Apple co-founder and renowned engineer Steve Wozniak is widely known for his groundbreaking inventions and electronic engineering skills. Offering jokes and witty banter to a sold-out crowd in War Memorial Gym, Wozniak discussed his early career beginnings, his friendship with Steve Jobs and his commitment to honesty and happiness.
Wozniak, also affectionately known by his nickname “Woz,” sat with USF alumnus Alfred Chuang of Magnet Systems for an hour-long discussion. Roughly 1,800 people filled the gym’s Sobrato Center to listen to Wozniak. Attendees ranged from USF students, alumni, faculty and friends of the community.
The event marked the third installment of the School of Management’s Silk Speaker Series, initiated by USF alumnus Jeff Silk and his wife, Naomi. The Silks began the speaker series in an effort to shine a spotlight on USF, bring global leaders and innovators to campus, and provide networking opportunities for the community.
Angel Duan, a sophomore marketing and entrepreneurship and innovation major has attended both events in the Silk Speaker Series. “I think it’s important for USF to have speakers like Steve Wozniak come and speak so that students and other members of the community can realize the potential of USF, and to have its students not only grow intellectually but for them to be able to learn from successful professionals,” said Duan.
Wozniak’s accomplishments and accolades are many — his resume boasts highly influential work as an engineer, philanthropist and educator. He is most notably known for singlehandedly designing the Apple I computer in the 1970s. Since then, the company has developed into a modern technology empire.
A San Jose native, Wozniak explained that he grew up as an electronics kid who was good at math, and realized that creativity and emotional joy struck him whenever he built something. “Whatever you do that is productive and work, find ways to have enjoyment, to have fun and to joke with your friends,” he said. Wozniak introduced a simple formula for happiness, saying, “happiness equals smiles minus frowns.” He cites his father as his mentor, who also helped instill a strong ethical background in his life. Some of Wozniak’s key philosophies in life include being honest, being good to people and finding ways to be happy.
Wozniak opened up about his Apple co-founder and late friend, Steve Jobs. Wozniak met Jobs five years before Apple, and referred to him as his best friend, adding that he wouldn’t have started Apple with anyone else. When explaining the roots of their friendship, Wozniak provided a timeline description.He said that when Apple began, there was Steve Jobs 1. Then when he retired, he was Steve Jobs 2, but Wozniak knew him when he was Steve Jobs 0.
Wozniak cited the start of the company as the moment when Jobs’ personality began to shift from the laughing, joking friend of his, to someone who wanted to manage the business and become the head of the company. Wozniak focused on working on inventions. “Your personality settles between 18 to 23,” said Wozniak. “I was kind of more of a lone inventor.”
He talked about a “club of young enthusiasts,” including Jobs and himself, who wanted to create and provide computers for everyday people, rather than solely belonging to big corporations. “I passed out my designs for free to all these people in the club who wanted to bring computers to the world, wanted a social revolution…I wanted to help them,” he said.
When people think of Apple’s early days, many picture Jobs and Wozniak working out of a garage. Now, start-ups in the Bay Area and other locations throughout the nation are commonplace, but Wozniak noted that he and Jobs spearheaded this movement. “Startups really didn’t happen until Microsoft or Apple,” said Wozniak. “The idea that young people could do things because the rest of the world didn’t think they were valuable, that didn’t start until us.”
When asked about the next big technological advancements that will impact our lives in the upcoming years, Wozniak mentioned two main sources. He explained the obvious answer is self-driving cars, and electric cars as we move from gas to electricity. Wozniak also noted artificial intelligence as something to keep an eye on. He doesn’t believe artificial intelligence will become the devil of mankind, but he did joke that “if computers can build everything in the world, fine. I’ll stick out my tongue and be a dog,” Wozniak said.
Offering advice to students in the crowd, Wozniak emphasized the importance of maintaining a level of professionalism, and making sure you’re pursuing something that you want to do. Above all else, he urged students to be honest. “Decide that you’re going to be honest about things,” said Wozniak. “Honesty is the apex of all that is good. It’s the most important thing of all.”
Photos by Racquel Gonzalez/ Foghorn