Admittedly, Steve Wozniak (‘Woz’ to his buddies) of Apple fame is somewhat of an eclectic engineer and definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Many engineering professionals would be decidedly twitchy to class Woz as “one of us”. My musings today are on why Woz should be considered inspirational to us – whether you be an engineer, technician or a member of Joe Public.
Most of you would have heard about Steve Wozniak of Apple fame, but here is a quick recap (thanks to Wikipedia.com). He dropped out of UCLA (but came back later to complete his engineering degree) and together with Steve Jobs sold their prized possessions (an HP calculator and a Volkswagen car) to raise $1000 to build their first prototype Apple computer in Jobs’s bedroom (and later in the inevitable garage). Woz remarked on their enormous uncertainty at this point: ‘ We were in (Steve Jobs's) car and he said -- and I can remember him saying this like it was yesterday, "Well, even if we lose our money, we'll have a company. For once in our lives, we'll have a company.”’
Their computer was way ahead of its time in terms of simplicity and ease of use. Jobs and Wozniak sold their first 25 computers to a local dealer. Sales skyrocketed and in 1980, the Apple company went public. The next revision, the Apple II had high-resolution graphics and sustained the company over the bumps with duds such as the Apple III and Lisa until the advent of the Macintosh which has done remarkably well for the company. Obviously now with the iPod, Apple is once again roaring ahead of the market with billions of dollars of sales attributed to this one product alone (admittedly, due mainly to Steve Jobs this time).
I believe WOZ, this quirky human, being can act as a tremendous engineering inspiration especially to our younger set.
• Is philanthropic – and pours money into education
• Is brilliantly technical with the design of the initial computers and other projects since
• workED on engineering design whilst still a young sprog at home – well before university
• Thinks laterally (‘foolishly’ ?)
• Knows that the essence of good engineering design is ‘Simplicity and Usability’
• Persisted with design (and a number of failed products) before achieving success with the Macintosh
• Is a risk taker in terms of engineering design and business
• Is imaginative in terms of his design
• Focuses on people’s real needs not some techno-geeky requirements
• Is entrepreneurial - taking on many other ventures over the years
And (for what it is worth)
• Has made a helluva lot of money and has had a lot of fun; yet has strong feelings about ethics and morality. He noted in his book “To us, Dylan's songs struck a moral chord. They kind of made you think about what was right and wrong in the world, and how you're going to live and be.”
He has just written an autobiography "Woz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple and Had Fun Doing It”. It is easy and enjoyable reading for everyone, including engineers and techies. A nice story. An engineering story. Worth using as an inspiration to our fellow citizens about who our leading engineers are.