Steve Wozniak at Augsburg College

Steve Wozniak, or “Woz”, was a guest at Augsburg College today and it was a pleasure to see him talk about his early days in technology and his first experimentations with microchips which eventually led to the creation of the Apple I and beyond.

Woz is an amazing person. He individually did more to create the personal computer industry than possibly anyone else. He is a creative genius with technology. He so clearly is passionate and understands the design of technology like nobody else. On top of all that, Woz just seems like a nice person. Woz seems like someone that you’d love to have dinner with and just spend time discussing the world. He’s an “engineer’s engineer”. You could give yourself a nearly impossible challenge just by looking at your project and asking “What would Woz do with this?”

Steve Wozniak at Augsburg
College

Some highlights from the discussion with Woz:

  • Woz shared many stories of working with Steve Jobs and how the two of them worked together. He also took great lengths to highlight the role that Mike Markkula played and referred to him as the “third founder” of Apple.
  • Woz talked about his early experimentation with technology and how he focused on “smiles minus frowns” as a simple way to guide himself in life. Add up your smiles, minus the frowns, and if that works, you’re going the right direction.
  • I chuckled when Woz mentioned that the Homebrew Computer Club met every two weeks, which is now by far the most common iteration length for agile development teams.
  • The open culture of the Homebrew Computer Club is one of those early framing events that continues today in open source software. Everyone was sharing designs for the betterment of the group and the industry.
  • The Apple I design was given away to the club, but Woz had the Apple II design already done, and they knew that was what they would build Apple Computer on.
  • Woz highlighted the role of “builders and makers”, and that that continues today.
  • Much of Woz’s designs were driven by strict constraints of time and money. The original Apple designs were done with minimal components to reduce cost and elegant designs. The Apple floppy drive that Woz created used 8 chips compared to 40 or 50 in other drives. Woz also shared the funny story how the floppy drive was made in two weeks so that he had a reason to go to CES in Las Vegas.
  • It was fun to hear Woz highlight the importance of continuing to learn and doing that through side projects. He would design systems all day, and then for fun, he would design systems for a different purpose. Always learning and driven by passion.
  • It was so fun to hear underneath Woz’s engineering drive a constant desire to focus on the person. The person is always more important than the device. Figure out how to make the device usable. He highlighted how his original design for the Apple I and Apple II were driven by this, while others in the industry just showed complicated “computers” with switches and buttons.
Jamie Thingelstad @jthingelstad

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