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iRead iWoz

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I took the opportunity to read the autobiography of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, iWoz.

  • Steve believes in “extreme ethics”: always tell the truth completely
  • Steve was incredibly precocious in terms of becoming an engineer
  • Steve seems to be one of the ‘new atheism’ camp: Science, proof, reason, plus nothing else.

So I never got any exposure to religion. Church, mass, communion. What is that? Seriously I couldn’t tell you.

As for religion, if I asked, my dad would say, no, no, he was scientific. Science was the religion. We had discussions about science and truth and honesty, the first discussions of many that formed my values.

  • Steve takes engineering very seriously.

…I still believe engineers are among the key people in the world. And I believe that I will be one forever, and i have dedicated my whole life to engineering.

  • Steve feels the quality which most defines him is keen technical acumen and a love of people

  • Steve was committed to the ‘engineer as artist’ ideal far ahead of the fad of this concept applying to computer science or hardware engineering:

But I wanted to put chips together like an artist, better than anyone else could and in a way that would be the absolute most usable by humans. That was my goal when I built the first computer, the one that later became the Apple I.

  • Reading about Steve’s youth in Sunnyvale, I have to compare this idyllic place against my experiences there.

But where I really grew up was Sunnyvale, right in the heart of what everyone now called Silicon Valley. back then, it was called Santa Clara Valley….it was totally different from the way it is now. There were fruit orchards everywhere. Our street…was just a short one-block street bordered by fruit orchards on three of for sides. So pretty much anywhere you drove on your bike you’d end up in an apricot, cherry, or plum orchard.

And in an Eichler home nonetheless!

Wow, apricots for Carl’s Jr.

  • Elementary school teachers changed his life. We should have better elementary school teachers.

…Miss Skrak, was so good to me and I liked her so much. I felt she had helped me so much in life by encouraging me. And I believed, truly believed, that education was important

  • It was the Vietnam war that led him to produce technology to abuse “the system”: namely producing technology to get free phone calls.

From that point on, I saw that the government would do whatever it could to beat a citizen, that it was just a game. And this was the exact opposite of the way I had toucght of government my whole life. … You couldn’t trust [authority] to do the right thing.

This led Steve to join up with the hippie counterculture that was afoot in the Bay area at that time. Trouble is, he didn’t do drugs, or drink, this made him not entirely welcome. It would seem he’s pointing to a famous phenomenon cited by Paul Graham that the smart kids of high school are penalized socially for their seriousness and bound in by the economic utility of having their parents work while they are baby-sat: eventually, and regrettably, drug use seems to me the password for entry into the smart but out of the game society.

  • Wozniak wrote the arcade classic Breakout for Atari.

  • The price of $666.66 for the Apple I was not based on Satanic reference, but was rather accepted by the Woz because he liked that it was a repeating, non-rational number.

  • Woz loves kids:

…another reason I’ve written this book…I’d like to give advice, for what it’s worth, to kids out there who are like I was. Kids who feel they’re outside the norm. Kids who feel it in themselves to design things, invent things, engineer things. Change the way people do things.

  • And is rather funny….

I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the years, and not all of them involved how to handle ex-wives. ha. In fact, none of them did.

  • And inspirational….

…my advice has to do with what you do when you find yourself sitting there with ideas in your head and a desire to build them. but you’re young. You have no money. all you have is the stuff in your brain. And you think it’s good stuff, those ideas you have in your brain. Those ideas are what driev you, they’re all you think about.

  • Believe in yourself
  • The world is a gray scale, no black-and white
  • Work alone
  • Relax!

It was a fun and inspiring book. You can see how engineers would gladly work insane hours for Woz: he leads by example, never compromises quality, and is always working to do more with less and in less space. He seems like a really fun person. While his friend Steve Jobs has a reality distortion field, Woz seems to have a niceness enveloping field and everyone seems to notice it.

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