I recently had the honor of interviewing the co-founder of Apple Computer and the inventor of the first personal computer, Steve Wozniak. Wozniak was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1995, the highest honor for an engineer, and inducted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 2000. Although his first love remains science and technology, Wozniak now devotes himself to philanthropy and education – inspiring other youth with his enthusiasm and remarkable life experiences.
Wozniak’s success has been grounded on his unshakable faith in himself, his desire to aid humanity, and his pure love for and enjoyment of his craft. His answers seem to support the idea that he merely stumbled upon fame and fortune – that they were never his true goals, but by-products.
“An inventor is driven by curiosity in a real, practical sense. They work to form an idea, and then enthuse others about that idea. I knew I wanted to create computers people could use and learn from. I originally turned down the prospect to found Apple. I was content with my future, designing products for Hewlett Packard for the rest of my life. It was fun for me, and I knew I could do it.”
But eventually, Wozniak realized he’d have to make some changes if he really wanted to fulfill his dreams.
“It was a hard decision. But I eventually realized Apple was ultimately going to afford me the opportunity to make the personal computer, even if it was difficult at first. Steve Jobs and I started with literally no money. No cars. The parts we used to create the Apple I were purchased on thirty days credit. Don’t think about the money you don’t have. Rather, what can you do with what you do have?”
Although Wozniak and Jobs already had a concrete design in mind, Wozniak attributes their success in part to a balance they created together.
“I was shy, he was outward. I created, he sold.”
The team worked.
Wozniak also described his experiences in the Homebrew Computer club, a loosely organized group of academics. Information in the club was shared, not withheld – a huge difference from inventor’s groups today.
“It was a culture of information exchange. The computer club was founded as more of a social organization than technical. Our whole purpose was to help others. We were frustrated that we couldn’t afford a personal computer; the companies we worked for did, but we didn’t like that they weren’t our own. And that common bond, the interest we shared in technology, bonded us.”
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