As the pace of technological and software change continues to accelerate, who better to ask for advice than the designer of the first Apple computers, Steve Wozniak?
The Apple co-founder made an appearance at the GOTO conference in Copenhagen 2019. Reflecting on his career, Wozniak offered insights on how to stay innovative, think different(ly) and, most importantly, be happy. PS. it’s not more money.
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When Steve Wozniak co-founded Apple alongside Steve Jobs, it was a time of pure innovation in the software and technology industry but that didn’t mean it was smooth, he said to a packed audience overflowing with software developers, tech enthusiasts and CEOs flown from across the world.
For instance, he didn’t have the money to buy chipsets to make his own computer despite having the knowledge. He had one goal when growing up - to own a 4k mini computer with all the switches and lights. The cost of which was equivalent to a house, he added.
Fast forward a few years and “Woz” leveraged his love for building computers, became a pioneer in the software industry and helped revolutionize the computer industry with the development of the Apple I and Apple II computers. These early computers, released in the 1970s, were some of the first to feature a keyboard and monitor, making them more user-friendly and accessible to the general public.
Wozniak’s keynote talk at GOTO Copenhagen 2019 left a profound impact on the audience. He revealed his hesitance to start a company when approached by Jobs and how the duo made an impact that would change how technology was viewed and used forever.
Why Woz didn’t trust money
Woz’s attitude toward money is surprisingly different from that of most of his peers. His investing strategy was to avoid it and to keep his distance from finance altogether. “I didn’t want to be near money, because it could corrupt your values.”
It’s hardly surprising to hear that when approached by Jobs, Woz was dubious of starting a company as he was content with his job at Hewlett-Packard. Eventually, Jobs convinced him to take the leap and it was like hurtling along a rocky road. From lawsuits to being rejected by investors, they faced many challenges, but Wozniak's passion and drive kept them going. Woz admitted he was the only technical brain behind the innovation at Apple while Jobs had the business acumen and hunger for financial gain. For Woz, it was never about money. He just wanted to develop groundbreaking new features.
The naming of the company was a big hurdle for them, but they ultimately decided on the name Apple, despite the potential legal issues with Apple Records. According to Wozniak, Jobs came up with the name Apple Computer, and Woz said "what about Apple Records?” But Jobs said, “They're a record company. We're a computer company. That's it. That's all it takes."
Good engineers are not the only ingredient for a good product
Wozniak was the primary designer and developer of the Apple I and Apple II computers. However, he learned that in a company, good engineering doesn't always win and sometimes innovation gets held back due to bureaucracy or other factors. He spoke about how his design for a modem was not seen by another company until 12 years later.
Wozniak also emphasized the importance of passion and drive when starting a company. He said, “My advice to young entrepreneurs is to do as much as possible for zero dollars on your own. At some point you’re bound to become big and you can’t get there without borrowing a ton of money for growth. All the best things that I did at Apple came from not having money and not having done it before, ever. You have to find something you’re passionate about. You can be the Mozart of what you're doing, but passion should be what drives you.”
Woz stressed the importance of marketing in a company's success and how it is crucial to generate revenues. He said, "Mike Markkula, who invested in us, ran marketing. He said marketing is more important than engineering and engineering is where our product came from. That was going to be all the revenues of Apple for the first 10 years of Apple”.
Build it for yourself
Some of the greatest products and advancements have been developed as a result of individuals identifying a need within their personal lives and subsequently seeking to fulfill it. Take Elon Musk and the Tesla Model S, which changed the world for electric cars. Why would he design an electric car as a large sedan? Musk had five kids at the time. It was for himself. Turns out there was a whirlpool of people like that that hadn't been recognized.
“My Apple Computer, the Apple II computer – the foundation of Apple – was built because it was what I wanted”.
Wozniak's contributions to the software industry go beyond just the development of the Apple I and Apple II computers. His work laid the foundation for many of the advancements we take for granted today, such as graphical user interfaces, and color graphics.
Cheat code for Woz’s success
Over the course of time, Woz came up with the second version. “Happiness equals food, fun and friends. Food is a metaphor for the necessities of life. You got to have to be happy, fun is entertainment and friends are people. And I was being inducted into my high school's Hall of Fame and I gave out that formula and all the students started laughing. I went to the microphone. I said, well, maybe there's a fourth F,” he grinned leaving the listeners in more awe of him.
Wozniak's talk is a testament to the power of passion in the software industry. His unwavering determination to push the boundaries of what was possible with technology and his passion for engineering laid the foundation for the groundbreaking products that Apple is known for today. His contributions to the industry have had a lasting impact and continue to inspire future generations of software developers and entrepreneurs.