Steve Wozniak says that some of the specifics of the new “jOBS” movie chronicling the early days of when he and fellow Apple cofounder Steve Jobs set off the computer revolution are inaccurate, but that he’s okay with the fictionalized conversations so long as they allow the overall big picture of the story to be told accurately. That sounds like Steve Wozniak would say: logical, fair, and not the kind of response you’d get from most other people in his position. I don’t know Woz, but I’ve had a couple of conversations with him over the years. The subject matter of those chats is secondary to what I learned about the man himself by conversing with him. Here are five things I observed which I think sum up Woz the best:
Woz likes to talk, but that’s a good thing: This is a good thing because the stories he tells are fascinating and not at all ego driven. Woz is precisely the guy you want telling you stories about the early days of computing. But if you ever get a chance to ask him one question, be sure to make it count, because there’s a good chance he’ll still be answering it ten to twenty minutes later as his initial answer leads him from topic to related topic. You’ll be loving every minute of it.
He rides a Segway: The first time I encountered Woz, it was the morning of an Apple keynote at Macworld. He was riding around outside the building on a Segway, chatting with the journalists standing in line. Keep in mind he hasn’t worked for Apple in decades, and had no part in what was about to be introduced in the keynote. He was just there because he felt like it. And he’s such a recognizable figure in the Apple community that he was going to get plenty of attention just by showing up outside the keynote. So the Segway wasn’t a stunt for attention; he appeared to simply think it was a cool way of getting around. And that leads to the most fundamental thing I observed about Woz…
He’s still a rebel: One year Woz came to Macworld representing a company which was converting Mac laptops into tablets. This was long before the iPad or any other mainstream tablet had hit the market. After he gave a demo at the booth, he talked with the various attendees who had crowded around him. One of them was the guy who had developed the iPhone “fart app” which Apple had famously rejected from the App Store, claiming that it was in bad taste. Woz didn’t go so far as to criticize Apple, but he told the developer that he loved what he was doing, saying something about a spirit of rebellion being necessary among developers. So however the jOBS movie ends up painting Steve Wozniak on screen, the Woz I’ve interacted with is a jovial guy who likes to tell you interesting things and still has a bit of that rebel spirit in him which helped him launch the computer revolution in the first place.