Steve Wozniak receives the Heinz Award in Technology, the Economy and Employment for single-handedly designing the first personal computer and for then redirecting his lifelong passion for mathematics and electronics toward lighting the fires of excitement for education in grade school students and their teachers. Known simply and affectionately as "Woz," he invented the Apple I computer, its successor, the Apple II, and then left the corporate fast track for a life devoted to his family, philanthropy and teaching.
It has been 25 years since Mr. Wozniak and "the other Steve," Steve Jobs, who had once been a classmate in high school, revolutionized the computer industry when they built and marketed the first computer designed for general public use. What was begun as a two-person operation in the Jobs garage grew to a $500 million a year company in just six years. But Mr. Wozniak, who never did join the business side of the company, just continued inventing. "I just wanted to design neat things," he says.
Woz's second great ambition was teaching, which has consumed much of his time for the past decade. He made a significant investment in the future in the late 1980s by "adopting" the 5th through the 8th grades in the local Los Gatos School District in California. His hands-on teaching of the youngsters exemplifies the technologist turned educator. He not only provided the students with portable computers, he teaches computer skills to them and their teachers, wired the school for Internet access, and lives by truly believing that "being able to teach somebody to do something means more than doing it yourself."
The Silicon Valley legend fell in love with math and electronics at an early age. He enrolled in undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley but dropped out in his senior year in 1971 to join Hewlett-Packard. He created his own designs, including Apple I, in his free time while at H-P and frequented the Homebrew Computer Club, which had also attracted Mr. Jobs. Woz eventually returned to Berkeley to earn his undergraduate degree in engineering after he achieved fame and fortune at Apple. But Woz is more than an engineer. He is generally considered to have accomplished a feat unlikely to be repeated, he is the only person to ever design both the hardware and the software for a computer platform that became a huge commercial success.
Woz developed a way to connect the Apple computer to a printer and went further to develop the first floppy disc (drive), a removable floppy disc with information on it that can be put into the computer memory for storage or accessed without being stored, greatly increasing the ability of people to use the Apple computer.
The Apple II is certainly one of if not the most significant developments of the 20th Century in that it was the first time the power of a computer was made available to the individual. Mr. Wozniak's design was brilliant because of its simplicity.
Steve Wozniak is considered the single most important person in the microcomputer revolution and is also one of the most interesting humanitarians. What he did he did because it was fun and he is more surprised than anyone that it amounted to anything. What it has amounted to has been seminal contributions to an industry, the impact of which is felt throughout homes and businesses worldwide.
Note: This profile is excerpted from the commemorative brochure published at the time of the awards' presentation.
UPDATES SINCE RECEIVING THE HEINZ AWARD
December 2007 - Steve Wozniak was named one of the "Founding Fathers of Computing" by the Computer History Museum and is on the first ever panel to celebrate the era of microcomputer innovation since 1982. This first event is titled "The Impact of the Commodore 64: 25th Anniversary Celebration". - Business Wire
November 2006 - Release scheduled for Wozniak's new book iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It.
December 2004 - Wozniak previews his latest vision to the public at the Ziff Davis Media's Security Virtual Tradeshow. "Woz Location-Based Encryption" as it's called, is "an application that uses GPS tracking within a wireless hub to encrypt and decrypt sensitive data for large businesses." Wozniak expects the program to do well, as data protection is becoming an increasingly serious issue to most big businesses. - eWeek
January 2004 - Wozniak is one of eleven public figures to be inducted into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame. He is honored with the induction for his "leadership and innovation in the consumer electronics industry." - The Hollywood Reporter
June 2001 - Wozniak wins the Visionary Award from the Software Development Forum. A Visionary Award is given to "experts in their field who have enriched the lives of others through their work, while creating the technologies of tomorrow." Wozniak receives this award for the pioneering visions that inevitably created the first computers and launched the PC revolution. - Business Wire
Speech3/5/2001 - Acceptance Speech
Well, it's quite an amazing company I'm in. I thought I'd stay in technology work because I'd figured out how to get the ketchup out of the bottle and my own ballet experiences are with a bit-parts - one time the director of our ballet hurled me back onto the stage as I was supposed to be walking off, and stuck me in a scene that I wasn't prepared for or rehearsed for - what a dirty joke. So, sometimes a sense of humor there. When it comes to environment, I just sort of think, when are we going to leave the world in a better shape for the next generation than worse shape?
Well, why do we care about people? You know when we're young, we're taught those values. Almost every youngster reads stories and watches TV shows and reads books, where the good guy wins something and helps the poor and needy. And so, we always have these good values when we're young and you know they're different kinds of people once we get older, how much, how directly that effects us in how we run our lives.
You know, myself I was really lucky to have a Dad that taught me that teachers were so important, that they were teaching our younger generation to grow up and make this world a better world than the prior generations had made it. And I thought, our teachers are the most important people in the world. They make more than engineers, right? And he says, 'No, they don't.' But, I told him I was going to be an engineer first, and be a teacher second, and that was in sixth grade so, pretty much my whole life I have wanted to teach and I was lucky. I found in later life that I had skills. First of all, I got influenced in college that children's minds develop along cognitive psychology lines. They develop in steps and stages that grow on each other. It's like mathematics. It's like computers. It's like programs, like the things I love.
And a child's mind became very important to me, so I tried to always direct my interest towards young children and sometimes leave the adults at the table. But, as I had my own children, I discovered I had other good teaching skills, which you can never count on. Some people are made to be teachers. And I had patience, and I could explain things in understandable ways. And I also later on, found I could put myself in the body of the person hearing me. What are they hearing, and what does it sound like to them, and are they really learning? Are their minds really taking a step forward, or are they just impressed that you know how to tell them something, and that's important?
When we started Apple, the goal was to just empower common people and give them this incredible tool - a computer - that before that, only their company had and owned, and they were sort of subsidiary to it. They were a slave to the computer the company owned, and now we were going to make them the masters, and put them in control if it, and they could write programs that were better than the company programs, and figure out more things, and we didn't really think about 'oh this is a big business and we'll make money'. No. It's ... 'we're going to better the world.'
As companies evolve though, pretty much eventually, it's sort of like, the decisions in a company weren't for me. I wasn't the political type or the company type. And pretty much the company has to decide, 'Well, we have to make decisions. What's best for us as a company money wise?' And not what's best for people, and what do they want in the product, and how do we make it better?
How do we not take steps backwards? For the future I have two big hopes inspired by my past, and one is that software in the world becomes more human and understandable, and really explains things well and helps you through things and does things for you, and doesn't make it a task and something you have to fight to get computers to always work and be understood, and we'll get back to that. We had that stage for about a five-year period or a little more, but now we're kind of fighting it.
And my other goal kind of relates to teaching. I found that a class of 30 is a lot harder to teach than a class of 20. Class size is so important. In California, we're 50th in the states in that regard. And it all boils down to money and I'm hopeful that some day like, a family of five gets five votes.
Thank you very much.