Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak on Tuesday night kicked off the ninth annual Sacramento Speakers Series with a rambling, 90-minute presentation in which he mused about his own sources of inspiration and the role of technology in peoples’ lives.
Speaking to a packed house at the Sacramento Community Center, Wozniak said he became interested in technology early in life. He said he wanted to be an engineer so he could invent things that would make it so people “don’t have to work so hard.”
“We’re still not there yet; life hasn’t gotten easier when you need two incomes to afford a house in Silicon Valley,” he said.
But computers have become a ubiquitous part of our existence, “like a friend we can carry with us everywhere,” Wozniak said.
That’s why the next big thing will be “wearable computing,” he said. “We already have Google Glasses and the iWatch may be coming soon,” he said. “I know what I want: a full iPhone as a watch. It will probably need to wrap around your wrist in some way (to get enough screen size). I sure hope Apple is thinking about it.”
The son of a Silicon Valley engineer, he had early access to explore his own interest in computers. “I found that whenever you have the smartest people in the world, they tend to leave doors unlocked,” he joked about one computer adventure at Stanford University.
Self-taught as a computer designer, Wozniak learned by doing.
“My game: I looked at every situation and tried to find a solution with fewer and fewer parts,” he said. “Your motivation is in your own head. Instruction becomes very personal because your desire comes from inside. You’re always true to yourself.”
Wozniak has fond memories of Sacramento. He credits a visit to the state capital for cementing his desire to devote his life to computer innovation.
“I entered an eighth-grade science fair in Sacramento,” Wozniak recalled. “I won the first airplane flight of my life. That was pretty special.”
His winning invention for that 1960 science fair was a tic-tac-toe game, based on basic computer logic.
“Logic is like a light switch; on, off, very easy,” Wozniak said.
Using logic can turn a light switch on for students, too, added Wozniak, who has taught computer skills to kids and supports school science programs. Nurturing their early curiosity can lead to many future inventions.
“A fifth-grader has all the elemental skills – almost – to design anything on a computer today,” he said. “It’s just logical thinking.”
Up next in the Sacramento Speakers Series: former Vice President Al Gore on Nov. 12. For more details, go to www.sacramentospeakers.com.
Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington