NOTE: For part I of our interview with Steve Wozniak, click here.
Woz: Yes, I actually had 2 of them. The US Festivals were a big deal to me. I am so happy whenever I meet somebody that went to one of the US Festivals. They were such incredible events. Almost everyone writes that it was THE rock and roll concert event of their life and they’ve never been able to forget it. One person is so dedicated to putting on another one that we’ve spent over a million bucks so far on a new one. Now we’re working very strongly an US Festival in Kansas with a lot of real middle-American values. You know, we had good values associated with our first US Festival. Basically, you know, things like science and math and technology and education in the arts, it’s all important. We had a big speaker program and we had a technology fair there. We’ll do the same thing this time, and we’re very close. It’s in Kansas, summer 2010.
- The US Festival was a major rock and culture festival in 1982. Along with the speakers and technology pavilions that Steve mentions above, it was also the greatest gathering of musicians since Woodstock. Check out the acts that appeared at the festival: The Ramones, The B-52’s, Talking Heads, The Police, Santana, The Cars, The Kinks, Pat Benatar, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Grateful Dead, Jimmy Buffett, Divinyls, INXS, Men at Work, Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Van Halen, U2, David Bowie and tons of others.
YBMW:What kind of music are you into now?
Woz: I like almost anything; I like a lot of the hip hop and rap. I was into country for such a long time, but I only like the real hard core stuff. I like standard good, middle of the road rock and roll bands, like maybe currently The Fray, but there was R.E.M., Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel in the past. I was really folk-oriented in the past. I have a ton of friends who are more in the folk music world. I even went on XM Satellite Radio once and hosted a show on their folk channel, Folk Village.
YBMW: What is it you do for fun now when you’re not working or speaking?
Woz: I go to concerts. Right now I’m trying to focus not on the big, well-known acts that everyone hears about, but the little, tiny places that have a lot of intimacy. I was recently in New York and I went to a place called The Living Room. In San Francisco there’s a bunch of them: The Independent, The Great American Music Hall, Café du Nort, Red Devil Lounge. There’s a bunch of these smaller places I like to go to wherever I am. In Hollywood, I’ll go to The Roxy. They’re real cheap and you’ll go in and hear 4 great bands and have the night of your life whether you drink a little or not. I like to do that a lot. I ride Segways. I made it like a vehicle in my life to get into town from my home, which is up on a hill, I’ll just ride the Segway. It takes me 10 minutes to get to town, and I’m so free and flexible. I’ll ride it into a movie theater, park it inside, and watch a movie, and then ride it home. It’s like I don’t have to deal with the whole big hassle of a car. I’m a minimalist, I like to simplify things. I love getting away from the car when I don’t have to carry things. I also take Segways with me whenever I travel. I just had one in Slovakia and in Athens. I also had one once in Zurich in the last year.
YBMW: You don’t just ride the Segways, you also play Segway polo?
Woz: Yes, that’s another thing I do for fun. Right now I’m travelling and speaking so I’m gone a lot of the Sundays they have practice. You know, all I can do is hope it rains when I’m gone but when I’m there, it’s one of the most fun things in the world to do.
Woz: Yeah, it was very accidental. What happened was I woke up one morning and people were emailing me that there were all these websites saying I was dating Kathy Griffin. I didn’t know who she was. I don’t watch TV. I haven’t watched TV in 20 years. I’ve heard of Patty Griffin (musician/actress), so I found out who she was and eventually she called me and sort of apologized. She said she kind of admires me but she said something to a reporter and hopes I wasn’t offended. I said I’m not offended, I think it’s such a great little thing as a joke. I had denied it to wired.com and I shouldn’t have, the first day. I should have played along with it from the start. I’m a good enough comedian to know that. So she called me up and said, you can take me to the Emmys now. You know, not only did I take her to the Emmys, she won and we got along great. She’s really smart, and I like minds that can think quick. I told her, hey, you can embarrass me all you want, you can ridicule me all you want, and if it’s for laughs, it’s worth it. It’s a philosophy of mine. You know, I’m very much against political incorrectness. I think you do more with people laughing at something than when you harm people who can’t take it.
YBMW: Have you ever considered taking your engineering and creative background and entering the toy industry?
Woz: I have in the past but I don’t really have any input into that industry. The best input I had was building features in the computers to make them also game playing machines like the Apple 2. But, toys per say… No, you know, the toy market is a lot like music where you just have a ton of crap shoots, and once in a while, a rare, rare while you have a hit and it makes money. But there are so many duds I would get frustrated putting energy into that type of thing.
YBMW: If the President came to you and asked you to become the new Tsar of Technology for the country, what’s the first thing you would do?
Woz: I would explain to him why the country would be better off with other people who are more into managing large IT structures already and that I could play a positive role, but it would have to be defined as something else for me. I think my role would be better in education. Maybe technology education. You know, something like that. But that’s what I would tell him. So I would basically decline.
I see a lot of great names going around that are good and a manager has to be more than anything else a good talker-listener. A person who doesn’t even have to have skills in that area but can talk to the people working for him and ask questions and bring them to the best answers. One thing I would do is I would tell the President I also don’t believe in spending a bunch of money to enhance some areas of technology. Sure, you can do some research, but I don’t believe in a lot of that. I think a lot more about how to take current implementations, say technology throughout the government, and make it less costly, but do as much or more. Where are the savings, not where can we spend more. I have always been a real fiscal conservative and don’t like big government. I wouldn’t propose that the government goes: oh yeah, let’s put a whole bunch of tax monies into any company working in certain areas of technology. That’s just a slanting the wealth of the nation towards the people who make technology and I just don’t believe in that.
YBMW: Technology sort of has this double-edged sword to it now. On the one hand, with the internet and cell phone technology, we can connect to each other anywhere instantly. But at the same time, with our Blue Tooths and our iPods and MP3 players, we’re almost walking around in these isolated technology cocoons. What do you think about the effect technology has on us?
Woz: I think there is a natural tendency in all humans; it’s just the way the brain is made to have a certain amount of communication. It’s not the same for every person. Some are shy, some are outgoing. The same person can be very different in different environments and I think people use technology to either find or maybe to hide out and basically have sort of a respite, a little bit of a peaceful time to get away from having to deal with people directly. Look at a shy person, afraid to ever go up and talk to a person in real life has an easy time texting, emailing, engaging in forums, whatever. So all of the sudden it brought them into the world where they might have just gone into their bedroom and hidden.
You can’t measure it. There are pluses, there are minuses, no matter which way you look at it and there’s no way to add up one absolute thought that it’s sort of a 30%, a number, 30% swinging this way or that way.
Obviously every technology has good and bad points, but the same thing you’re saying you could say about television, at one time they could’ve said it about radio, and they probably say it about cars. Now you can drive away instead of having to be there with your family. I don’t have any one answer. It always comes out like, aren’t these games gonna lead to social problems, and it’s too hard to be certain, so, you know, why bother? It is better to just live life. Live it and be a part of it.
I like seeing why our brains are also wired to cause us to search for these new ways of doing things, the new technologies, almost every texting device that’s in use nowadays it’s usually a cell phone. You could talk and the choice is, I don’t wanna call and some things it’s harder to get out of a conversation. It’s like you’ve freed yourself from being trapped a bit. You know, also, sometimes you just get voicemail and messages. Christ, I usually hang up on those and just leave my number as evidence I called. I think it’s just for efficiency.
As a matter of fact, those of us who have video ability on our computers usually text and only occasionally go for a voice call or a video call. Maybe there’s somebody that’s so beautiful that they just always wanna try a video call, but I don’t think so. I think eventually you just sort of discover that it’s a waste of time. We’re in this fast moving world now too. That’s probably more of what you’re seeing. It’s such a fast moving world and time is a little more precious when you live in places like Silicon Valley or New York or San Francisco, not if you live in Kansas. Some places just are very slow and relaxed by comparison and those places I tend to have this vision in my head that I usually sense people are making phone calls with voice.
Woz: No, I had those kinds of dreams, climbing Mt. Everest, jumping out of a plane at one time in my life. No, there’s so many things in this life that you can do, and you get to a point that you’re just overloaded with things that are all interesting and useful and fun. Those things like rare excursions and what you’re talking about are more just time wasters. They aren’t that urgent a thing. Yeah, you sort of get to a point you’re sort of more peaceful with the world and people and what leads to your happiness isn’t somehow being noted for doing something extreme.
YBMW: If there was a Steve Wozniak action figure, what would it come with?
Woz: (laughs) What do action figures come with? I’d probably come with a slide rule… no, a little calculator, a handheld scientific calculator. Hopefully one that has multiple bases so it’s easy to calculate in hexadecimal, a MacBook Pro, probably a pretty big one (laughs). Definitely an iPhone and probably a Garmin navigation system. Also, a Gameboy.
YBMW: The old green screen Gameboys?
Woz:Ya, an old, old Gameboy, I claimed World Champion in Tetris on the Gameboy. In 1988 Nintendo Power Magazine printed all the top scores of Tetris on the Gameboy. I was always number one. I even got to where they wouldn’t put my name in anymore, so I spelled it backwards. Steve backwards is Evets, Wozniak backwards is Kainzow. I sent it in and they printed it.
I’d probably be on a Segway. If it comes with a little car, it’s a Prius.
YBMW: I’ve got one final question for you. Is there any advice that you can give to people on being happy?
Woz: Don’t get well-known; your time can really get eaten up. I think you need to have a lot of free time to do your own things. The more choices you have in life that you’re making, the happier you are. The thing that worked the best for me to be happy I came up with when I was 20 was, if things don’t go a certain way, don’t have yourself set up in advance to be upset. For example, if somebody doesn’t win an election, be prepared to say, okay, that’s a fine outcome. I’ll work harder the next time or something. Don’t say everything HAS to be one way because you’re gonna have a lot of disappointments in life.
Know yourself, know who you are inside and be who you are and don’t be phony and don’t be swayed by money, don’t be swayed by other things to be someone that you’re not. The dreams you had when you were young, 8 years old, 10 years old, 13 years old, 16, anything, those are the dreams that are good and the right ones for you for the rest of your life.
On behalf of Youbentmywookie.com we want to graciously thank Steve Wozniak for taking the time to speak with us twice so that we could ask him all of our questions. Again, we are proud to name Steve our very first Geek of the Month and we look forward to bringing you more great articles that hopefully give you a little different perspective on your favorite celebrities, artists and world-class geeks.