Apple Inc. legend Wozniak: ‘Love what you’re doing’

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 110 views 

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak made his first-ever trip to Arkansas over the weekend, but he was not here to enjoy all the natural beauty the state has to offer or to meet with Wal-Mart executives about launching a new product line.

Wozniak was in Fayetteville to address students, faculty and members of the community Sunday (April 7) about his life and career. The speech was part of the University of Arkansas' Distinguished Lecture Series.

Speaking to the crowd, he said students must find a purpose in their future careers in order to find personal fulfillment.

"I thought, 'Wow. I want to be a part of creating a better world,'" he said, recalling a conversation he had with his father, who was an engineer and an inspiration in his life. "The whole idea is you have to feel you have some good in you in life."

In discussing the early years of his career, Wozniak recalled being a model student and building his first computers while still in high school.

His interest and self-taught expertise in computers helped the studious Apple co-founder eventually land a plush job at Hewlett-Packard making $25,000 and freelance gigs at early Silicon Valley institutions, such as Atari.

When recalling how he landed a freelance job at Atari, Wozniak told of designing a game that eventually landed Apple's other co-founded, the storied and eccentric Steve Jobs, a full-time position at the once-dominant video game company.

"I saw Pong and I built it around my own home TV," he said, explaining how he had designed the home gaming hardware using 28 one dollar chips. "Steve Jobs came back (from college in) Oregon and he saw it and he took my board down to Atari. Atari was the corporation of the founding arcade games, animated games where things moved and they made virtual rules of games. And he took it down, and I don't know if they knew who designed it or not, but they hired him on the spot."

While such an experience could have been frustrating, it actually worked out well as it provided Jobs with full-time employment and eventually Wozniak with a freelance job designing a game that normally would have taken six months or longer, but Wozniak and Jobs were able to complete in only four days.

Eventually both men began putting their expertise in computers and programming to use, starting Apple in Jobs' parents' garage in the late 1970s.

Wozniak said Jobs was the marketing brains of the operation while he was the engineering brains.

The marketing paid off after just a few years in business when Apple was invited to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. But since sales, funding and marketing were such an integral part of making Apple a success, Wozniak said he was left out of the trip while Jobs and two others were slated to go. That was until Wozniak made a proposal: what if he could make a disk drive for storage? Could he then make the trip and show the device?

"Well, the show was two weeks away. I had never worked with any disk drive in my life, just an operating system and if I could somehow get a floppy disk working where you could type things like 'run checkbook' and it would run a checkbook program, if I could get it built and designed in two weeks, this is like a man-year job, I would get to go to Las Vegas."

He got the job done and Wozniak made his first trip to Sin City as a result.

As the company grew, Wozniak said he took interest in other areas, such as finishing his degree at the University of California at Berkley and focusing on engineering and teaching.

Regarding engineering, he said it had always been his first love and kept him making the new products, protecting him from the cut-throat world of corporate management.

And teaching, he said, was always something he wanted to do. He taught fifth grade for eight years in California, fulfilling dreams and aspirations he had always had and inspiring young minds in the process.

When asked during a press conference before his speech if he had regrets or would want to change anything about Apple, he said no. It was a message he brought with him on his first trip to the Natural State, instructing students to find their purpose and to not spend time thinking about the past.

He said a purpose may take various forms involving different jobs and even different careers during one's lifetime. But, Wozniak said, the bottom line is finding a goal and purpose and achieving it through whatever means necessary, even unconventional ones.

"Love what you're doing. It's so important in life."

The next speaker in the Distinguished Lecture Series will be musician John Legend.

According to Autumn Lewis, co-chair of the student-led Distinguished Lecture Series committee, students were surveyed on who they would like to have speak this year.

"When we surveyed students about who they wanted to see, (Steve Wozniak and John Legend) were in the top four," she said.

Legend's speech, along with a short musical performance, will take place at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 29. It will be free and open to the public, Lewis said.