Steve Wozniak, a Silicon Valley icon and philanthropist for the past three decades, helped shape the computing industry with his design of Apple Computer’s first line of products and influenced the popular Macintosh. For his achievements with Apple, Wozniak was awarded the National Medal of Technology by the President of the United States in 1985, the highest honor bestowed on leading innovators in the United States.
In 2000, Wozniak was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame and received the prestigious Heinz Award for "single-handedly designing the first personal computer and for then redirecting his lifelong passion for mathematics and electronics toward lighting the fires of excitement for education in grade school students and their teachers."
Making significant investments of both his time and resources into education, Wozniak “adopted" the Los Gatos School District in California, providing students and teachers with hands-on teaching and donations of state-of-the-art technology equipment. He also founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation and was the founding sponsor of the Tech Museum, Silicon Valley Ballet and Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. Wozniak’s autobiography, iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon, was published in 2006.
Blackboard interviewed Wozniak before his keynote address at BbWorld ’08.
1. What interests you most about attending BbWorld ’08, where 2,000 members of the e-Learning community are gathering this week?
One of my personal goals in personal computers was to influence education, both via content and management. Early on, this became a recognized value of Apple, too. The Blackboard systems, frankly, are something that I admire. Teachers at all levels are my favorite people in the world. Anyone close to me would tell you that. Being among this combination of technologists and educators will be an important time for me.
When I was 10 years old, I told my father that I would be an engineer, like him, and secondly I would be a teacher. I did achieve both of these goals.
2. During DevCon 2008 and BbWorld ’08, many Blackboard users will be presenting to their peers during break-out sessions. You present to many groups. Is presenting difficult for you, ever a bit scary?
Sometimes presentations are very hard. Those are times when a topic is not one that just rolls off my lips and brain. Such topics may be outside of my primary field. One time the topic was so difficult for me to contribute well on that I took a friend along to share the podium with me.
Every single presentation is scary to me. I am worried that I won’t be appreciated, that my speech won’t be entertaining or informative or stimulating enough. It’s part of putting yourself on the line. When you present before a group, you are accountable and being judged. When friends or family or associates are with me, they can have an enjoyable time, however.
I don’t get butterfly feelings in my stomach, but I’m very much a nervous wreck the night before any speech, and I have to be alone to finalize my ideas on paper. I try to gain a sense of the event and people, to know better what items I say, and in what way, will go over well. I often awaken a few times during the night to jot notes down. I often have a wakeup call as early as 4 AM to look over my notes and re-write them one last time, getting the flow in my head, like rehearsing.
Then, I forget any possibility of failure because it’s like jumping into cold water. You have already leapt and can’t stop from landing in the water, so you have succeeded, at least in jumping!