This semester, I was lucky enough to hear Steve Wozniak speak on January 23rd. He visited RMU as a part of the Pittsburgh Speaker Series. This series invites innovative and important people to speak both at the RMU campus and downtown at Heinz Hall. Wozniak spoke in the international suite in Sewall Center and it was packed beyond capacity.
Some of the younger generation, myself included, may have recognized Steve Wozniak from his appearances in The Big Bang Theory or Dancing with the Stars. Sure, his name is attached to Apple but I never really knew what contributions he made towards the company. By listening to his presentation, I now know that it was his designs they used for the computers and Steve Jobs was more of the promoter of the company, dealing with the business side of things while Wozniak would program and build the computers.
Wozniak explained to us that he began working with computers in elementary school, teaching himself most things because back then, there were no books on how to build or program computers. By the time he was in middle school, he was working on projects that most adults considered graduate level practice. Wozniak explained that by high school, he could take any computer out there and design his own that was just like it in two days.
Straight out of high school, he went on to work at Hewlett-Packard doing design work. It was here that he began to attract the attention of Steve Jobs. Jobs came down from Oregon and talked with Wozniak about starting a business. They started out small by selling PC boards. Contrary to popular belief, no work was done in a garage; it was mostly done in Wozniak’s cubicle at HP or his apartment. Wozniak explained that because he was shy and didn’t enjoy being in the public eye, Jobs took over the promotion and marketing aspects. He became the face of the company, but Wozniak explained he was perfectly fine with that because he enjoys the behind the stage work better.
One of my favorite stories he told us was how he finally got his college degree. Up until 1986, Wozniak didn’t have a college degree. By this time in his career, he was so well known that when he returned to Berkeley to finish his degree, he registered under the name Rocky Raccoon. He told us that even on his diploma, it says the alias name.
Overall, I was ecstatic to be able to hear Wozniak speak because he gave us insight to his life, told stories about Steve Jobs, and he even explained a bit of programming. He spoke with such enthusiasm that it was evident he loved what he was doing. I am so thankful for RMU to be able to bring him to speak with us and I’ll be sure to attend more events for the Pittsburgh Speaker Series.