Steve Wozniak talks innovation, technology and privacy

Look at alternative approaches to setting up your business, says Apple co-founder

Steve Wozniak.

Steve Wozniak.

Companies need to think about the future and not keep doing the same things or risk disruption according to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Speaking at the World Business Forum in Sydney, Wozniak told delegates that they should “clear out” their head and pretend they don’t know anything about their business.

“If I was to set up our business from scratch, is there an alternative approach?” he said.

“Companies keep doing things the same way they’ve always done it and suddenly its five years later and there are disruptors.”

Wozniak, who worked as an engineer at HP in the early 1970s, gave an example of HP’s calculators which used reversed Polish notation to make calculations. This meant people had to type in 4 4 + to do addition. Meanwhile, Texas Instruments had brought out a calculator which allowed users to just enter 4 + 4 to get a result.

He decided to do a complicated equation on the Texas Instruments calculator.

“I wiped my head clean and typed in every percentage from left to right. I turned out the right answer on the first try. The other HP engineers were shocked. Not one of them could do it [the equation] because they had learned a complicated way of using their brain to assemble the equations,” said Wozniak.

However, Wozniak admitted that not every product Apple made in the early days was a success.

“In our first 10 years at Apple, I think all we did was make marketing mistakes. All the new products we tried to develop failed but thank God, Apple II provided revenues,” he said.


Wozniak was asked about future ramifications of technology such as self-driving cars.

After a certain period of time, every car manufacturer in the world is going to have self-driving cars, he said.

“The accident rates will be so much lower than human driven cars that there might be laws against humans driving.”

Wozniak also discussed artificial intelligence where robots can program themselves.

“In the past, computers haven’t programmed themselves but computers will get to that stage. If computers will think for themselves, they could program themselves better and faster than we can.” “I’m hoping computers only reach our level so we can never say they are smarter and better than us.”


Wozniak raised concerns that Australia was heading in the same direction with legislation as the United States when it came to invasion of privacy.

“When I was brought up, the [US] constitution gave us a place called a home. Your home could not be violated without court orders. My communications with my friends should be private,” he said.

“It [surveillance] has not been fruitful in uncovering terrorists which is what it is proclaimed to be all about. I don’t think people should be snooping into my private life on the threat just to see if I am a terrorist. There are other ways to fight the criminal battle.”

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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