Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Loueyville SE: IdeaFestival 2007-- Woz

The caveat with not posting immediately after events is that notes and memories cease to make perfect sense. So throughout this post I will regale you with my nonsensical notes in italics-- maybe you can decipher them. This will be, I'm sorry, the most disjointed entry. In the end, what's important to note, is that I came away feeling totally jazzed by his enthusiasm and charmed by his stories.

Steve Wozniak, iconic co-founder of Apple, was Friday's keynote speaker. I'd be remiss not to mention the fact that the food was fantastic. Going alone was, however, a bit like going to a wedding where you don't even know the bride and groom-- I milled around for a good half hour before finally finding an unassuming-looking couple whose table was empty.

I have to admit that the name "Woz" didn't resonate with me the same way Steve Jobs or Bill Gates might have. Sure, I knew who he was, and afterwards I was very happy that I had gone, but I get the feeling that Woz is a geek's geek. And while I proudly admit to being a nerd, and I am enamored with geeks in general, I'm clearly just not that kind of geek.

Wozniak was introduced by Phoebe Wood, the CFO of Brown Foreman, who cited his many accomplishments, but I definitely got the feeling that she just wasn't that kind of geek either.

Woz insists that he wasn't a college drop-out; he just left because he didn't have the money to stay. After he founded Apple and then left the company (and survived an aircraft crash) he returned to school and finally earned his undergrad degree from UC Berkley under the name Rocky Raccoon Clark.

Odd note #3: Is he gay? He looks like [my childhood dance teacher]. (Who was gay, although I didn't know what that meant at the time. I thought my childhood dance teacher had adopted the young, hot male dancer who lived with him. When my mom said he was gay-- that he liked men-- I just thought that mean that my dance teacher was happy... and he liked men. Big deal.)

Answer: No, Woz is not gay.

When he was a teenager, he told his dad that he wanted to be an engineer first and then a fifth grade teacher after that. And he ended up doing just that. He taught fifth grade for eight years. Imagine being taught by a man with his experience?

Odd note #8: Compared building a computer to playing a prank.

Wozniak had a hand in creating: the first scientific calculator, the first VCR, the first sattelite TV dish, the first hotel movie delivery system (yay-- porn away from home), the first dial-a-joke service (which got him sued by the Polish American Congress)... he met his wife through dial-a-joke.
He also created Breakout-- the Atari time-sucker of my youth.

Odd note #15: Remember Scott [a former employee of mine] from [my old place of business] and his favorite story about me-- the Windows transfer folders flying through the air???

I can only sort of explain what that note means... it's the last note I have on Woz's speech (in my defense, I was listening pretty carefully). Lo these many years ago, when computers were still new and charming, we got new computers with Windows installed in them in the office that I ran. And when I was transferring files from the old computers to the new ones, I observed the animation of little documents flying from one folder to another folder on the screen and grabbed Scott and pulled him over and made him watch. And I said something like, "Isn't it amazing that some computer geek somewhere cared enought to create this little cartoon? It's such incredible attention to detail!" And for years afterward, Scott retold that story to anyone who would listen. I have to say, Scott was the best kind of employee that anyone could ever hope to have-- enthusiastic and utterly devoted to me and to the business. Even when I was promoted and Scott was promoted to fill my position, when we would meet at manager's meetings in Los Angeles, he'd cite that story as being one of the reasons he liked working with me-- because I appreciated even the silly small stuff that people did to make other people's lives better.

That's a long winded way of getting to this point: although my recollections and notes are muddy and disjointed, the feelings and message I got from Steve Wozniak's speech basically amounted to this: God is in the details. The little things are the most precious things. If it's not fun, in some way, it's not worth doing.

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