start.

There were a lot of little accidents - I can think of at least a dozen - that if any of these things that I had really wanted to happen had happened, there would have been no Apple. Things like moving with my company to Oregon and then my wife didn't want to go: Apple would never have happened if I'd moved. Hewlett Packard turned me down five times.

TG: So the arrival of the home computer wasn't one brainwave, but lots of little ideas that came together?

Woz: A lot of the steps that I was luckily involved with just accidentally converged on the Apple II computer - just little projects that I built for other reasons. Videogames: I built a videogame, and that got me into using my television set as a free output device. Then the Arpanet, the forerunner of the internet, came - and it got me into wanting to do it so badly that the only way to do it for free was to build my own devices. So I built my own device that could now put words on the TV set from a computer and type of a keyboard.

Then the microprocessor came into my awareness and it was affordable, so I found an affordable way to make that the computer I was typing to instead of some faraway computer in Boston. It was logical I would think that way.

TG: You didn't actually stay at Apple for a long time, and even when you were there you stayed as an engineer.

Woz: I had decisions earlier in life that I didn't want to be in the big money world. I didn't want to run companies, I didn't want to have companies, but I wanted to design the neatest products possible. And I stuck true to that. I turned down starting Apple at the start and eventually as Apple got successful, no, I wouldn't move out of engineering. As a matter of fact, for me to say yes to Apple was when I realised that I could be an engineer, nothing more.

There's a lot of philosophical reasons why I just don't want to push people around: I don't want to tell other people what to do. My father was educational but he didn't impress his values on us, so I don't want to do that to anyone.

TG: Do you ever get on the phone and say, "You guys should be doing this?"

Woz: I used to do it a lot. I wouldn't phone Steve Jobs directly, but I'd complain about things and they'd fix it right away. One time they fixed one, but in the fix they took out a feature I use a lot. So anything technical and I go straight to engineers. I try not to do it very much because I don't like to be a string-puller, but if I think of something that's missing or they should have, I like talking to the engineers. It's hard for a normal person to get that kind of access to a company.

TG: Do you think the new products live up to the company that you started in the 1970s?

Woz: Absolutely. The iPod is sort of an open device, strangely enough. It's got a connector and there are 3,000 companies making accessories like plug-in microphones and radio attachments and whatnot. It's like with our Apple IIs - walk into a store and see cassette tape after cassette tape after cassette tape, and it made you more comfortable buying Apple II than other products that didn't have that array of software.

TG: Is that success going to last forever?

Woz: Will the iPod always remain that large? Walkmans seemed to come and then go away. I think Apple's making the most out of the lifespan. Do you have a reason to have a second iPod, a third iPod? Apple treats a lot of its products the way the fashion world treats clothing. Good Lord, we just introduced this bright red one that some money from each sale helps to go fight Aids, so I had to have one of those.

TG: Will you be buying a Zune?

Woz: Ordinarily I'd say yes. But I believe the Zune is going to be so tied to a PC - which I don't have - that I'm probably not going to buy it.

Most gadgets that are on the forefront of getting news and attention, most of them I do get just to try out and see what they're like.

TG: Was it true that Steve Jobs ripped you off over the Breakout game you wrote for Atari?

Woz: It's true, I didn't know it at the time, and I didn't know it until 12 years later. And there was no reason for it, but it's a minor issue. Compared to a person who is behind a company that's behind such great products - they created iPod, he created Pixar - compared to all those great things, this was just a tiny slip. He could have been more honest with me: I would have gladly let him have all the money back then, so who cares?

TG: If you were a teenager now, what would be your consuming passions?

Woz: I'm pretty sure that I'd be playing some online - probably roleplaying - games and I'd be very deep into modern programming styles. I'd be playing pranks, I'd be shy and reserved and I'd be working on some kind of creations. Today it might be robots; building computers is just a product you use - like when I was growing up. So I'd probably be building robotics.

Curriculum vitae Steve Wozniak

Age: 56
Education: BS EECS UC Berkeley, 1987
Career: 1976: Hewlett Packard; 1976-1985: Founder (with Steve Jobs) Apple Computer; 1987-2002: Philanthropist; 2002-06: Wheels of Zeus; 2006-: Acquicor Technology
Family Married twice; three children
Home Los Gatos, California, USA

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