Steve Wozniak on Tim Cook, the Apple Watch and Apple’s Recent Fight with the FBI


Steve Wozniak is the co-founder of Apple Inc in the 1970s along with Steve Jobs. He did a AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit where he answered questions on Steve Jobs, current Apple CEO Tim Cook, why he left Apple and a lot more. Here is the best of the AMA.

1. What is Tim Cook doing right/wrong, in your opinion?

Tim Cook is acknowledging the employees of Apple and the customers of Apple as real people. He is continuing a strong tradition that Steve Jobs was known for of making good products that help people do things they want to do in their life.

I mean I love my Apple Watch, but – it’s taken us into a jewelry market where you’re going to buy a watch between $500 or $1100 based on how important you think you are as a person. The only difference is the band in all those watches. Twenty watches from $500 to $1100. The band’s the only difference? Well this isn’t the company that Apple was originally, or the company that really changed the world a lot.

Everything else, I’m very approving of Tim Cook, because every time we have a new iOS update, I’m very happy that it’s doing things that really affect people. Like transferring calls from my phone to my computer, etc. I really love even the Airplay, and all that. So, I love the software, and I love the hardware, and nothing’s letting me down. So I approve very strongly of Tim Cook and the new Apple. I dearly miss Steve Jobs too, but, that’s all.

2. Steve, what’s the greatest invention that you wished you designed?

A device to pop anywhere – real tiny, into a glove compartment, a backpack, whatever – and be able to locate it, wherever it is in the world. There are some devices that kind of claim that now, but they don’t really work sufficiently. A device that gives us one extra hour per day?

3. What are your thoughts on the FBI/DOJ vs Apple ordeal at the moment?

All through my time with personal computers from the start, I developed an attitude that things like movement towards newer, better technologies – like the Macintosh computer, like the touchscreen of the iPhone – that these were making the human more important than the technology. We did not have to modify our ways of living. So the human became very important to me. And how do you represent what humanity is?

You know what, I have things in my head, some very special people in my life that I don’t talk about, that mean so much to me from the past. Those little things that I keep in my head are my little secrets. It’s a part of my important world, my whole essence of my being. I also believe in honesty. If you tell somebody, “I am not snooping on you,” or, “I am giving you some level of privacy; I will not look in your drawers,” then you should keep your word and be honest. And I always try to avoid being a snoop myself, and it’s rare in time that we can look back and say, “How should humans be treated?” Not, “How can the police run everything?”

I was brought up in a time when communist Russia under Stalin was thought to be, everybody is spied on, everybody is looked into, every little thing can get you secretly thrown into prison. And, no. We had our Bill of Rights. And it’s just dear to me. The Bill of Rights says some bad people won’t do certain bad things because we’re protecting humans to live as humans.

So, I come from the side of personal liberties. But there are also other problems. Twice in my life I wrote things that could have been viruses. I threw away every bit of source code. I just got a chill inside. These are dangerous, dangerous things, and if some code gets written in an Apple product that lets people in, bad people are going to find their way to it, very likely.

4. What is the most funny prank that you’ve pulled?

I did like the one where I put a little ticking electronic metronome in a school locker, back when very few people could build such things as a ticking metronome; and I had it rigged so that when you opened the locker, a little tinfoil switch caused the ticking to speed up.

5. Even though you left in 1985, what was your relationship with the company like after, and how has that changed compared to now? Are you, for example, allowed to go and visit any colleagues that still work there or are you simply another outsider?

No I would only say one thing, I am Apple.

When I left in ’85, the same as when I left in ’81, I actually remained an employee on a slight payroll. I had a letter from apple wishing me luck. I sat on a blackboard and showed them what my intent was to go and create as a product, and there was absolutely no conflict. I like to live a life where kinda everyone likes me. I’m just not bad. If somebody is bad to me, I’m still good to them.

Somehow I grew up with these values that seem kind of incredible, so I always was on good terms with Apple and they always liked me, I’m always welcome. I could come by, Steve Jobs would always make sure I had a badge that could get me into any building. I didn’t use it much, but I can go there. The only trouble is I’ll get mobbed.

6. What is your opinion on how immersive our technology is becoming? We use computers in some form, almost constantly. Do you ever feel in your own life you that it becomes overwhelming?

I have that feeling all the time because I like a nice, quiet, simple life. I grew up shy. I’m more into products than I’m into socializing. And I do not carry around my phone answering every text message instantly. I am not one of those people.

I wait until I’m alone in my places and get on my computer and do things where I think I’m more efficient. I really see a lot of people that are dragged into it, but you know, I don’t criticize them. When you have change, it’s not that the change in how people are behaving different to you is bad or good, it’s just different.

So that’s sort of the modern way, and you know the millennials, every generation wants to criticize the next generation for missing out on things like personal human contact, but I’ll tell you a little story. When we started Apple, Steve Jobs and I talked about how we wanted to make blind people as equal and capable as sighted people, and you’d have to say we succeeded when you look at all the people walking down the sidewalk looking down at something in their hands and totally oblivious to everything around them!

7. Why did you leave Apple?

I left Apple partly because i wanted to be, like, a normal person. I didn’t want to seek wealth and power, because in my mind it often corrupts people, and I didn’t want to be that person who runs a company. The first time I left Apple was an odd accident. I had a plane crash as a pilot. I didn’t come out of an amnesia state for five weeks where I didn’t know time was passing. When I came out of the amnesia I realized that the Macintosh team (they were my favorite, most creative thinking team at Apple, and I was on that team), would be fine without me.

So I called up Steve Jobs and told him “Macintosh team’s in great shape, I’m gonna go back to college and get my degree.” I had one year left to go. If I waited another year it would be too late to ever go back to college again actually. So I went back to Berkeley under the fake name Rocky Raccoon Clark, and that’s what it says on my Berkeley diploma. That was the first time I left Apple. I came back and worked as an engineer. When the Macintosh project failed we had to recover with some Apple II projects, took us into the Apple IIGS to keep some money coming into the company for a while as we built the Macintosh market. And then I left the second time because I love startups. I love just a group of two or three or five people talking about an idea and going out and making it a reality. It may not be all the millions and billions of dollars in the world, but it’s something you’re doing yourself. The idea I came up with was for the first universal remote control, the CL 9 Core, so I left Apple to build that.

8. What is your favorite up and coming gadget? Anything people don’t know about yet?

The Oculus Rift, or any of the VR headsets. I love putting mine on and watching a basketball game live; it was just an experience that you can’t believe. Sometimes I come out of a VR world, take off the helmet, and I can’t believe I’m actually sitting in my office, at a desk at home.

Right now, Amazon Echo; it’s getting so popular among the people that use it and they speak so highly of it, and it’s so inexpensive. I see a lot of developers that went into smartphones jumping onto that. It’s a platform, and when you have a platform that everybody else is writing apps for and connecting to, basically they’re advertising your company as much as you are.

Obviously, I’m very interested in the evolution of self-driving cars. Right now, the assist that they give you for keeping in your lane and cruise control…the cruise control started back in 2004 actually, adjusting your distance. I love driving my Tesla so much, I just smile! I sit there in the driver’s seat, and I kinda look over at my wife, and I just smile. I’m so happy, not using my hands or feet. So, I think the progression towards self-driving cars is going to be a good one.

Now, the AI that impresses me, I fell in love 10 years ago – well not 10 years ago, but whenever it started; Siri was an app you could buy for the iPhone, and I bought it. And for one year, Apple didn’t have it. I just spoke of it as the app that changed my life, because I get to live as a human, saying things out of my head the way I would to another human, and a machine understands me. And I have wanted that to be the future for…forever.

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