Nearly four decades after “The Wonderful Wizard of Woz” helped start a microcomputer revolution in his friend’s Palo Alto, Calif., garage, Steve Wozniak comes to Colorado Springs this week as an unquestioned celebrity in his world.
Wozniak, cofounder of personal tech corporation Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.), will deliver the keynote speech at the Business Journal’s sold-out Celebrate Technology event Friday night at the Pinery on the Hill.
Prior to his appearance here, Wozniak spoke with the Business Journal via email this week to shed light on how he views the future of entrepreneurialism and innovation across the industry.
Harkening to his work with Apple in the 1970s, which included his creation of Apple computers I and II, Wozniak remembered the group’s lack of resources and how such struggles could drive creativity and critical thinking, thus inspiring technological innovation.
Our consumer devices pretty much are no longer computers in the traditional sense.”
– Steve Wozniak
“When you have few resources you have to think very hard to make something useful not cost a lot,” Wozniak said in the email. “It’s better to be good at coming up with ways to create things rather than having studied how to do it. You could build a set of ‘tricks’ that get to things others don’t, but when you are truly creative, a more important skill is coming up with ‘tricks’ based on each project or goal.”
Although “Woz” (his nickname among techies) has not worked as a full-time associate at Apple since 1987, he remains a shareholder and has spoken extensively on his involvement with the company he co-founded in 1985. He used this involvement to expound upon his projections of technological trends and revolution.
“Apple has a history of disruptive products, ones that settle the issue of what is the ‘right’ way to implement a new category of product,” Wozniak said, explaining that the “smart watch” — part phone, media player, GPS and more — may be that next Big Thing.
“Some company is going to find some totally different format, probably in shape and size, and we’ll all agree that this is the right way to do it. But we haven’t seen that ‘right’ way yet.
“Our consumer devices pretty much are no longer computers in the traditional sense,” Wozniak said. “They are good at communicating with and displaying results of the real computers that are servers in data centers.”
Wozniak, who has worked primarily in GPS, telecommunications and tech acquisitions since stepping down at Apple, said that he sees “major data center changes” coming down the pipeline with the proliferation of nonvolatile flash memory.
He explained that NAND flash, which requires no power for data storage, will greatly cut costs and lead to increased efficiency/performance.
“It’s possible that NAND flash, the primary memory product of our times, to be replaced by a non-volatile memory that is much faster and lower power, but that will only happen as long as it can be produced in the same large volumes of data per chip,” he said.
“I also envision an example that might take the world in a new direction, one of operating systems and programming languages with no storage commands. Everything is maintained as variable in tree structures and not saved in a different form in storage. The programs will be simpler in more ways than one. This depends on using non-volatile storage, even today’s NAND flash memory, in place of DRAM and in place of storage simultaneously.”
Woz continues to play an active role in the industry he knows and loves, and he offered some sage advice as to how advancements like these within the industry might take place:
It takes a good many things to be successful in today’s ever-changing environment, with nonstop evolution and creation — but most importantly, he said, it takes creativity, drive and self-assuredness.
“Try to be unique in the world this way,” he said. “Always look at a first design and come up with ideas to improve it … don’t be bothered if others don’t agree that you are on the right path. All that matters is that you believe it.”
His advice aligns perfectly with a simple slogan used in a slew of Apple advertisements from 1997 to 2002, during what would become the company’s major comeback after the return of CEO and cofounder Steve Jobs: