Greeted by a standing ovation from thousands at the USF Sun Dome, Steve “The Woz” Wozniak was named the inaugural 2018 USF Muma College of Business Thought Leader.
The legendary brain and co-founder Apple with Steve Jobs, was the sole inventor of the first personal computer, Apple I, and his subsequent masterpiece, Apple II. “The Woz” a truncation of “Woz the Wiz” (his nickname from a young age), riffed on his own story: his humble beginnings, learning logic and binary at the age of 9, and his subsequent inventions that lead to the founding of Apple, in an hour-long talk with the Dean of the College of Business, Moez Limayam.
The format of the conversation was rather unorthodox, starting with rapid fire questions and moving to Twitter and fish-bowl style questions from USF Students.
Star Trek or Star Wars? (Both. It would be like choosing between and son and daughter, Wozniak said.)
Books for Movies? (Books. Movies always leave something out.)
Pong or Space Invaders? (Pong, for its innovation in the space.)
Wozniak soon took control of the conversation and began speaking stream-of-consciousness style on the fascinating career he has had over the last 40 years. Wozniak’s genius has long been overshadowed in popular culture by the infamy of his co-founder, Steve Jobs, the marketing brain behind their iconic venture. As such, Wozniak walked a fine line between setting the record straight on his contributions to Apple and maintaining his down-to-earth, good-humored reputation.
Wozniak corrected some of the misrepresentations in the movie Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher. He highlighted his role in the invention of the first two models of the Apple computer, and was sure to mention that during these periods of wild genius and invention, Steve Jobs was spending his time at commune in the mountains, returning to find Wozniak’s latest invention and monetize it so that he would have enough money to support returning to the commune once again.
Wozniak’s goal was never to make money. He argued that any young entrepreneur should be the same way. The purpose of invention should “not be to make money, but to show one’s talents and change the world.” In fact, Wozniak stated that he was so entranced by the promise of the technology he was creating, he tried to give it away for free, openly sharing the blueprints of its creation to try to help others create their own personal computers. This was just one example of a recurring theme throughout his talk – alongside his genius lies a fundamental love for humanity and the promise that technology has for changing people’s lives. “Every young person wants to be part of a revolution and this was mine.” he said.
This theme was further crystallized in Wozniak’s inventions. Apple was the first computer company to make a mouse-driven personal computer, instead of one driven by keyboard code commands. Wozniak wanted everyday people to use his products, not just engineers.
Though Wozniak tries to avoid politics as a rule (he’s never voted in presidential elections, at least not for a candidate that could win), he made it clear that he values people and fairness over everything. When asked his thoughts on net neutrality, Wozniak mentioned that its repeal was the only cause he has ever been willing to go to Washington D.C. to fight against, and that it threatens the principles of freedom and equality that the Internet was founded on. Over technology and profit, “Humans always must be more important.” he said. “That shouldn’t ever change.”