“Android came out of the mind of someone who worked at Apple”
Steve Wozniak offers a glimpse into the future of technology and which gadgets he believes will stand the test of time
Together with Steve Jobs he created the first personal computer with a graphical user interface, the Mac. Steve Wozniak (born in Sunnyvale, 1950) dreamed of making computers for housewives, students and anyone who had something they needed to create but who did not have IT knowledge. His invention revolutionized technology and the consumer market forever. The co-founder of Apple brought with him his technical knowledge and great stores of patience. Jobs supplied the vision.
In 1987, 11 years after starting Apple, Wozniak left his full-time company position, but he has maintained a close relationship with the tech giant. He also has an unknown number of shares, enough to spare him any worries about household bills. When he was 10 he promised his father that he would become an engineer like him, but he also confessed that his vocational calling was to be like his fifth-grade teacher. He has always taken any opportunity to teach young people how electronics work, to the point that he once set up a classroom in his garage. Woz, as he is affectionately known, continues to make generous donations to the schools in his area so that they can provide their students with technological equipment.
He talks fast and smiles as he does so. Despite the graying hair, you get the feeling that the imaginative and confident child within still dominates his personality, as he has just shown a Madrid audience with his show The Creative Being. Observant, before shaking hands with his interviewer, he notices what is in her other hand: “Hey, you have the iPhone 5S in space gray.”
Question. What is your favorite gadget?
Answer. I used to say the Apple II computer because from then on you would be happy with your life. You could sit down any day with a puzzle in your mind, and write a program, and it was color and everything. But now I am actually saying it was the iPhone 4. That was such beautiful engineering. The fact that the metal going around it was an antenna was a positive feature for me and the iPhone 5 is just so much better and more beautiful. I just like and appreciate the beauty of gadgets and I am getting more use in my life now from the iPhone than I probably have from any other.
Q. Do you use other phones?
A. My primary phone is an iPhone. Well, in fact my two primary phones are iPhones but my next four are Androids because I like exploring; I am a personal experimenter. I like to see what other people are doing in the world that’s good, so usually, just by reading like everyone else, I can see which of the phones might be very special.
Q. What do you think of the Nexus cellphones and tablets by Google?
A. I haven’t tried the Nexus 5. I used to buy all the Nexus phones and, you know what, I used to like the pure Google software of the Nexus phone, and, for the first time with the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One, I’m starting to like some of the software that comes with them rather than straight Google. What I don’t like is the stuff the carriers put on, but the main factors are OK with me.
Q. Steve Jobs said that Android was the enemy. Do you see it that way?
A. I think in economic terms for Apple it was. In competitive terms, that was fair and realistic. Android came from someone who used to work at Apple and he had Macintosh thinking in him; I knew him very well because I was on the board of his other company making feature phones. Looking back it’s hard to say if it was good or bad. It opened up a lot more competition and it opened up the world to a lot more people to write apps and come up with ideas to make Samsung phones, so I think it was a good thing. We can’t say we think competition is good and then also say they are the enemy if they’re a competitor. I always think as a consumer. Even if I am working for Apple, I think as a consumer.
Q. What do you like about Android?
A. I like the variation Android phones give us. What if we only had the iPhone and nothing else? Boy, you would never even know what big screens are like and organic LED displays; the camera options and some of the neat features to control your TV at home, so we’re having choice and I like a lot of choice. Choice is freedom and we’re wealthier if we have a lot more choices.
Q. Do you still get in line to buy new Apple products?
A. Yes, yes, I still do that. I didn’t go out when the iPhone 5S came out and some people thought something strange was going on, but there was a reason. The night before my wife and I were driving home from Los Angeles. We got back kind of late and we had so little sleep. I couldn’t stay up all night again; I just couldn’t do it. It was the first time in my life that I called the manager of the store to reserve the models I wanted so I could sleep in and go pick them up in the afternoon.
Q. Did you go and buy the iPad Air?
A. Yes, every time a new iPad was launched, I waited in line, except one time – I think it was something really minor – it came out on Verizon, there was no line, or just a tiny line the night before and my wife went down and picked it up for me.
I don't know about Google Glass; it’s like Bluetooth earphones; everyone wears them for a week or two and then they take them out"
Q. What applications do you use most?
A. Siri is the basic one and I have a very busy flying schedule so out of all the others I use a couple of airport applications and one to help me find my seats on the plane. I use Foursquare to check in and it’s the only social network that I use pro-actively, but I share on Facebook and Twitter. But then I get a hundred messages back from Twitter users and I read and I read and I read them, and I answer a few. But I am only one person! I refuse to close myself off and make myself only reachable to certain people. It’s one of my philosophies of life so I use a lot of Facebook and Twitter.
Q. I know which restaurants you go to and what you buy when you go shopping… Aren’t you afraid that absolutely anyone can know where you are?
A. No, I’m not afraid. I grew up not wanting to be hidden and I have philosophies against it. I would never, for example, have an unlisted phone number. I could not allow myself to. And I determined these philosophies when I was about 20, the age when your personality settles. I am a very open person, I used to have a webcam on all the time in my office and people from all over the world could zoom in. This was long before webcams could do that so I was an early starter in that kind of openness.
Q. Have you tried Google Glass?
A. Only once. I have good friends in Google so I could get Google Glass but it’s a test period and they want people to test them. I am traveling so much that I would not have had time in the last few months to test them fairly, so I will let other people do that and see the final version.
Q. Do you think it has a lot of potential?
A. I don’t know if that one’s going to make it, and the only reason I say that is because it’s like Bluetooth earphones; everyone wears them for a couple of weeks and then they take them out. I don’t know if glasses are going to be in the same characteristic. All I know is that I enjoy wearing a watch and glasses, and either one of them makes me feel like I have more of a life, for some reason.
Q. What gadget has caught your eye recently?
A. I was in Russia a couple of weeks ago and I was given a cellphone whose name I don’t remember. I am fascinated by it although I haven’t had the chance to get deeper in with it. It has screens on both sides, one with electronic ink. It works on Android and looks like it has a lot of uses. I hope it works well for them.
A. I have been very happy with some of the outcomes from Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and sometimes I just want to help someone with their art, like making an album. But sometimes what is created does not turn out to be as good as what you thought it was going to be, and sometimes I don’t even pay any attention because I got into so many Kickstarter projects and the things turn up in the mail. I have had some really good ones. I am carrying with me one on this trip for the first time. It’s a couple of little credit-card sized things and if you fold them a certain way, you get an iPhone holder.
Q. What advice would you give to somebody starting out in technology as a career?
A. Don’t start unless you like mathematics to begin with -- mathematics and logic science. If you find yourself wanting to learn more and more about that area, especially if it gets toward technology, try to get some early starter kits. My suggestion is to do like I did in the old days, which is to start with electronics, where you actually hook little resistors, transistors and parts together with wires. Secondary to that, if you are more interested in software than hardware, you could start with a Raspberry Pi or the Arduino. There are tons of books about do-it-yourself projects. Make sure that your parents will support you with money to buy little pieces; that makes such a difference.