Episode 31: WOZ Steve Wozniak, Apple Computer on Inventing as Art, Philanthropy and the Spirit of Creativity Part 1 of 2
This is the first part of a two part interview on Steve Wozniak, the Woz, who personally invented the Apple I and II and launched Apple Computer with Steve Jobs in 1976. Thirty years later he released his autobiography, "iWoz: How I Invented the Personal Computer, co-Founded Apple and Had Fun Doing It." Hear Susan get beyond the book and deeper than Google deets to explore one of the most generous and down-to-earth icons of Silicon Valley. Hear how technology shaped his world view; why he believes inventors are like artists and what the greatest technical challenges are that face the current generation. Hear Steve's opinion on the "Technology Divide" (i.e. the so-called 'racial ravine') and how he adopted the Los Gatos school district, providing students and teachers with hands-on equipment. Find out what one gadget he'd take if he were marooned on an island...you'll be surprised!
Uncover Steve's list of inventions. Hear what he'd say today to Paul Terrell, owner of The Byte Shop who gave Apple their start with a $50,000 order. Find out what he learned in his 30s', 40's and now where his passion for technology stands today in his 50's. Discover the one thing that pushed him hardest in his life (so far) and which of his prestigious awards he most values. Find out about his wide-ranging philanthropic work - from founding the Silicon Valley Ballet, the Tech Museum, the Children's Discovery Museum, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and launching Shoreline Amphitheater with Bill Graham. Woz even has a street in San Jose named after him - "Woz Way" - hear how that landed for him when he found out.
Understand his love of anagrams, repetitious phone numbers and vanity license plates and what they all share in common. Hear about Dial-A-Joke and Phone Phreaking with his Blue Box. Learn about his new love, Segway Polo and his team The Silicon Valley Aftershocks. Woz sets the record straight on what Us Magazine reported about him dating comedienne Kathy Griffin and if he did indeed buy her that flashy ring you see in the press photos. Track him on his Hard Rock memorabilia collection and his most guilty pleasure. Hear about his favorite concert he ever attended besides his own US Festivals in the 80's - Roger Waters' "The Wall" tour. See why it was magical. Then Suz and Woz discuss the "Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice."
This two part series tracks Steve's history, his current passions and gets deep into some of his beliefs about technology, philanthropy and what's most important in life. Subscribe to listen to part two as well. Enjoy!
Announcer: This program is brought to you by PersonalLifeMedia.com
Susan Bratton: Welcome to Dishy Mix, I’m your host Susan Bratton and I have a really exciting show today in that I’ve spent a year tracking down our guest for today’s show. I think you’ll be thrilled to know that it’s Steve Wozniak, better known as Woz or The Woz or The Wizard of Woz or Rocky Raccoon Clark. (laughs) You’ll hear about the etymology of all of these names.
Um, Steve has recently written a book with author Gina Smith called “iWoz: How I invented the personal computer, co-founded Apple, and had fun doing it.”
From computer geek to cult icon, let’s welcome Steve Wozniak onto the show.
Steve Wozniak: It was a similar thing that happened, you know, dozens of time to me that I saw very well. Where national press writes a story, gets something wrong and then it works its way into all the history books.
In the early days of computers, it was like the early days of ham radio. You had to build your own, you had to be a technician with a soldering iron you probably had to get the parts and solder all the pieces together. Well he ran, he started up this store, and people would come into his store and they would just want to buy a computer that works to take home and use.
One guy in Los Angeles wanted to have a system to put movies on your television in hotels. It’d never ever been done, you’ve never seen a movie in a hotel in your life. And I got to design that first system. Um, I also saw video games started. The arcade games with Atari’s Pong. They popped, they popped up in bowling alleys and I looked at it and I said you know what I know enough to build one of these myself.
I also like to do all the very lowest levels. Design it, draw it and graph it on paper, do the soldering myself, build it up, test it, write the software. And I like to do the entire thing.
Well, I think the greatest technical challenge is moving into a, towards a robotics world where we can have robots or little smaller machines that think very much like humans and do a lot of the jobs that we’re used to doing, even around our own homes.
Susan Bratton: Welcome, Steve
Steve Wozniak: Well hi. It’s very nice to be here.
Susan Bratton: It’s great to have you, dear. Thank you so much for giving us your time today. I’m looking forward to it and I hope that I’ve come up with some questions that no one’s ever asked you. We’ll see, you’ll-you’ll have to tell me how we do. So, um, everybody’s heard of you but there could be some people who actually were born befo- after you invented the personal computer. (laughs) That’s what happens when we get in our fifties, right?
Steve Wozniak: Uh yeah, the more the better. The more the better.
Susan Bratton: Exactly. So you’re really a Silicon Valley Icon. You’ve been a philanthropist for the past three decades but you’re best known as being the inventor and co-founder of the Apple comp– of Apple computer and the inventor of the Apple computer. I wanna do one thing. In reading your book and in researching you, I’ve noticed that you’ve written a lot about people, the media–not people but the media writing things that were not correct. Telling the wrong story. And the first thing that I wanted to do was give you the opportunity in any way for people who are – who – who maybe only know you by the things that have been written about you by the media to set the record straight on anything you think you’d like to.
Steve Wozniak: Actually, you know a-after some time it sort of subsides and there aren’t that many, um, big stories popping up on you but uh, pretty much you-you get used to learning, “Don’t believe what you read.” Whenever you know the details of a story you say, “Oh my God they got it all wrong. I can’t believe they would say this. People are going to have all this wrong idea.” But after years and years and years it’s sort of like, “It’s just minor. It’s just sort of a thing that, a part of the world that a lot of people don’t know.” You know, when you know the story, you know it’s wrong. But when you don’t know the real insides, you believe everything you read. And the problem with that is, you know that the National Enquirer is sort of like phony stories and they’re made up for gossiping, to catch people’s interest and sell, so, you know it’s like humor almost. But when you read it in the San Hosea Mercury, you actually believe it.
Susan Bratton: Um, hm.
Steve Wozniak: So the Mercury is actually a lot worse for people who believe in honestly.
Susan Bratton: Well, one of the things that I noticed was that there was a lot written about when you left Apple – that you were fired, or you quit. But really, you were going on to do your next invention. Is that right?
Steve Wozniak: Well, yes. Absolutely. Yeah. I wanted to do a little startup company. I like that with friends talking over ideas for technology and but, you know, one, that was like, it was a similar thing that happened, you know, dozens of times to me that I saw very well, where national press writes a story, gets something wrong and then it works its way into all the history books.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, perpetuates.
Steve Wozniak: Yeah, and this one was a little bit disturbing cuz it just said that I was leaving Apple in disgust. Um, but if they even knew the facts they would know that, um, I didn’t even leave the payroll, I was still under non-compete whatevers. Apple wished me well with my new venture. It was like a really friendly departure and it wasn’t even a departure. I stayed in Apple and doing the startup.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, technically you’re still an Apple employee, right?
Steve Wozniak: I still am. Yes.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Steve Wozniak: Get a little small paycheck cuz I have this little goal, it’s like a game. To be the longest person who’s been on Apple’s payroll computers forever.
Susan Bratton: Right. Cuz Steve would not be because he left and came back, right?
Steve Wozniak: I, uh, you know I don’t think he got any salary in that time.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, interesting. Well I think that would be really fun. One of the things that I know about you is that loyalty and longevity are very, very important, um, personal attributes. I remember you telling a story about when you were at Hewlett Packard and you had this opportunity to leave, and sta-and really to start Apple, and I’m gonna-have a question about that too, but (clears throat) you didn’t want to leave HP. You gave them opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to pick up your idea and fund the ability to create the first personal computer and they just couldn’t do it.
Steve Wozniak: Well it wasn’t just loyalty. It was also legality. I mean I felt, you know, I signed some employment contract when I joined Hewlett Packard, and theoretically anything I designed might belong to them. And I did not want to do anything that would be unethical, that it would sound like I’m going around Hewlett Packard’s back, just using them to launch another company. Oh no not at all. I tried to – tried to get them to do the personal computer and the Apple, um, from day one I was turned down about five times.
Susan Bratton: So Paul Terrell was the founder and owner of the Byte Shop. I think that was probably in what, in Cupertino? And he really –
Steve Wozniak: No I think he was in Mountain View.
Susan Bratton: Mountain View. He gave you your start by ordering $50,000 worth of the Apple I motherboards. With, of course, the help of Kramer electronics floating you the inventory.
Steve Wozniak: Yes. In the early days of computers, it was like the early days of ham radio. You had to build your own, you had to be a technician with a soldering iron.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, the Altair.
Steve Wozniak: You p-, had to get the parts and solder all the pieces together. Well he ran, he started up this store, and people would come into his store and they would just want to buy a computer that works to take home and use. And his technicians in the back would be, you know, building about one a day was the most they could do. So they would buy a kit, build it up and sell it for a few hundred dollars more as a completely built computer. And he saw that we had a very nice design that was like a very full computer with very few parts and it was the one that could be made into “pull it out of a box” like a hi-fi and use it.
Susan Bratton: And so if you had the opportunity to talk to Paul Terrell today, he-he really gave you your start. He gave you a $50,000 order to deliver finished motherboards to him. What would you say to Paul today?
Steve Wozniak: Um, well first of all, he knows looking back that that was probably the most significant financial thing in Apple’s history. I mean, Steve and I had no money, no savings accounts, in our young twenties. We didn’t own our cars. We had nothing. And he took the credit. See we had to build the computers so we got the parts on credit and we got the credit because they went and talked to him. He was paying us cash on delivery.
Susan Bratton: Um, hm.
Steve Wozniak: So he really, more than anything else, financed Apple. And, you know but he looks – he would look back on those times as an amazing revolution where we thought we were gonna change the way people did things, and change everything in society with these new machines and we were part of the leading pioneers and adventurers and he was one of them. I mean, I think more than anything else, if we got together, we would just look back upon those days as something that you can, you know, rarely in history could you have had the opportunity to see and be right in the middle of it.
Susan Bratton: It truly was world changing. Well, one of the things that people, of course everyone knows that you developed the Apple – the first Apple computer, and then the Apple II, but you’ve actually invented a lot of things from your phone phreaking blue box days to your Dial-a-Jokes, can you give us the short list, or even the long list of all of the things that you’ve invented?
Steve Wozniak: Well, way back in elementary school I –I built huge science fair projects with hundreds and hundreds of parts that would do things like play tic-tac-toe or add numbers in the Base 2, the zeros and ones stuff, and-and then I pursued electronics and I got lucky. We didn’t have computers in high school, but my electronics teacher arranged for me to go to a company and learn to program a computer – a computer that could do a million things a second. So I got some programming experience and when I went to college, there was no undergraduate computer course so I had to take graduate courses, just to get any computer. But I was allowed to and uh, took a lot of courses in how computers work and design. I wrote every program I could. When I got into actually, yeah, designing products that do things, it was largely while I was working at Hewlett Packard, on the side, I bumped into people who had ideas. One guy in Los Angeles wanted to have a system to put movies on your television in hotels.
Susan Bratton: (laughs)
Steve Wozniak: It’d never ever been done, you’ve never seen a movie in a hotel in your life. And I got to design that first system. Um, I also saw video games started. The arcade games with Atari’s Pong. They popped, they popped up in bowling alleys and I looked at it and said you know what I know enough to build one of these myself.
Susan Bratton: You made “Breakout”, right?
Steve Wozniak: So I went and I designed, well I designed the Pong game first, and Atari wanted to make it their home Pong game but I wouldn’t leave Hewlett Packard. And then I, um, designed Breakout for Atari. Yeah, with Steve. Four days and nights. I mean, you can’t really design a game in less than half of a man-year. I don’t know how we did it in four days and nights. Total non stop, getting sick with mononucleosis. Um, and that was a great experience. I also got to experience some of the first VCRs for consumers because a company went bankrupt and we engineers could buy the-the guts of these VCRs for very cheap and I did various little other projects like one guy wanted to build a home pin ball game and I designed it for him. And I was just doing this thing, I was in, just like I said, in my young twenties, working at Hewlett Packard as an engineer, picking up all these little side jobs cuz I loved electronics.
Susan Bratton: In your book you say that your IQ is over 200.
Steve Wozniak: No, I my parents tell me that they were told by the school it was measured at that. I don’t think I was ever told. No, I like to joke that they measured it wrong, they accidentally gave me twice as long or something.
Susan Bratton: (laughs) I doubt that. Well, no matter what, you’re a super-smart guy. And you had a very early career. You started out as a very young boy, 4, 6, 8 years old inventing things. You invented things through your 20s. How - are you still inventing things? Is your mind still working that way? Is that how you’re applying your intelligence?
Steve Wozniak: Um, my mind works that way still but I don’t really have the time and energy for it. Um, I’ve become sort of like a big stand out name in the computer world and people are always talking about certain subjects that don’t let me go just explore building my own little simple projects so I do them less often.
Susan Bratton: Well you like to, as I call it, “go to ground” when you’re designing something. A lot of times it seems like you work it all out in your head, and then you just, you go sequester yourself and you crank it out.
Steve Wozniak: It’s exactly right and, but another phrase than “go to ground” is I also like to do all the very lowest levels. Design it, draw it and graph it on paper, do the soldering myself, build it up, test it, write the software. And I like to do the entire thing.
Susan Bratton: Yeah
Steve Wozniak: And go down to the very lowest level and choose the beginning components correctly. It’s like you’re building a house, that you’re going to choose the exact right materials and types of wood, and things like that. You have to do the whole job.
Susan Bratton: Well you’re an effitist around your design.
Steve Wozniak: Yes.
Susan Bratton: So one of the things that you’ve mentioned is that you believe that inventors, like yourself, are really as – are very close to artists. And you also say that it’s really a single person developing a project that makes it successful, versus team collaboration. Do you feel that’s still true or is that just true for you?
Steve Wozniak: Um, I believe that it’s one mind overseeing a product that’s the only way to get the highest of integrity. Almost all of the great products of all time have one mind pretty much controlling what’s in and what’s not in, what is the final unit, what – you know because when you get too many people they all want to put in their own input and you wind up with a lot of waste and things that aren’t needed so you need that control. I believe in that very much. And as the artist part, I’m a little bit misquoted sometimes. I really think that-of some of the engineers, they have to be so perfect in their designs that almost no human could come up with a better way, a shorter way of doing things and those are the artists, and they’re rare. And more often that pops up in the inventor category. The inventor’s just the guy who gets an idea in his head and wants to run into a laboratory and build something to test a part of his idea quickly. He needs quick answers and, you know, and-and doesn’t matter if it has any value in money. Just wants to always build unique things and show them off.
Susan Bratton: So, has technology become more or less important to you as you mature?
Steve Wozniak: Oh, I’d say technology has become a lot less important.
Susan Bratton: Um, hm.
Steve Wozniak: And just, you know, the I-I wouldn’t say much maturing as I’d even say aging, just. Um, Of course, it’s an important part of our lives and we desperately need it. But things become automatic, and boy living for the next great technology device, I used to love any gadget I could get, just a little CD player and what all the buttons do. Now it seems like it’s hardly the time for it cuz everything is complicated that way, and just, you know, dealing with people and homes, you know, and-and green energy ideas. That sort of thing is more appealing.
Susan Bratton: Interesting. So, how do you think that your love of technology has shaped your personal worldview? Not specifically what technology is doing for it now but how do you think coming from a technologist perspective has created the person that you are?
Steve Wozniak: Well, I was very shy but it helped keep me a lot out of a lot of this, the normal social on-goings, a lot of the small talk of the day a lot of the politics. Um, none of that mattered much and it gave me something that I was good at so I could always, you know, um, I was too shy to go up and talk to anybody, but people would come up and talk to me about my inventions and what I was doing. It was like the starting point for my own socialization. And I just, uh, you know, I think – I think it kept me out of a lot of the, the mushy thinking where everybody can analyze all of the information and the news of the day and come to two different opinions. With-with engineering, it works or it doesn’t work. You know, your design is, you know five chips or it’s fifty chips and one is better. And you can always judge. It’s kinda like taking a math test. There’s, it’s like, there, the answers really usually are right or wrong. And it’s not just how well you are – how well you can deal with words.
Susan Bratton: So how do you deal with things like politics or social issues or the trade-offs of clean and green energy or whatever it may be? Because they are m-, they are muddy.
Steve Wozniak: I’ve come to really objective conclusions and if you can’t, it’s really not important. I mean, I don’t – politics, I decided not – to be non-political, just because, you know, like two people can argue for their entire lives and never get to changing somebody else’s opinion so great, everybody – so the answer to that is, the logical answer is everyone has their own opinions and, you know, their own beliefs, and you feel good about your beliefs, you don’t have to worry about other people’s.
Susan Bratton: Well, one of the books you recommend is a book called “The Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats are Trampling the Constitution in the name of Justice.” And according to its writers Roberts and Stratton, who are both Fellows at the Institute for Political Economy, they’re-they’re positing that our cherished individual rights as Americans are going to hell in a hand basket because of overly politically ambitious prosecutors or malevolent or misguided bureaucrats or law enforcement agents run amuck or pandering politicians. It’s a very libertarian perspective so I’m wondering if that’s, you know, you say you’re not political, but yet when I ask you what book you recommended, there was, uh, this book, “The Tyranny of Good Intentions.” Tell me why that affected you so much.
Steve Wozniak: Well I grew up with very strong consideration. I care about, you know, people who are disadvantaged, and, you know, my father brought me up with all these strong libertarian values that um, you know, all the-the great Constitution, the Bill of Rights, our rights to Privacy, Free Speech, and we can criticize the President and they can’t in Russia, and I was brought up that way.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Steve Wozniak: So here it is, you know, I you discover that every time some of our-we had some liberties and some rights and protections that they-they, the prosecutors have ways to undermine them. What I liked best about that book was perhaps in the very first chapter, the first twenty pages where it went through a history of the last few hundred years of where our various rights to achieving justice especially in the courts system where they all came from. It was a, a fascinating education and it meant a lot to me and there’s a lot of h- it’s kinda like human thinking versus non-human thinking. You know, what-what puts us a little bit above others-other species morally? How can we, you know, make the-make the decisions that we’re gonna free the person fairly. You know, if you weren’t allowed to search a, you know, a person’s car, then you can’t use the evidence for it. Why does that relate to torture? Why, you know, why is that another form of torture? Even plea bargaining is a form of torture. So I found the book, um, kinda shocking, kinda shocking. It’s like any rights you think you have, no you don’t. I mean, prosecutors can just do anything. If he’s gonan hold ya. Um, I have a friend who was in jail for five years.
Susan Bratton: Really?
Steve Wozniak: No charges and no bail.
Susan Bratton: Held here, in the U.S.?
Steve Wozniak: Yes, oh yeah, yeah.
Susan Bratton: On what, for what?
Steve Wozniak: And, not only that, um he was largely held because he wouldn’t disclose the um, password to his computer that the data was protect by - which is interesting because just yesterday a court ruled that um, a higher court ruled that you don’t have to. That it’s covered by the fifth amendment. But um, yeah. He was, he was being held for being a computer hacker although he had never destroyed a file, crashed a computer, took anything that was worth money, or cost anybody money. Never did anything like that. But they just didn’t like the fact that he went into computers and explored around.
Susan Bratton: It was, it reminds me of you being an ethical phone phreaker. I wanna have you describe that. We’re gonna take a short break and when we come back I want you to describe that cuz it really goes along-in line with your friend, the hacker who wouldn’t give up his code, so.
Steve Wozniak: That’ll be good.
Susan Bratton: Stay tuned. I’m your host, Susan Bratton. We’re with Woz, Steve Wozniak. We’ll be right back.
Susan Bratton: We’re back and it’s Susan. We’re with Steve Wozniak and on the break we asked Steve to talk a little about something called ethical phone phreaking. So Steve, describe what phone phreaking is or was. Tell us if it still works, if you can still do it. And then talk about how you managed your morals around doing this.
Steve Wozniak: Yeah, I don’t think phone phreaking’s been safe for you know the last thirty years but, yeah I was in college and discovered by accidental readings that you could put some tones into an American telephone and dial calls anywhere in the world for free. And I decided, but what I had read there were some people who were talking about, “I don’t use this to rip off Ma Bell. I don’t use it to steal money. I only use it to explore a system. To find bugs in the system to notify Ma Bell so she’ll fix them.” And I decided I wanted to be that kind of a pure person cuz I was brought up pretty pure not you know, obey the laws and don’t, um, don’t take advantage of anybody else, especially for money, so I would make all my phone calls and pay for them normally on my phone, you know the way people do but I would sit with my little blue box and put tones into the phone and figure out what countries I could route calls to and make calls go around the world. I would play with the system and I felt that was ethical hacking. But I was very young and naïve and my exposing other people to it and helping them get their own devices for free phone calls, they were using it to rip off money, so I wasn’t really, I had an ethical lapse there. But I also had a principal that anything I would ever do wrong in life, wrong or right, I would tell my parents so I told my parents what I was doing.
Susan Bratton: Well, I-I think that it was more a man against the machine puzzle. A mental puzzle for you.
Steve Wozniak: Well you ..be in this group of engineers that was soft of unknown. I was very shy, as I said. And all of a sudden I’m in this group of people that are supposedly brighter than the phone company engineers, discovering the flaws and the bugs in the system and using it to their own benefits, and the phone company should be hiring them, but instead they’re trying to arrest them. I was, it was sort of a neat little, like you’re one of these investigators on a TV show, you’re one of the spies of the world.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, you wanted to crack the code.
Steve Wozniak: Yeah, your a young person in college, and that was really neat, and um, you have some knowledge that very few people in the world know how the phone company works, and how these devices work so you’re in a special category.
Susan Bratton: well, I-I also think that you like puzzles, you like anagrams for example. I read, and is this true, that you have signed your emails with anagrams of your name like “TV is Wake Zone” or “OK a new sized TV”
Steve Wozniak: Um, yes, I just like to bring puzzles or stories anywhere into life. And I like to take something whether it’s real or made up and just tell stories everywhere I am to friends. And make up really outrageous things. It’s kinda like that movie “Big Fish.”
Susan Bratton: Oh I haven’t seen that movie. What is that like?
Steve Wozniak: Oh, guy hates his father for having told him lies all his life. And his father told him all these stories that nothing could be real and he hated it and he starts discovering on his father’s death that a lot of the stories were kinda real, had a real basis, it’s just that his father exaggerated a little bit to make it more like a movie.
Susan Bratton: Um hm, so you like the drama.
Steve Wozniak: yeah, yeah it’s kinda like a type of entertainment. Everywhere I go I try to entertain my guests with a little bit of stories and some of them are totally made up and so ridiculous, and just to see what they’ll believe and then laugh and say, I just made it up.
Susan Bratton: Well you also like repetitive phone numbers. You also like vanity license plates, right? You have all these vanity license plates. What other things like that? You like stories, and pranks, and numbers…
Steve Wozniak: Well I like, I like cleverness-whether it’s jokes, pranks, vanity plates. I don’t believe in just any old vanity plate that you can just kinda put some words together. It’s gotta be a cleverer one and you aren’t the 20th person that thought of it and you had to take some word variation of the spelling. Vanity plates are actually very hard to do because they’re all so, they’re all taken, all the good ones, hard to get a good one.
Susan Bratton: I’ve had the same vanity plate for 26 years.
Steve Wozniak: You got it early enough.
Susan Bratton: I, well I had to get it again when I came to California and it took me a couple of years to get it.
Steve Wozniak: Wow.
Susan Bratton: It all-let me tell you what it is, you have a pencil? Wanna write it down?
Steve Wozniak: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: Ok, see if you can guess it. It’s-and it’s only six letters, it could be seven but it’s only six cuz I had the classic version, from Arizona. It’s TNACTY.
Steve Wozniak: Oh tenacity. Yeah. That’s a good one.
Susan Bratton: It’s a good one.
Steve Wozniak: I actually take pictures of the, the plates that I like.
Susan Bratton: Oh you do. What with your mobile phone?
Steve Wozniak: Uh, no I actually carry the camera in the car, better, higher quality. You need a higher quality lens even though you’re just behind one car
Susan Bratton: Oh yeah
Steve Wozniak: It’s - the license plate winds up so tiny.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, it’ funny cuz I remember I went on a job interview when I was 20 years old and the guy who was interviewing me said, “Wow you are really tenacious. You are gonna go very far. I’m gonna make you an offer.” And I said, “thank you.” And I thought to myself what does tenacious mean? I didn’t know the word tenacity. And so I went home and I looked it up and I said, “Yeah, that’s what I’m gonna be. I’m gonna have tenacity.” And so I love that word so much, I got is as my license plate and it’s kinda in my mantra and it does follow suit Steve, because I have been trying to book you on Dishy Mix for a year. (laughs) And here you are, so…
Steve Wozniak: Well, no, I think getting a hold of me is easy but getting it on my calendar is the tough part.
Susan Bratton: (laughs) It is.
Steve Wozniak: Actually for personalized license plates, I couldn’t get Apple anything when we started the company. Apple everything was taken we only had six letter plates in California. But then they went to seven letter plates so I got APPLEII for Apple II.
Susan Bratton: And what’s, what is your current, you have, I read that you have a Hummer and a Prius because they balance each other out ecologically. Is that true?
Steve Wozniak: Well, yeah, I use the one, the right car for the right purpose. I rarely drive the Hummer anymore, but there are times I need the, um, the storage and all that. But have, I actually have four Priuses in my parking lot right now. I love the Prius more than any car ever in the world.
Susan Bratton: Nice. And what’s your license plate on your Hummer and your Prius?
Steve Wozniak: Um, they’re both set in standard. Because if I can’t think of a good enough one, that’s super clever, I won’t put it on.
Susan Bratton: Yup.
Steve Wozniak: And I’ve had plates in the past like WOZ and I’ve had Us Festival I, but, my, my son has an H2 and I got for his license plate I got him hydrogen.
Susan Bratton: Nice.
Steve Wozniak: Minus the ‘y’. hydrogen, which is H2 chemically.
Susan Bratton: I like that. I agree with you I love those kinds of clever things. Now I-I wanna switch gears a little bit with you. I wanna find out what you, this is a, this is kinda a big, wide ranging question. We’re gonna go from something silly, like personalized license plates to what you think is the greatest technical challenge facing our current generation.
Steve Wozniak: Well, I think the greatest technical challenge is moving into a, towards a robotics world where we can have robots or little smaller machines that think very much like humans and do a lot of the jobs that we’re used to doing, even around our own homes. But being able to program them and adjust them and um, you know what the brain does we aren’t close to ever in computers. You hear these words artificial intelligence and machines that can think out faster than a human and play chess. It’s nothing close to what’s needed to be intelligence. For example I would love to have a machine that could be a teacher but it would have to be so engaging like the real person is. It might have to have a shape. It might have –it would have to at least look at you, and notice your facial expressions, and judge things by that. And make jokes, and make jokes about it, you know, and-and follow a line of reasoning, and ask you questions about your family, and remember your history, and know what people like. It’s almost like this sort of robot would have to live a human life to really act like a human.
Susan Bratton: So what sort of robots could you see in our near future that you think make a lot of sense? Obviously there’s the Roomba which vacuums.
Steve Wozniak: The Roomba is the one that I, that I based my reasoning on. And you could build a little machine that you put out in the drive way and it has a little, it has, it has to have a camera and an eye. And it just goes around and one square centimeter at a time it just washes your car all night. Very, very tiny little pieces, you know, one here, and do this, and do this, and and it’s soft enough to know never to damage anything and
Susan Bratton: Um, hm.
Steve Wozniak: And it’ll clean your mirrors and everything. That’d be neat. Just set it out and it goes all night long and washes my car and it would even be neat to say I have it.
Susan Bratton: I would like one that picked up the debris off my drive way when we get a lot of wind.
Steve Wozniak: Excellent idea and these things, you know that could be made, but if you make it by the very cheapest way, it, um, it has flaws. So, um, we really need to move ahead and have machines that they kinda look and they recognize all sorts of obstacles and go up and test them a little the way a baby might even and gets the task done. It’s-it’s hard to program these things because we aren’t really programming a learning machine, like a child.
Susan Bratton: I’m visualizing this big closet in my house that has like twenty different robots. One to water my plants, one to do my car and my driveway.
Steve Wozniak: One to do the dishes
Susan Bratton: Well I’d like one that did mani/pedi. You know like manicure/pedicure robot? That would be really nice, I’d like that.
Steve Wozniak: But as you can see, you just said twenty and…
Susan Bratton: Oh twenty, easy.
Steve Wozniak: The world is wide open to some kind of devices. Whether they’re general purpose like a computer that can be applied to all the tasks,
Susan Bratton: Yeah
Steve Wozniak: In other words robots that can be taught a whole bunch of useful things. Or just individual machines for each purpose.
Susan Bratton: Well I think with the elegant design approach you bring to microprocessor-based technologies, you could come up with thirty or forty of them yourself.
Steve Wozniak: I think I’m in the wrong generation. I think that’s the next generation’s job.
Susan Bratton: You do? Well and you’re busy being a cult icon. I know that takes a lot of time. (laughs)
Steve Wozniak: I have a couple of pet projects on my own, though.
Susan Bratton: Well, well, tell us what those are. What are your pet projects?
Steve Wozniak: Well one of them, I would like to build, um a globe, a round globe of the world.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Steve Wozniak: But have it be a, the entire surface be a glowing display.
Susan Bratton: Yeah
Steve Wozniak: They’re making materials now that can display, um, like, kinda like your computer screens but they’re in clothing. So wrap it around a globe and then put Google Earth on it.
Susan Bratton: Yeah I love Google Earth when it’s that 3D visualization. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it?
Steve Wozniak: And then you can start tapping the globe to zoom in on an area and spot, little blue dots mean cams and you can go to the cams of the world and look at, you know streets in Amsterdam or wherever.
Susan Bratton: Well it could just be a three dimensional globe um, computer kind of a screen, a color screen and you could actually program it to do anything. You could say show me where clean energy is. Show me where pollution is. Show me where, you know, the, uh there are bombs being detonated. Show me where happy people live.
Steve Wozniak: Or become the moon.
Susan Bratton: Become the moon. Right, show me everything. Show, be any, become any planet, and show me what the topology of the planet is.
Steve Wozniak: Um, hm.
Susan Bratton: Yeah. That’d be really fun. Have you seen those balls that glow, um, based on what the stock market is doing so they’re, you know green versus red w-,w-, depending on how the stock market’s going up or down?
Steve Wozniak: No I try to avoid the financial world.
Susan Bratton: Well I just like that because it’s, um, a color visualization of a state. You know a state of being. I-I agree with you about the financial world, but
Steve Wozniak: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: I just like that.
Steve Wozniak: Well with computers, you know we go through this all the time. How do you make things have a good, a good intuitive meaning? How does that relate to humans and human life? And you know pass the meaning well so you can just look at say a screen and know what to do? And we aren’t very close to that right now. Even in the Macintosh world. But boy when the Macintosh first came out there was this, this, it was called special orientation. You leave things in certain places and they stay there. Words tend to always have the same meaning. Things are in the same position on the screen so you, you kinda have a lot of your learning and teaching done already.
Susan Bratton: Oh yeah, yeah, I was, you were triggering me on something when you were talking about that. What was it? Um.
Steve Wozniak: Well with the human more important than the technology, how do you do things with human metaphors? And one of the things we did was every human had a desktop back there before computers were common
Susan Bratton: Yeah
Steve Wozniak: And we called the screen of the Macintosh a desktop, like you have pieces of paper on it when little windows popped up these are kinda like places for paper, and you could take these little pictures called icons and put them where you want on your desktop just like you would put you know a stapler and a crenset, you know whatever you have anywhere on your desk.
Susan Bratton: So what do you think of – this is what I wanted to ask – what do you think of the newest Max OS X Leopard version with all that spaces and visualization and the flipping through of the different documents. How do you like that?
Steve Wozniak: Um, it has some, some really neat things in it that could be useful that just don’t apply to my computer use. So I didn’t, it didn’t really affect my computer life and take me to, you know a new plane than before.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Steve Wozniak: But that’s just.
Susan Bratton: It’s pretty.
Steve Wozniak: That’s just me. Yeah, it was um, the prettiness I like but after a while that fades.
Susan Bratton: OK Dishy Mix listeners, this is the end of part one of a two part series with The Woz. On the next episode, we’ll talk to Steve about gadgets, philanthropy, dating, Segway polo, and all kinds of fun things in his personal life. So I hope you’ll tune in to the next episode to hear part two with Steve Wozniak.
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