Hey Steve! I saw you speak in Orlando at the ASI Show last year. As a fan of Apple and moderator of /r/apple, I really enjoyed hearing about your personal relationship with Steve Jobs and how you were such a driving force behind the birth of the personal computer. Naturally, I was very disappointed at how little time you had on stage, so I’m really looking forward to this AMA so I can hear more!
So here’s my chance to ask you the question I wanted to ask back then.
Given that it’s been about 10 years since the first iPhone, it makes you wonder what smartphones will be like in another 10 years. Where do you see smartphones going in the next decade? At this point, new features seem to be somewhat minor, so I’m wondering if you have any insight on what form factors or major hardware features we might see in the not-so-necessarily-near future.
Also, what kind of apple are you eating?
Thanks so much for doing this AMA!
I don't have any incredibly visionary answers. Basically, the form of the human body has defined what kind of devices work for us in what ways, you know? In other words, the shape of a rake or a broom hasn't had to change a lot in many years, and what fits into the hand and is easily useable and accessible, I expect major smartphones are going to look the same in 10 years.
Wearables are becoming very attractive because of the less hassle to use them. I like picking up my watch, and asking it to send a quick text to my wife, or using it for other things without having to pull the phone out of my pocket.
One of my favorites of all is the Amazon Echo, because I don't have to move or pull anything out of my pocket. I don't even have to get out of the sheets in bed to use it.
Interesting! I do love my Apple Watch, so I guess that is an evolution of the smartphone. I hadn't thought of it that way. What kind of smart watch are you wearing these days?
These days I'm wearing an Apple Watch. It's the stainless steel sapphire one. I like that it's got a magnetic band. I don't remember where it was on the price scale... I think it's kinda towards the low end of all those watches. But I just love this little flexible magnetic bend.
Of course, every once in awhile I'll put my hand on a table in a restaurant, and pull my hand back, and it pulls back the fork with me, that attaches to the magnet of the watch. That's kinda funny.
The evolution of personal computers, from the start on, usually when the changes got made, they got made in terms of input and output; the display resolution and how you signal your input. At first, you typed on a keyboard. Then, you got to go to a mouse where you could point at things as well. Now you can reach your hand out and drag things. So, the watch is just another evolution where basically about all you can do on it is talk and tap a little, but speaking into it commands it, and it's just closer to you. The input/output is closer to you, and easier to use.
But you know, I had some other smart watches, and I got turned off. One of them I kinda liked actually, called the Martian Watch. It was a very very simple one, but you could talk Siri commands into it. But I had the first Galaxy Gear, and after half a day, it just turned me off that it was separated; it felt between me and my phone. Whereas, the Apple Watch does some amazing things with Apple Pay, boarding passes for airplanes, and all the Siri commands that work. I do wish the speaker were louder.
Seeing as you're hosting a Comic Con... who's your favorite comic book character?
You know what, I'd go back to the early days. There has to be a start of something, just like personal computers. You know, I'd go back to the old, boring — like Superman. You know, I like all of them about equally. I love all of the ones in the Avengers, I love Spiderman, Batman. I don't have a personal favorite at all. It's just the whole genre, you know. Every one of them reaches me emotionally the same way as the others.
What is the most funny prank that you've pulled?
u/andymbrit, I get asked that everywhere. I have pulled so many hundreds of pranks; I pull pranks almost every day! So I can't come up with one funniest prank. Sometimes I like to talk about early ones; when I was so young, how could I have thought of it.
I did like the one where I put a little ticking electronic metronome in a school locker, back when very few people could build such things as a ticking metronome; and I had it rigged so that when you opened the locker, a little tinfoil switch caused the ticking to speed up.
As a wannabe 20 year old entrepreneur i look up to you and jobs as role models. I'm currently working on a product with a team that we hope will have a big impact on the technology world. What advice can you give a group of 20 somethings when it comes to perfecting a product and growing a company?
BTW during your "formative" episode, we felt like you were talking directly to us - we have an engineer, business minded guy, and marketing guy on our team :) thanks steve
You have the right team. Hopefully you all have great skills. But you know, something more important than skills, more important than education is motivation. Wanting to do something. Having your own reason. And one of the things you should do is separate yourself off from the money.
There's a great quote that I came across from Russell Simmons "Operate from a place of needing nothing. Needing nothing attracts everything." And I find that so true in so many places in life. Be willing to go out and build stuff that you like, even if it doesn't seem like it's a huge business success right away. Your learning from it will put you in the position to build those devices that someday in the future maybe have a major relevance on the world.
One thing is humility doesn't matter. You don't have to act like you have everything, know everything. Try and make common sense decisions, but look at Apple. The image of starting in a garage, as true and untrue as it isn't, it still represents the humility. You start at home, you're with your own friends, you guys are working for nothing, that's really exactly the same as how Apple started, and hopefully you're in a field that grows.
What are your thoughts on the FBI/DOJ vs Apple ordeal at the moment?
All through my time with personal computers from the start, I developed an attitude that things like movement towards newer, better technologies - like the Macintosh computer, like the touchscreen of the iPhone - that these were making the human more important than the technology. We did not have to modify our ways of living. So the human became very important to me. And how do you represent what humanity is?
You know what, I have things in my head, some very special people in my life that I don't talk about, that mean so much to me from the past. Those little things that I keep in my head are my little secrets. It's a part of my important world, my whole essence of my being. I also believe in honesty. If you tell somebody, "I am not snooping on you," or, "I am giving you some level of privacy; I will not look in your drawers," then you should keep your word and be honest. And I always try to avoid being a snoop myself, and it's rare in time that we can look back and say, "How should humans be treated?" Not, "How can the police run everything?"
I was brought up in a time when communist Russia under Stalin was thought to be, everybody is spied on, everybody is looked into, every little thing can get you secretly thrown into prison. And, no. We had our Bill of Rights. And it's just dear to me. The Bill of Rights says some bad people won't do certain bad things because we're protecting humans to live as humans.
So, I come from the side of personal liberties. But there are also other problems. Twice in my life I wrote things that could have been viruses. I threw away every bit of source code. I just got a chill inside. These are dangerous, dangerous things, and if some code gets written in an Apple product that lets people in, bad people are going to find their way to it, very likely.
What is Tim Cook doing right/wrong, in your opinion?
Tim Cook is acknowledging the employees of Apple and the customers of Apple as real people. He is continuing a strong tradition that Steve Jobs was known for of making good products that help people do things they want to do in their life, and not taking the company into roads of, "Oh, we'll make all our money like by knowing you and advertising to you.” We'll make good products. And you know, I started out as a hardware product guy, so I'm glad to see that.
I worry a little bit about - I mean I love my Apple Watch, but - it's taken us into a jewelry market where you're going to buy a watch between $500 or $1100 based on how important you think you are as a person. The only difference is the band in all those watches. Twenty watches from $500 to $1100. The band's the only difference? Well this isn't the company that Apple was originally, or the company that really changed the world a lot. So it might be moving, but you've got to follow, you know. You've got to follow the paths of where the markets are.
Everything else, I'm very approving of Tim Cook, because every time we have a new iOS update, I'm very happy that it's doing things that really affect people. Like transferring calls from my phone to my computer, etc. I really love even the Airplay, and all that. So, I love the software, and I love the hardware, and nothing's letting me down. So I approve very strongly of Tim Cook and the new Apple. I dearly miss Steve Jobs too, but, that's all.
What is your opinion on how immersive our technology is becoming? We use computers in some form, almost constantly. Do you ever feel in your own life you that it becomes overwhelming?
I have that feeling all the time because I like a nice, quiet, simple life. I grew up shy. I'm more into products than I'm into socializing. And I do not carry around my phone answering every text message instantly. I am not one of those people.
I wait until I'm alone in my places and get on my computer and do things where I think I'm more efficient. I really see a lot of people that are dragged into it, but you know, I don't criticize them. When you have change, it's not that the change in how people are behaving different to you is bad or good, it’s just different.
So that's sort of the modern way, and you know the millennials, every generation wants to criticize the next generation for missing out on things like personal human contact, but I'll tell you a little story. When we started Apple, Steve Jobs and I talked about how we wanted to make blind people as equal and capable as sighted people, and you'd have to say we succeeded when you look at all the people walking down the sidewalk looking down at something in their hands and totally oblivious to everything around them!
Hi! First off, you are my greatest idol :) I was wondering, why did you leave Apple? (Thanks in advance!)
Hi Clyde, thanks. I left Apple partly because i wanted to be, like, a normal person. I didn't want to seek wealth and power, because in my mind it often corrupts people, and I didn't want to be that person who runs a company. The first time I left Apple was an odd accident. I had a plane crash as a pilot. I didn't come out of an amnesia state for five weeks where I didn't know time was passing. When I came out of the amnesia I realized that the Macintosh team (they were my favorite, most creative thinking team at Apple, and I was on that team), would be fine without me.
So I called up Steve Jobs and told him "Macintosh team's in great shape, I'm gonna go back to college and get my degree." I had one year left to go. If I waited another year it would be too late to ever go back to college again actually. So I went back to Berkeley under the fake name Rocky Raccoon Clark, and that's what it says on my Berkeley diploma. That was the first time I left Apple. I came back and worked as an engineer. When the Macintosh project failed we had to recover with some Apple II projects, took us into the Apple IIGS to keep some money coming into the company for a while as we built the Macintosh market. And then I left the second time because I love startups. I love just a group of two or three or five people talking about an idea and going out and making it a reality. It may not be all the millions and billions of dollars in the world, but it's something you're doing yourself. The idea I came up with was for the first universal remote control, the CL 9 Core, so I left Apple to build that.
Are you happy that when you were actively developing hardware, you didn't have to deal with all the issues that arise around security of userdata? Do you wish that there would have been more work around these issues back when you were innovating at Apple?
Creating new things is hard enough on its own; you don't have time to think about, "Oh, there'll be security issues." Keep in mind that the original Apple computers, for quite a long time, were not connected to networks or the Internet. They were just, the computer was in your hands, it would run a program that would help you with some of your daily work, or some problems you needed to solve.
Today, our computers are just sitting out in data centers, and the devices in our hands are simply displaying what the data centers have taken all the information off of hard disks, assembled it, analyzed it, computed it, and sent it back to us. So really, our computers are anonymous. They're out there somewhere, and who knows what their safety and security level is. We didn't even have to think about that.
Almost every time a technology is brand new, it leaves security as a later concern. Look at the phone system in the United States. When I was young, you could put tones into a United States phone if you learned about "phone phreaking," and you could cause calls to be dialed for free anywhere in the world. Who would have thought the phone system would have such a simple flaw? Well actually, they just didn't think people would be able to build tone generators in about... forever.
What do you think about the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley tech companies? How do we make Silicon Valley more inclusive?
Almost everyone I know that's in technology absolutely speaks that there should be equal salaries, and equal job opportunities. However, I tend to hang around normal, bottom-of-the-org chart people; they're my favorite people! And maybe up the management chain, there are different ways of thinking. Sometimes you say and feel, "I want there to be gender equality," or ethnic equality, and yet something inside you subconsciously - not really on your brain or words you say to people - drives you to think differently and act differently. So, it's kind of unseen.
I will make one strong comment. When I went back to college in CS at Berkeley, about three-fourths of the students were from southeast Asian countries where they grow up strong in the STEM subjects, and they were 50/50 male/female; equal gender distribution. Among the caucasians, it was more like 90/10 males in computer science or engineering.
It's just something in the culture that's so big, there's no answer for it. There's no one person who can answer it. We can certainly try some kind of affirmative action; I'm actually for it, to make up for errors of the past that still are prolonged and go on with us.
Are you still part of a segway polo league?
I am a part, but not as much as I was. I used to be on a team that practiced every week, and now, I'm not around very much and they don't have that many practices around where I live. So, kind of about once a year when the final International championship comes up, or the European championships, I'll fly over and participate and play. It's a skill you don't totally forget.
But if you're thinking about polo, you have to have strong hands with a mallet, and I have very weak hands now; I'm getting older, so I'm not really a good player. But I was a very good player once! And I love the sport very much. My wife and I both play it, and we even got married at one of the segway polo matches, on 08/08/08 at 8:08 PM, of course.
Hi Steve! Thanks for doing this AMA.
My question for you is , How did you stay focused in college and work?
I was lucky to be a good, top student, getting the math awards at my schools, so you get a little bit of a head start, and things like STEM subjects build upon each other. If you've been good the year before, you're more likely to do very well the next year. When I was in college though, I was actually rather unfocused. I had my own loves in my life that were not taught. All the way through school we had nothing about computers. No books in bookstores, not even magazines, and that was the passion of my life.
So I stumbled into things by accident, and I'm very thankful for all those accidents. But I tended to get an idea in my head, and I'd just want to go off in that direction and do it. A focused student is someone who does all the right homework and gets all the right grades and they answer all the questions the same as somebody else that's called smart, you know. And I don't know, I always wanted to be in a different world, think differently. So I wasn't all that focused.
I just kept building things for the fun of it, and I wasn't worried about I've got to meet some specs to have a company that makes money. So I'm very thankful I had a great friend who was always after having companies and money and turning things into more, and that was Steve Jobs.
Thank you for doing this, Steve! Even though you left in 1985, what was your relationship with the company like after, and how has that changed compared to now? Are you, for example, allowed to go and visit any colleagues that still work there or are you simply another outsider?
Well, obviously Apple is the most important thing ever in my life, and it would be no matter what I might go off and try to do outside and say. No I would only say one thing, I am Apple.
When I left in '85, the same as when I left in '81, I actually remained an employee on a slight payroll. I had a letter from apple wishing me luck. I sat on a blackboard and showed them what my intent was to go and create as a product, and there was absolutely no conflict. I like to live a life where kinda everyone likes me. I'm just not bad. If somebody is bad to me, I'm still good to them.
Somehow I grew up with these values that seem kind of incredible, so I always was on good terms with Apple and they always liked me, I'm always welcome. I could come by, Steve Jobs would always make sure I had a badge that could get me into any building. I didn't use it much, but I can go there. The only trouble is I'll get mobbed.
What is your favorite up and coming gadget? Anything people don't know about yet?
Well, I would think probably one of them is certainly the Oculus Rift, or any of the VR headsets. I love putting mine on and watching a basketball game live; it was just an experience that you can't believe. Sometimes I come out of a VR world, take off the helmet, and I can't believe I'm actually sitting in my office, at a desk at home. So, that's one of the big ones.
Right now, Amazon Echo; it's getting so popular among the people that use it and they speak so highly of it, and it's so inexpensive. I see a lot of developers that went into smartphones jumping onto that. It's a platform, and when you have a platform that everybody else is writing apps for and connecting to, basically they're advertising your company as much as you are.
Obviously, I'm very interested in the evolution of self-driving cars. Right now, the assist that they give you for keeping in your lane and cruise control...the cruise control started back in 2004 actually, adjusting your distance. I love driving my Tesla so much, I just smile! I sit there in the driver's seat, and I kinda look over at my wife, and I just smile. I'm so happy, not using my hands or feet. So, I think the progression towards self-driving cars is going to be a good one. But it falls into that category of AI.
Now, the AI that impresses me, I fell in love 10 years ago - well not 10 years ago, but whenever it started; Siri was an app you could buy for the iPhone, and I bought it. And for one year, Apple didn't have it. I just spoke of it as the app that changed my life, because I get to live as a human, saying things out of my head the way I would to another human, and a machine understands me. And I have wanted that to be the future for...forever.
Actually, ever since our Newton message pad, where I could type in, "Sara, dentist, Tuesday, 2 PM," and click the assist button, and it would open up the calendar; Tuesday at 2 PM, it would put the word dentist, and it would grab Sara out of my contact list. I hand wrote with my own muscles a message for myself, for a human, and a machine understood me. So, I want that to get better and better; machines understanding what we mean, so that we can eventually communicate with them as our best, most trusted friends that know our own hearts and souls better than other humans.
Hi Woz, thanks for doing this! Other than the occasional AMA, what do you spend your free time doing?
Making jokes and playing pranks!
To tell you the truth, I don't really have a lot of free time, because I do a lot of public speaking, and so when I get free time like at home, it's often only a couple days here, a couple days there. There are different months - right now I'm at the end of about 2 to 3 months worth - where I had mostly to myself, and that's wonderful, too.
When I have free time, I like to go to all the normal entertainment things, go to the movies. My wife and I, oddly enough, maybe go to 50 concerts a year, and we almost always only go to the small little ones. We have to drive an hour to San Francisco to get to all the little small playrooms and music bars; tiny to medium-sized places. In the time I've known my wife, we've rarely, rarely - maybe only two times ever - gone to an arena concert, because everybody does that. I mean, thank god we went to the Springsteen one the other night, but that's rare rare rare.
And we like movies, we like reading books, we like driving a ton. When you're home with short periods for vacation time, oh, we love our road trips so much, and audio books. We love listening to those together, or talking, or listening to music on the way. Fortunately we like the same things, and books, and music, and politics, and everything!
Hi Steve, I saw you on a plane once but didn't want to bother you (you're welcome!).
I know you are a big fan of Tesla, and there have been rumors about Apple entering the car market -- do you think Apple would be wise to enter the car market? If so, in what capacity?
Apple is a huge huge company in the world, and a huge company to look at opportunities that they should really tackle and put high investment in, would have to be big in dollar volume. Look at the size of the car market. Here we are at the turning point of cars, we might be heading towards replacing gas-driven cars with electric cars some day. Maybe Tesla is the first real star of realizing that the formula is the equivalent of gas stations on the highway for electric cars. So electric cars are coming and the self-driving cars with artificial intelligence, looking at everything and spotting stop signs.
A couple months ago my wife got rear ended. Totaled actually, totaled in one of our cars, and the girl was crying from breaking up with her girlfriend and didn't see the red light. But if she'd been driving some kind of self-aware car, it would have stopped because of the red light. So I think that we're really going to improve life a lot with some of those things, and that's where Apple likes to be. Basically making products that make a better world for the users. So the car market makes total sense to me for Apple, but the important thing is that I hope if they get off on a product, something that they could sell and make a lot of money for but is not "insanely great" as Steve jobs would say, Apple should drop it and start over.
And I think I read recently that some executives or some executive from Apple's car division left. Well, I think that's good if Apple says "We're not making the product that is going to stimulate all of humanity, that's not our business as Apple. We don't want to just be another another electric car or self driving car,” or whatever. So I'm really for that in Apple.
Outback vs In-n-out?
Well, I like the fact that In-N-Out makes a strong effort to use higher quality better foods, and they're getting rid of ‘bacteria treated whatever’ meats now...I appreciate that and I like In-N-Out, but Outback is my favorite. I just can dig into the variety of things they have on their menu depending on what I'm feeling that night, so I'd go with that. But sure, you know I love all the little fast food places too.
I wish you'd ask something more like “In-N-Out or Panda Express?”, that would be a tougher one.
Hi Steve! I remember hearing about how you invented the sound card from a dream you had. Have you dreamed up any new devices lately?
I don't remember which sound card this is about. I actually do dream up devices that would be cool all the time, and I don't really form a list that I'm working on in my memory. I just keep them inside of me and they come up when they're needed. Usually I'm looking for an underlying technology developed by physics people and chemistry people on a new type of chip that didn't exist before that makes something possible that wasn't possible before.
I had a start-up company to make a little device that would be very low cost, you know like $30 in the grocery store, and you could just pop in anywhere and the battery would last for a year and it would be a little detection device that would notify you if your dog got out of the fence at home, or where your car is located if you forget, and I failed. I failed on technology grounds of cost, size, and the amount of power usage.
But I swear to god, I just keep thinking all the time about the technology advances that would have to be done to make that device possible. So maybe I'll even get back to it someday.
Steve, what's the greatest invention that you wished you designed?
That question might be too hard for any human being.
Greatest invention... I just described one, which was a device to pop anywhere - real tiny, into a glove compartment, a backpack, whatever - and be able to locate it, wherever it is in the world. There are some devices that kind of claim that now, but they don't really work sufficiently.
A device that gives us one extra hour per day?
Who was the first person to call you 'Woz'?
I don't remember who first called me Woz, I remember that nickname started coming to me when I was working at Hewlett Packard '73, '74, '75, around the start of Apple for some reason. So that became sort of a name I used to identify myself with Apple and the new products.
I found out later in life that almost every Wozniak gets the nickname Woz over time. Their friends just start calling them that. My uncle is Uncle Woz. My son, his friends call him Woz, and I turn to my kid and I realize they’re talking to Gary instead. So it goes back. It's just nice.
I like short simple things in technology, so I like shortening my name, I like shortening my signature. And what a privilege to grow up like Sting where one word and people know who you are
What do you consider the most difficult obstacle you've ever had to overcome?
I had an easy life. I was so good in math, science, electronics, computers, way ahead of the world, that I would never have to worry about a job. So, I didn't even have obstacles of, how am I going to get a good job or do these things?
Certainly in my early design days, I sometimes tackled problems that I didn't know if it was possible to solve, but when I'd get there I'd try to look for a solution, and somehow I always found it. Magic was pouring out of me, back in those days.
In later times, well, I've had divorces. So I guess you could say those are obstacles in life that I regret. But sometimes you grow up with a geekish personality that isn't really very social, and I dunno, you wind up in places you shouldn't have been.
Let's see, other obstacles...I described one earlier about a product I was trying to make, to locate things like pets and cars and briefcases. The obstacles that I ran into were whether I could come up with some magic ideas. And I did come up with at least one magic idea, but it didn't achieve the results I wanted in terms of price, power usage, and size.
Basically I think obstacles do a lot with dealing with people, and I work very independently, as far as I can, and then turn it over to others in very complete forms. So I didn't have a lot of the obstacles some people would talk about.
Obviously in business, we ran into obstacles at Apple. We all believed so much in doing the right thing, and building the Macintosh for the future rather than keeping with the dumb old computers of the past, and trying to achieve the world market. You know, holding our percentage of the world market as it grew ten times. We let Microsoft have all that growth, because we believed in doing the right things. Would you ever look back and say you regretted it or it was an obstacle? No. It was something we had to work hard to finally build a Macintosh market, and get our company back. But, we did the right thing.
Do you still 'tinker'?
I don't tinker the way I did in the old days. The last time I tinkered was to build a little Segway key burner where I could twist some dials, set my own speed codes on it, and tell the segway how fast it was allowed to go.
I keep my soldering iron and tools handy, but I have such a busy life; public speaking, I'm with a company that's working on storage and data centers, I'm putting on Comic Cons. Such a busy life, it's hard to get the time to tinker, but I admire the young people and my older friends who do that. I just admire them so greatly. It's really where the great future products are going to come from.
I think it's much less important to get somebody who has PhDs in all these subjects. If you can find somebody who never went to college but has built a lot of things as a tinkerer - knows how to operate the equipment, run into their own little garage or laboratory quickly and whip something out - that's the person that companies are missing out on, and all their requisition requirements overlook those people.
I can admire the tinkerers.