My Lunch with the Woz

November 29, 2010

Torah Kachur

Steve Wozniak is an entrepreneur, an engineer, a self-confessed phone-geek and the co-founder of Apple Computers.  He is sooooooo much more than just a dancer.


      Torah Kachur Steve Wozniak DWTS Science in Seconds  Woz Apple-1


The larger-than-life Woz is engaging, funny and downright charming.  Not to be confused with a Wuzzle, although he is a doppleganger for Bumblelion.  I had lunch with the Woz on a recent London excursion and he talked my ears off about the history of Apple, his committment to doing things right and his absolute and unwavering passion for engineering.  In particular, he recounted many stories of his original passion - phone hacking.  Yes, a jovial Steve W. and his buddy Steve Jobs were obsessed with finding ways to prank call, dial free long distance and otherwise outsmart the phone companies.  Want free long distance?  Phone phreaks Woz and Jobs used Blue Boxes to even prank call the Vatican.


Then, he started a Dial-a-Joke business that was, in his estimates, the most-called single phone number in all of the US at the time.  For a local call you could hear a Pollack joke recorded in the infectious voice of Woz.  Sometimes, when the Woz was bored, he picked up the phone and dealt a joke live and in person.  He got complaints from the Polish League of America for being not 'PC', but they dropped their contention when he decided to make fun of Italians... because apparently that is more PC. 


It was from phones in high school to computers in college that eventually gave rise to the Homebrew Computer Club and Apple Computer company.  Just after the computer that he handbuilt and designed, the Apple-1 sold at auction for a whopping $170,000, the Woz was humbled by his role in the invention of the personal computer.  He admits he never could have imagined the iPad or even the laptop, but that wasn't his vision at the time either.  He has never cared about the money but only ever cared about engineering the right machine and having elegant designs and also trying to make Steve Jobs laugh.  A tough assignment, Jobs is as humourless as they come.


When asked if Apple Inc. jump-started the personal computer revolution, Woz kindly disagrees - in fact, he suggests quite the opposite - that the successor to the Apple-II, the Apple-III actually stunted the computer revolution by about five years.  Apple Computer's vision of a graphics interface was too early for it to be feasible, allowing Microsoft to fill the void.  His passion for designing the 'right' machine with incredible engineering and the desire to be fantastic made a computer that wasn't realistic for the average consumer.  Too expensive despite it's brilliance.  It would take Apple years to finally recover back into the fold as true competition with PCs.  It wasn't until some commercials with a bumbling dude in a brown suit did they make Mac 'cool'.


Story after story came from the Woz and all were funny as hell to me.  But not so much to his lovely daughter, Sarah, who admits that she's heard these stories before.... a few million times.


I didn't admit to him I love my Blackberry.


Geeks = need friends.  Facebook, Twitter, or even E-mail... if you're in to that sort of thing.



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