Iwoz: Computer Geek To Cult Icon
- WW Norton & Co
- Publication Date:
- 16 November 2007
- Biography: Science, Technology & Engineering
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Yesterday, I took a long look at the new book by Steve Wozniak, iWoz. Personally, I'm intrigued by the science-based creativity that led to early Apple products, and also the psychologically-savvy thinking that went into making computers user-friendly.The book will be interesting to a specialized audience. You need to be interested in the early history of personal computers (e.g., the legendary Homebrew Computer Club). You need to get a kick out of the amusing but sometimes unflattering lore that defined Apple's history and culture. You need to want to know about Wozniak's remarkably innovative engineering as well as Apple's entrepreneurship. You have to dig the views and personality of a successful but unusual and reclusive countercultural person. It probably helps if you resonate with Wozniak's personal style, and dream about making innovative contributions somewhere, somehow.Some observations:1) When he claims to have "invented" the personal computer, he's not being too grandiose. He created some really beautiful early computers. The lore is that these contraptions were the first to have typewriter based keyboards; the first to be useable right out of the box; the first low-cost computers to have color, sound, hi-res graphics, and floppy disks. He developed software that changed industry standards. And to believe Wozniak is to believe that he was the origin of these ideas, surrounded by other creative geniuses like Jobs, Osborn, Marsh and others. Perhaps others shared in these innovations. But there's no doubt that Wozniak was one of the great "out of the box" thinkers of the Silicon Valley "revolution." In the book, Wozniak describes developing all of these things.2) If you haven't looked at an Apple II in awhile, it might be worth doing so while you read the book. The electronic circuits and boards of these early Apple machines were works of art and genius. The components were arranged in ways that defied conventional wisdom. I found the motherboards in the Apple IIs to be simple, elegant and striking. Today, the technology is obsolete but the beauty endures. Wozniak's story is more interesting when you realize that he's primarily responsible for this great stuff.3) The book helps elucidate Wozniak's personality and thinking style. He's the math-science-electrical guy who works privately in the back while he implements his (and others') visions of what a product can be. (If you've examined the electronics and layout of those old machines, then you have no problem believing that Wozniak was the science-math-electrical guy who was part scientist, part artist). In the book, Wozniak shares influences, anecdotes and pranks. This is not the guy who habitually seeks power, or the limelight. He's the guy who normally would toil in obscurity, surrounded by friends and thinkers who let him do his thing and appreciate his skillful vision (and nutty sense of humor). He was able to work among the corporate power brokers for a number of years, on his terms, but he's not the sort of person who will immerse himself in corporate culture for long. It may be that his `81 plane crash and brain injury signaled the end of his cutting-edge work at Apple. But it is hard to imagine someone like Wozniak shifting gears and living forever amongst the suits... even at Apple. I can believe that Steve Wozniak is a brilliant guy with a big heart and a wicked sense of humor. I can imagine how his sense of generosity, justice and creative thinking might make it hard to endure the growing pains of a company like Apple.4) Wozniak offers his advice on what it takes to be a great engineer: Don't waver; see things in grayscale; work alone; follow your instincts. His thoughts on these matters are worth a look. Keep in mind that he's telling you about his way, which jibes with his personal style. There's no one right way.5) Guy Kawasaki (former Apple employee) has written a review of this book. It can be found online. His take is different than mine, though he, too, offers a positive review.6) There are plenty of other books, and even a movie, on Wozniak, Jobs and the PC revolution. There are other books that focus on Wozniak (e.g., Kendall, Lemke, Capps). Wozniak has a website that contains lots of autobiographical info. Then there's "Pirates of Silicon Valley", the movie. Personally, I'm not particularly interested in getting caught up in all the Apple/PC drama that has made its way to the media. But maybe you are...
Steve Wozniak is well-known to tech savvy people as one of the two cofounders of Apple Computer, and the driving force behind the development of the original Apple I and Apple II personal computers. More recently, he has achieved a slighly more kitschy kind of fame as Kathy Griffin's boyfriend on <i>Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List</i> and a short-lived contestant on <i>Dancing with the Stars</i>, in which his slightly off-kilter personality came to the fore. In <i>IWoz</i> it becomes apparent that while Wozniak is a very quirky individual, he is probably quirky in a way that we should all be thankful for, because without his ability to work out computer achitecture on sheets of paper, program in binary in his head, and has an odd fondness for repeating numbers, then it is quite possible that the personal computer would not have been developed when it was, if ever.Wozniak starts, logically enough, at the beginning and proceeds to tell his life story more or less in chronological order. One of the more interesting elements of his biography is the relatively scant amount of attention that is paid to Woziniak's time developing the original Apple computer and his time with the company. While this is obviously what he is most famous for, it is also obvious that it isn't of substantial consequence to him.[More forthcoming]
A good read, an interesting life. A nuts and bolts account of the early era of the personal computer 'revolution'. The life of Woz, the guy who created Apple computers, and many other devices and ideas we associate with technology. <br/><br/>What I noted was his near aversion to material success, desiring to be 'just' an engineer. Also his humanity, and generosity.
Steve Wozniak is without question one of the greatest innovators of our day. iWoz provides a good look into his personal life including how he was raised and how his passion led to the development of the personal computer.The book is very interesting. The only disappointment I had was that not a lot of time was spent talking about the early days of Apple. It was there, to be sure, but I was hoping to get into more depth of what it was really like to work there when he worked there. Heck, the subject of the GUI interface at Xerox only took maybe two pages and it wasn't until the end of the book. Other books have gone into more depth here, I realize. I was just hoping to get it "straight from the horse's mouth", I suppose.
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