Apple co-founder: 'You can’t stop the steamroller of technology change'

In a Thursday afternoon forum, Steve Wozniak fielded questions from an Elon University community fascinated by his views on technology, Steve Jobs and the way the personal computer he invented four decades ago revolutionized the world.

"The Apple II I knew would change the world." – Apple Computer Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak
Steve Jobs may be the man most responsible for building the Apple Inc. brand, but it was Steve Wozniak, a self-described introvert-turned-prankster with an early love of technology, whose design for the Apple I and the Apple II personal computers in the mid 1970s made a business model possible.

What contributed to Wozniak’s engineering success? And how does he perceive that success today? Such answers were both humorous and insightful, as Elon University students discovered Thursday afternoon in Whitley Auditorium.

Wozniak took questions Oct. 3 from students and community members eager to interact one-on-one with the personal computing pioneer. The program, moderated by Elon University senior Jeff Stern, preceded a sold-out Fall Convocation in Alumni Gym.

The following are synopses and quotes in response to the audience

On when he realized he had “made it”:

“I never tried to ‘make it’ like a lot of people think. I have strong philosophies against that. Money corrupts,” said Wozniak, who donates large sums of his fortune to museums, schools and other philanthropic projects. “I didn’t want to stay at that super-high level, guys flying around with private jets. I didn’t want to be one of them and I’m not to this day.”

On his desire not to be a manager of the successful companies he has founded or joined:

“I don’t like people having control over you. … I didn’t want to run a company because I didn’t want to control people. I wanted to be an equal.” It wasn’t until Wozniak realized he could simply be an engineer with Apple Computer Inc. that he agreed to join Steve Jobs in the venture.

On his greatest accomplishment in life:

It wasn’t the creation of his personal computers that Wozniak cites. Instead, it was his ability to consciously decide in high school and early in college that he simply wanted to be a good person. “I’m glad my values were very sound, and I have formulas to be happy in life that didn’t depend on anything like Apple Computer’s business success.”

On his predictions for the future of personal technology:

“I love the idea of smart machines that we wear that are always looking and listening and directing you to things you might pass by that are important to your life.”

On the future of Apple without Steve Jobs at the helm:

“My feeling is that Apple is a great company with a great culture and will be just as good without him. … (but) Steve’s methods and mentality will remain in the culture of the company for a long time, though not necessarily forever.”

On the biggest challenge of starting Apple:

It wasn’t producing the Apple I computer, of which few were built, but its successor that led to starting the company: “The Apple II I knew would change the world,” Wozniak said. “The hard challenge wasn’t engineering, but marketing. How do you convince people who have seen huge machines to accept a computer into their own home?”

On technological evolution and whether it’s good or bad.

For Wozniak, it’s a moot question. “You can’t stop the steamroller of technology change.”