Steve Wozniak aka The Woz is a genius at engineering. He is also a very funny person, although he was incredibly shy in his early years. I guess becoming a founder of the most successful technology company in the world has pushed him beyond reticence into joking about how it all happened. His talk at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, Nov. 19 made it clear that the experience was enormous fun.
Put Woz’ personality ingredients together and you have a combustible mix. You get high school pranks that today would get you expelled or even put in jail, like making a fake “bomb” with a metronome in it to tick tick tick, and then tick all the faster when the teacher opened the locker door. The teacher was so scared he dragged the “bomb” into the center of the football field to dismantle it. At his high school they had a file of pranks the principal knew Woz had done “but he was too smart to get caught.”
The Woz brought this playfulness to Apple. “I would invent brand new things just to have fun and Steve (Jobs) would find ways to make money off them. But when it came to the Apple I computer Woz did it just the way he wanted it to be. I told Steve, “if you want a different computer, go get yourself one.” Of course there were no other personal computers in the world, “so he was stuck with mine.”
The Woz was very aware that the product had to be not only engineered to work perfectly but also to look like everyone’s best dream of what the product could be. He calls that marketing. Of course the other Steve excelled at that. The third ingredient Woz adds is financing plus business knowledge. When Apple had no money to manufacture their product, entrepreneur Mark Markulla supplied $250,000 and his expertise in building tech companies. He was certain personal computing would take off.
Apple put together all three elements: the engineering to make a product work, the marketing to make it something people really wanted, and the financing to make it real. The result is history.