17 minutes with Steve Wozniak

"Those were the most fun, creative days of my life"

07:00 Since he left Apple in the late 80s, The Woz has been an active supporter of technology in schools. Is it true he has a Raspberry Pi?

“Yes - for me personally, I want to use it as a learning tool. I’ve never had time to teach myself Python, so that’s what I want to use it for. And I want to be like the other people who encounter Raspberry Pi, that are young and getting into computers, cause I believe in them. Those were the most fun, creative days of my life, and they really brought me up to where I got to in life.”

06:00 He’s also made a number of developments towards the developing Internet of Things…

“People are trying to figure that out, only because we’re able to put computers, for almost no cost at all, into every device we build. Add a computer, add a little display, let humans interact with it in more natural forms. What hasn’t been figured out is how will they communicate with each other.”

And yes, Steve has an idea.

“At Apple we developed a language called Applescript, and what it does is, it allows applications to interrogate each other:what is your dictionary? What are the words you understand, what are the objects and commands you understand? This allows programmes to communicate without being taught how to talk to each each other. And that’s what gave me the idea - if devices could do this, too, then they could learn things from each other. So one could learn what temperature it is - it doesn’t have a thermometer, but it knows the command to ask about the temperature. If you had a lot of low-cost sensors that could do this, I think they could visually piece together the entire framework of the inside of a building, and you’d had an almost zero-cost, intelligent camera thing making a 3D picture, not made up of satellite pictures of the world, but of the inside of every building we have. That’s one idea, it’s one small category of idea.”

It sounds like a pretty big idea to me.

03:00 It’s becoming increasingly apparent why the young Steve Jobs was so keen to form a company with The Woz: he is a torrent of ideas about how to solve technical problems, a patent-filer’s goldmine. How about the other emerging technologies, like 3D printing?

“At first I thought, ‘who the heck wants to learn to draw 3D?’ I taught 3D drawing to kids, in classes that I taught, and it’s difficult. People aren’t going to learn to draw a saucer or a cup and fuss around with the technology to print it out - you don’t have to print things if you can buy them.

But then I thought 3D printers would be neat to make things like spare parts, but not at home. If they’re in copy shops, where a lot of people will go in and pay a little money to use the copy machine for a while, they’ll be able to use the 3D printers to print a spare part. That made sense to me.

01:00 A PR man has been signalling energetically through the glass wall over Steve’s shoulder for the past few minutes, and he can’t wait any longer. As we get up Steve takes out his wallet, which is strange, but then he hands me one of his business cards, which he has laser-cut from aluminium sheet.

“I started making them to take on planes,” he explains, “when all cutlery was banned. You can use it to cut a steak.”

It sums him up: nerdy, but very sharp indeed.

More after the break...

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