Yes, it's good to change the world and make a fortune. It's also good to do it early and then savor life. That seems to be where Steve Wozniak is now; he resurfaces Monday, as one of the experts in a fascinating cable documentary; here's the story I sent to papers:
By Mike Hughes
True creativity, we
often hear, comes in mismatched pairs.
McCartney? Jagger and Richards? Holmes and Watson? June Carter and
Johnny Cash? They were very different from each other in all the
Now the opening
night of cable's “American Genius” seems to introduce two more
such duos – at 10 p.m. the Wrights (Orville and Wilbur), who flew;
at 9, the Steves (Jobs and Wozniak), who computed.
These were total
opposites – or were they? “We were very similar in values ....
Our goals were always the same,” Wozniak insisted, by phone.
In image, they were
opposite extremes. Jobs was lean, handsome, charismatic and
articulate; he was also, people said, abrasitve. Wozniak was the
chubbier guy, working out the computer details. “I could not
possibly have run a business the way he did,” he said.
Or theorized. “Steve
Jobs was a way-future, forward thinker (with) almost a
science-fiction way of seeing things .... I was not so much a
theoretical scientist as a practical one.”
Still, he said, the
similarities were there. “We had a five-year history together”
before creating Apple. They shared similar tastes in music, in
philosophy, in a belief that businesses could do good deeds.
And they had an
obsession with computers, Wozniak said. “Even though it cost as
much as a house, I was going to ... own my own computer .... I didn't
want it for the purposes it's used for today. I just wanted it
because I was a computer geek. I could write programs and ... impress
This was a field in
which big things can happen by accident; just ask Biz Stone, the
Twitter co-founder. “We were just doing something goofy and fun,”
he said. “And we thought, 'Wouldn't it be neat if we could figure
out what our friends were up to without even asking them?”
This sort of
free-form thinking is crucial, said Bill Nye (of “science guy”
fame). “What keeps the U.S. in the game is innovation. All these
guys innovate; they create new things.”
And sometimes they
get it very wrong. Wozniak points to the work he and Jobs did on the
early Macintosh. “Every decision to make it tiny also made it (less
powerful).” While the overall computer market was increasing
tenfold, Mac sales were stagnant.
But after Jobs
returned to lead Apple in 1997, a dozen years after he'd been fired,
he led a comeback that continued after his death (of cancer, at 56)
By then, Wozniak had
moved on to other things. “I always wanted to be two things – an
engineer and a teacher,” he said. “So I went back and I taught
5th- and 9th -graders, and I taught teachers
for eight years, full time .... My wife has been a teacher for 14
years, and it's a big part of my life.”
He's also started
music festivals, competed on “Dancing With the Stars,” moved to
New Zealand and more. “I have a life philosophy that you should
always include an element of fun.”
And the fun is
easier when you've already surpassed your dreams.
“We didn't think
we'd ever have a computer that had enough memory to hold a song,”
(almost) hold the world, as molded by some semi-matched American
Genius,” 9 and 10 p.m. Mondays, National Geographic, repeating at
midnight and 1 a.m.
-- Opener, June 1,
has computers (Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates) at 9 and airplanes (Wright
Brothers vs. Glenn Curtiss) at 10.
-- Those will rerun
at 7 and 8 p.m. June 8, leading into looks at radio (Philo Farnsworth
and David Sarnoff) at 9 p.m. and newspapers (Joseph Pulitzer and
William Randolph Hearst) at 10.