Steve Wozniak says man is computer’s best friend

If you heard Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak speak at the Melbourne Business School recent Dean’s Leaders Forum in Sydney, you would have heard his disturbing view of humanity’s future.

It’s an ironic vision, especially coming from a man who’s done as much as anyone to aid and abet our modern obsession by pioneering the home computer market almost 40 years ago and helping put iPhones and iPads within reach of every second person on the planet.

“We want computers to do everything for us and be our best friends. The humans are acting like they want to be the family dog.”

The innovative electronics engineer was the guest speaker at the invitation-only event, hosted by MBS and William Roberts Lawyers, as part of the recent World Business Forum in Sydney.


Changing the world

Steve, who wanted to be an engineer since childhood because “they make things that change the world’, says we’re now witnessing the next step in computer evolution – when they gain consciousness and the ability to learn; something he thought would never happen.

“I thought we would never be able to equal the brain. But computers are being taught with neural networks to learn and find the methods that solve problems,” says Steve of the potential of computers to control and operate everything.

 “Is that scary?” asked forum moderator Joanne Gray (SEMBA 2007), editor of BOSS magazine.

“No,” Steve said, “It's beautiful. We all love it. We want more of it.”

Apple Watchless

While Steve remains Apple’s longest-serving staff member, he’s not always its biggest fan. He left the company twice (but remains on its payroll) and is unmoved by the Apple Watch.
“If you buy the gold one for $17,000, you're getting your money's worth. It's like a gold Rolex. You're buying $17,000 worth of prestige. But there are 20 models from $500 up to $1100, and the only difference is the band. So I wonder, is Apple selling watches or bands?”

$1 trillion company

Steve began Apple in 1977 with the help of creative genius Steve Jobs and angel investor Mike Markkula, who provided a US$250,000 loan and US$80,000 for a third share of a business now worth almost $1 trillion.

Steve has been building and designing electronic gadgets since elementary school, including a slightly illegal blue box that made it possible to call anywhere in the world for free, which friend Steve Jobs said they should sell.

That was five years before they started Apple, whose name they took from the Beatles record label because it was ‘so cool’. While working on scientific calculators at Hewlett Packard, Steve designed the first Apple computer but they weren’t interested.

“The exciting, beautiful, colourful, video-game world for homes, they just wouldn't have understood it, so it's a good thing they turned me down a total of five times.”

He and Steve Jobs started Apple after receiving a big order of fully built computers from a store owner, who saw the potential. But the real success came with the Apple II.


Apple II the rescue

“The Apple II was a revolution. Everything was colour,” Steve says. “We even had colour pixels, high-resolution pixels, and video games you could animate – 100,000 colour dots a second.

“All of a sudden, I could write in half hour the program Breakout, which would have taken most people months just to design the hardware. And I called Steve Jobs, over at my apartment, and I was shaking, I was quivering: 'Now that games are software, the world is never going to be the same.'


Holy trinity of success

The Apple II underpinned revenue at Apple for almost two decades, and there was no looking back. He puts the company’s success down to a holy trinity that all starts-ups should note.
“A start-up team should always include somebody who has business know-how, who makes sure everything is running and the right people are hired. But you should also include an engineer who's thinking out of the box all his life, solving problems, figuring out new ways to do things, who can give you better ideas on how far your product could go.

“And you also need somebody that’s not building the product for other people, but for themselves. You need at least one of those on your founding team to get the product so excellent that you won't have to worry about your company for the next 10 years.”

If you’re wondering which company this world-changing engineer thinks embraces Apple’s founding spirit, a clue can be found in his choice of cars.

“The Tesla costs $100,000. It's a luxury vehicle for luxury people. But I tell you, every one of our young relatives, who drives our Tesla tells you it's the best. They're now talking about a Model III for $35,000, which will go 200 miles (320 km) on a charge. That’s going to attract a lot more attention.”