Woz at IDF

Steve Wozniak dropped by IDF today to shoot the shit with Moira Gunn, host of Tech Nation. Woz was animated and insightful for the hour-long conversation. What ultimately was a retrospective on the history of the tech legend was engaging as the co-founder of Apple ran through topics from his early time at HP to his supposed relationship with Kathy Griffin.

“I’d rather be known as an engineer than computers and all that,” he said with a wave of his hand. His early employment was designing calculators at HP. Woz recounted several times throughout the interview that one of his main goals in life was to be an HP engineer, recalling they had the best and were respected within the company.

By the time he teamed up with Steve Jobs, Woz knew his goal was to get computers in peoples’ homes. Still, as an engineer first, he had to be convinced to leave HP to form Apple. Luckily, a friend told him that he could still be an engineer, and that he could “still take the money”. With that insight Woz left HP and accepted the seed money to start Apple.

The IDF audience got a few insights into his personal character as Woz recalled some practical jokes. “The cops lied,” he said referring to one night he spent in juvie. At least while he was on the inside he made good time, describing a scene about electrifying the prison bars via rewiring an electric fan. Another incident happened while at college with Woz getting his hands on a transistor to affect the television signal. By messing with the picture, he convinced people in the room that where they were placed mattered. One guy had his hand on the TV and his foot up in the air for a half hour. This from a guy who is famously shy.

His well-known media splash with Kathy Griffin was a complete fabrication. As he tells it, he got an email one day saying that he was dating her. After figuring out who she was, he went with it and became friends with her.

When asked about what emerging technologies excite him, the engineer in Woz becomes apparent. Faster computing is what interests him, from multi-core processors to one day using photons instead of electrons for information exchange.

As for his sighting at the Apple Store for the iPhone? “I did not cut in line.” However, he did take his employee discount. Sounds fair for Apple’s Employee Number One.