Two Lessons From The Woz

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Two Lessons From The Woz

The big keynote for ITEXPO West 2013 was Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple and Steve Jobs' best buddy. It was a packed house for this Titan of Tech. The Woz talks fast without taking a breath or a sip of water. Tom Keating says it is because his brain works so fast. (I guess that mean my brain doesn't work fast.)


Pong, Atari, mainframes, HAM radio - it was like a tech time machine. I am not sure many people in the audience even know what those things are. HAM radio was something you would mention in grade school only if you wanted a wedgie. It was the nerd badge. And I don't know what would be the equivalent today. Kids today don't tinker with radios or build their own computers from scratch. It's a lost art -- but the Woz says that it is a loss of experience and training.

The other wayback machine mention was the product that got The Woz to drop out of college to go to work for HP: the HP35 scientific calculator, which The Woz calls the iPhone 5 of its day. When I was a freshman at RPI, the really cool kids had HP calculators because you could program them with formulae for classes.

The Woz said that he was competing with himself, not others, to design computers and chips. He pushed himself - and taught himself. "When you do something on your own (experiment), its yours. You own it." This is the beginning of a technologist and engineer.

The two lessons I got from his keynote are as follows:

Never lose your passion or your curiosity! The Woz is still excited about technology and it pours out of him when he is talking about it.

Experiment, fail, learn, keep going. Apple had a couple of early failures, but you learn from it, and move on. Failure isn't the end; it's an event and hopefully a learning point.

We heard 10 ways for businesses to improve innovation from Jamie Bonforte at Startup Camp. Innovation begins with experimenting. And failure is just part of the deal.

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